Here are 5 suggestions to spice up SEC Media Days | Toppmeyer
I’m not sure whether my liver could have survived the Skywriters Tour.
Before the installation of SEC Media Days, a group of sportswriters annually traveled by plane to interview SEC football coaches and players during the summer, flying from one SEC town to the next. The so-called Skywriters compiled interviews and information for preseason stories, but, to hear the old timers tell it, booze and card games were the real stars of the circuit.
Alas, the Skywriters tour was replaced by SEC Media Days in 1985. This year’s four-day event will begin on Monday in Hoover, Alabama.
Although this marks the welcome return of SEC Media Days after its hiatus last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has grown stale.
Here are five suggestions to improve the annual spectacle.
Invite fan questions at SEC Media Days
I’ve listened to enough coaches call-in shows to know that fans sometimes ask better – and more challenging – questions than the sportswriters paid to do this for a living. And the pandemic-induced shift to virtual news conferences throughout the 2020 season demonstrated that you need not be physically present to ask a question.
Why not use technology to allow fan questions at media days?
The SEC could allow fans to call in to a moderated phone line or join the event via Zoom to have the chance to be called upon to ask a question to a coach or player.
I bet some of those fan questions would become top moments.
Get rid of coaches’ opening statements
How would you create time for those fan questions without eating into the media’s time to ask questions? Get rid of coaches’ opening statements, which are often little more than a glorified filibuster.
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As it stands, each coach begins his 30-minute session at the lectern with an opening statement. Some coaches drag these opening statements on for several minutes. Meticulously running through the depth chart is a popular stall tactic. Former LSU coach Les Miles used his opening statement to annually update us about his family’s summer vacation and bring us up to speed on his kids’ lives.
Rarely does any useful or interesting info emerge from opening statements. Dump them to allow for more question-and-answer time.
Allow media members to select teams’ player representatives
In 2013, Johnny Manziel famously attracted a throng of reporters that stretched several rows deep during his media days appearance. The next year, Texas A&M dialed it back by bringing its punter as one of its three player representatives. Then, in 2019, the Aggies brought their punter again.
Nothing moves the needle like a punter discussing his craft for 20 minutes.
Why not allow the media to vote on which players they want to hear from during media days?
We’ll be treated to three quarterbacks next week: Bo Nix (Auburn), JT Daniels (Georgia) and Matt Corral (Ole Miss). I bet we’d all also like to hear from Alabama’s Bryce Young, Florida’s Emory Jones and Missouri’s Connor Bazelak, three talented quarterbacks who won't be among the players in Hoover.
Conduct a vote for best media days performance
Coaches are competitive, so they might feel motivated to up their game at the lectern if they knew a winner would be selected for best media days performance.
Coaches’ main motivation during their turn on stage is to sell the program to recruits and spur excitement within the fanbase. But give them the chance to earn bragging rights over their peers, and they could come armed with more fire.
Throughout the week, SEC Network coverage could speculate on the standings for best performances and who might win the top prize.
Have media members compete in a football skills competition
In August 2017, then-Tennessee coach Butch Jones made the media an offer: He’d open a preseason scrimmage for reporters to attend if GoVols247 reporter Patrick Brown could field a punt.
Brown flawlessly fielded Trevor Daniel’s punt, although Jones never honored his pledge to open a scrimmage.
It proved two things: Jones was full of it, and (a few) media members possess some athleticism.
How about putting that on display in a football skills competition among press members that the SEC Network could televise? Select 10 media representatives to compete in events like the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and catching passes from a JUGS machine.
You’re telling me you wouldn’t watch the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde go head to head on the bench press?
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.