SEC has plenty of hot topics for media days

Enforcement likely focus

HOOVER, Ala. — Late Monday afternoon, someone from the SEC's offices in Birmingham leaked a snapshot of the cover for the conference's 2011 football media guide.

The SEC has never been accused of modesty, and it certainly can't be for its latest piece of literature. "Home of Five consecutive BCS National Champions" scrolls across the bottom, lying underneath a massive "5" and the conference's logo, which are positioned on a blue jersey.

It marked the SEC's latest attempt to put the focus back on the field.

In the past, that wasn't exactly a difficult task during the SEC's annual media gathering at the Wynfrey Hotel, but it will be tough to find any questions about X's and O's this year.

With more than 900 credentialed media members expected to attend the three-day event, which kicks off today with Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina and Mississippi State set to take the stage, questions and answers will be all over the map.

Here, though, are five storylines that will likely pop up again and again throughout the week.

NCAA ENFORCEMENT: WHO'S NEXT?

It was only a few years ago when SEC commissioner Mike Slive's long-term goal of having every one of the conference's teams off NCAA probation was finally realized.

Rapidly, the momentum has shifted in the opposite direction, as the NCAA has upped its enforcement efforts and hasn't shied away from going after college football's biggest programs.

With Alabama already on probation for its text-book scandal, Tennessee set to receive a few years' worth for its recent trip to the NCAA Committee on Infractions, LSU receiving one year of probation Tuesday for recruiting violations and Auburn's Cam Newton-centered investigation ongoing, it's safe to say the SEC is square in the NCAA's crosshairs.

WHAT HAPPENS IN DESTIN, STAYS IN DESTIN?

Last week, the New York Times reported that Auburn coach Gene Chizik and NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach exchanged terse words at last month's SEC spring meetings about the school's lingering investigation and the subsequent negative publicity. Roe Lach reportedly told Chizik that Auburn would "know when we're finished (investigating). And we're not finished."

In a follow-up, the Birmingham News reported that Tennessee coach Derek Dooley was the one who started the conversation, as he reportedly said that the NCAA should try to speed up its investigations because lengthy probes were "killing recruiting."

Neither Chizik nor Dooley have spoken about the incident. They'll have their chance to comment — or not to comment — when they take the stage back-to-back Thursday morning.

PAY THE MEN?

The pay-for-play debate reached a new peak at last month's spring meetings. A raspy-voiced Steve Spurrier had a number of the league's coaches, including Dooley, sign a makeshift petition to pledge their support behind a plan that would take money out of their personal paychecks and put it into their players' pockets.

The plan was largely laughed off by Slive, but there was some symbolism behind the gesture that was worth noting. Never before has there been this much momentum to find a way to give athletes, specifically those in high-revenue sports, more than just a scholarship.

The $1 million question still remains: How do you do it?

Coaches have weighed in, but haven't been as opinionated as a number of those outside the profession, most notably ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas. Players, themselves, haven't been heard from as much, but that will change after this week.

RUNNING BACK REVOLUTION

For the first time in years, there won't be a polarizing quarterback taking the stage and hogging the spotlight.

Instead, this could be the year of the running back in the SEC, as two teams boast potential Heisman candidates (Alabama's Trent Richardson and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore), while a number of others possess backs who are easily capable of amassing more than 1,000 yards this season.

Tennessee's Tauren Poole broke that magic number last year, and he didn't even make any of the coaches' preseason all-SEC teams.

WHAT'S HAPPENING AT VANDERBILT?

Former Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell provided more than 30 minutes of humorous anecdotes and stories last year during his first, and likely last, trip to media days.

This year, new coach James Franklin won't need to yuck it up with reporters to earn some respect. Franklin, who received the job only after Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn turned it down, has made a big splash in Nashville and has generated a legitimate buzz around the program because of his strong recruiting efforts.

The Commodores boast an uncharacteristic 12 commitments with more than six months remaining until National Signing Day. One of those, Memphis athlete Brian Kimbrow, is considered the best player in all of Tennessee.

The first question for Franklin seems obvious: How on earth is he doing this at Vanderbilt?

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

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Comments » 5

utnoeler writes:

first

Down_The_Field writes:

"The first question for Franklin seems obvious: How on earth is he doing this at Vanderbilt?"

simple. they are relaxing academic requirements for football players. don't expect franklin to admit it.

MusicCityVol writes:

in response to Down_The_Field:

"The first question for Franklin seems obvious: How on earth is he doing this at Vanderbilt?"

simple. they are relaxing academic requirements for football players. don't expect franklin to admit it.

Another question for Franklin might be,"How have you managed to fool the city of Nashville into believing that one 4-star recruit will turn the program around?"

MusicCityVol writes:

As usual a lot to talk about in the wild world of SEC football. Really looking forward to all the coverage over the next three days.

2011 Schedule Breakdown - Alabama
http://www.checkerboardchatter.com/20...

Volunatic writes:

in response to Down_The_Field:

"The first question for Franklin seems obvious: How on earth is he doing this at Vanderbilt?"

simple. they are relaxing academic requirements for football players. don't expect franklin to admit it.

They have always relaxed the academic requirements for football players at Vanderbilt. Getting the state's top recruit this year was a big step for them.

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