There’s construction everywhere you look in downtown Nashville. High-rises going up and even existing roads under construction to make for bigger, better infrastructure.
That made the perfect setting for the arrival of SEC Media Days, the unofficial kickoff to the college football season. Because everything you know about SEC football is about to change – from how you watch to who you root for (or, better yet, against).
The 2023 season, just scant weeks away, marks the last time Southeastern Conference games will be televised weekly by CBS. It also marks the final time the 14-team conference will be divided into two divisions. Oh, and it’s the last hurrah for the four-team College Football Playoff before a 2024 expansion to a 12-team format.
Life comes at you fast. The arrival of Texas and Oklahoma next season takes the SEC into a new realm of 16 college football apex predators (OK, Vanderbilt might be a stretch).
Only Congress can fully address the challenges facing college athletics. Greg Sankey, SEC Commissioner
Or, as SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey acknowledged Monday: “We are a super conference.”
Now the job of Sankey, other commissioners and college presidents is to maintain a reasonably level playing field and protect student-athletes. With the advent of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) and compensation collegiate athletes, that means making certain everyone is playing by the same rules, and the youngsters get what they are promised.
“Only Congress can fully address the challenges facing college athletics,” said Sankey, who has led meetings in Washington, D.C.
While Sankey is looking for federal help for NIL legislation, he said states need to help on gambling issues now that most of America allows legalized sports betting. The concern with gambling is not only on the potential of trying to influence outcomes but on taking aim at student-athletes. Sankey noted that online harassment of college athletes has increased dramatically.
“States with gambling have a responsibility to enforce gaming regulations and protect participants,” he said.
Fisher: Don’t Worry, Be Happy
A decade ago, Jimbo Fisher won a national title as head coach at Florida State. Entering his sixth season at Texas A&M, his future may depend on how the Aggies offense rebounds under new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino.
Bobby was hired for a reason. And he’s a tremendous coach and a tremendous guy. He’ll call plays and I’ll have suggestions. It’s more of a collective thing. Jimbo Fisher, head coach at Florida State
In fact, there’s already speculation that this working arrangement is doomed to fail for obvious reasons: you’ve got two headstrong egos. Back in the day, Petrino won big at Arkansas after an ill-fated season leading the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
Appearing at Media Days, Fisher downplayed any potential conflict.
“Bobby was hired for a reason. And he’s a tremendous coach and a tremendous guy,” Fisher said. “He’ll call plays and I’ll have suggestions. It’s more of a collective thing.”
The other thing Fisher downplayed is his future. He’s considered to be on the hot seat after a disappointing 5-7 campaign in 2022.
He said he doesn’t think about what naysayers say.
“Does worrying make you any better? No. What you got to do is get you a solution,” he said.
We’ll see soon whether Petrino was the right solution.
Is LSU Closing the Gap on Georgia?
Last season, LSU surprised everyone by upsetting preseason national favorite Alabama and winning the division title. That didn’t surprise LSU head coach Brian Kelly, who said one of the reasons he left Notre Dame was the chance to tame the Tide.
Is LSU ready to take another giant step and tame two-time national champion Georgia, as well? The two met in the SEC title game last season, and Georgia rolled.
I know, based on how we’re recruited, that we’ll have a football roster that will be able to compete against Georgia. Is that right now? No, it’s not. Brian Kelly, LSU head coach
Stay tuned, Kelly said.
“Is the gap closing? We’ll only have that opportunity if we get in the (SEC) championship game versus Georgia,” he said. “I know, based on how we’re recruited, that we’ll have a football roster that will be able to compete against Georgia. Is that right now? No, it’s not.”
LSU’s schedule doesn’t allow for a slow rise in confidence. Three of the Tigers’ first four SEC games are on the road – and that’s after opening the season in Orlando vs. Florida State.
But Kelly pointed out, “Later in the year we’ll have five of six at home. It will be more about the mindset.”
Alabama will still likely get the media vote as preseason West favorite, but don’t be surprised if LSU returns to Atlanta.