The Greatest Characters of SEC Media Days
Earlier this month, we dissected the 10 best moments from SEC media days over the BCS era.
Those moments are not possible without characters, and there are characters aplenty in the SEC.
From the Head Ball Coach to the Mad Hatter to crazy Robbie Caldwell to the lobby lurkers, the people you see and hear from at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama, make this event the circus that it has become.
Who are the best characters at media days?
Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban
When it's "Alabama day," you know it.
The Wynfrey buzzes with the kind of cautious excitement and anticipation of what's to come, just as a golfer who's tied for the lead in a major walks up the fairway on 18 with only a long, double-breaking birdie putt standing between him and the title.
You don't know what's about to happen, but it's going to be a lot of fun.
Saban typically opens his sessions in the same way. "I just want to let you all know that I appreciate what you do for our sport," he typically says in the most monotonous and intimidating way possible.
Then, it's anybody's guess. Sometimes he goes off on a rant or two, but it gets really good when he gets those hands going up and down and every sentence includes at least one "aight." This is when Saban is at his best, and if you get in his way, prepare for a stare—and it hurts.
When Saban makes the trip downstairs to radio row (more on that in a minute), fans and media follow him up and down the narrow hallway like a pack of swarming bees.
His trip through the Wynfrey is the peak of the event, and you never want to miss it.
The lobby at the Wynfrey is an interesting place—one that takes a bit of work to describe.
All of the coaches "make the rounds" to the various rooms upstairs on the second floor of the Wynfrey. There's only one way up and one way down, and it's on an escalator that takes you down to the lobby. When you get down there, fans line up behind loosely secured velvet ropes hoping to get a glimpse of their favorite coaches and players.
They always do.
Once down the escalator, coaches, fans and media must make a hard right to go to radio row—a long and narrow hallway that connects the hotel to the Galleria mall where, probably not coincidentally, there's a store dedicated entirely to Alabama memorabilia at the other end of the hallway.
This creates an interesting atmosphere for fans, who have plenty of access to see and hear from all of their favorite players.
This guy at SEC Media Days has a killer hat. pic.twitter.com/PsXZgT5GMm— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 18, 2013
Fans, like this guy last year of whom I snapped a picture hours before Alabama even showed up, routinely litter the lobby and cheer on their teams—even if they are one floor above them in closed-door press conferences.
Until you actually experience it, it's hard to properly describe this madness.
South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier
Love him or hate him (and there probably is no middle ground), South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier is a national treasure.
He's opinionated, and he's not going to hold back. Whether it's player stipends, Georgia's schedule or giving his own players some added motivation, he's willing and able to give the assembled members of the media anything and everything we want.
One thing to keep in mind: A quiet Head Ball Coach is a confident Head Ball Coach. So if he doesn't steal the show this year, that means the rest of the SEC should be scared.
Plus, after he wraps up his time in Hoover, he's not above going to Arby's and showing a little swag.
Never change, Head Ball Coach. Never change.
The One-Hit Wonders
If you're a coach who is making your first, and perhaps only, swing through the Wynfrey, you better make it count.
That's exactly what former Arkansas head coach John L. Smith did when he brought the crowds in the various rooms to their feet explaining, amongst a myriad of other things, the origin of—let's just say—"creative motivational phrases."
While Smith's day was great, former Vanderbilt head coach Robbie Caldwell's was legendary.
Making the rounds in place of Bobby Johnson—who retired a few weeks prior to the event—Caldwell didn't hold back, talking about basically everything he could think of, including his first job as a member of the turkey insemination crew on a farm.
Really, that's something that actually happened.
If there's a coach who might be making his one and only appearance in Hoover, grab a seat and get your popcorn ready. It's going to be a fun show.
LSU Head Coach Les Miles
Les Miles is a little bit on the crazy side, and media days embrace crazy.
They need it. They thrive with it.
Miles can bring it.
Last year, Miles went off on scheduling, going so far to say that it was our (the media's) job to present solutions to the SEC's scheduling conundrum, which includes a permanent cross-division rivalry game. His Tigers play Florida every year, and Miles isn't a fan of that.
"Hopefully there will be some people in here that have strength and stand up in the crowd and say This isn't right! Let's do this the right way! That's going to be your job, not mine," Miles explained.
When the Mad Hatter gets rolling, you better pay attention. If you don't, he will make you pay attention.
The Random Player
The list of players attending SEC media days came out, and one player on Texas A&M's list stuck out like a sore thumb.
"Drew Kaser, Punter."
The reaction around the country was probably pretty similar. "Come on, Aggies. A punter??"
Don't judge. No, punters probably aren't going to give the media a lot of insight into the offense, defense or any other aspect of a team. But if Kaser is coming to Hoover, there's a reason.
Schools want to publicize the best representatives of their programs, and if a player seems like he's coming out of left field to make the rounds, he's probably very honest, very funny or both.
Don't write off players who seem unorthodox, because they're the ones you'll love after the event.
Commissioner Mike Slive
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive routinely uses his "state of the SEC" speech that opens media days as an opportunity to lay out his vision of the future of the conference, the college football world and the future of college athletics.
From player compensation to a playoff to agent contact rules, all of it is on the table for Slive.
There are also the thinly veiled shots at the NCAA, like he took last year.
"We have supported and continue to support the NCAA as the appropriate governing organization for intercollegiate athletics," he said, via USA Today's George Schroeder. "But at the same time, however, we will continue to push for changes we believe are in the best interest of our student-athletes."
This year, expect player welfare, the SEC Network and autonomy to be the hot topics Slive discusses; and you can bet his speech will resonate across the world of college athletics.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.