Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vote-Gate 2009: The (non) Story of SEC Media Days

SEC Media Days provides something of a circus atmosphere every July in Birmingham and seems to be consumed by one or two story lines each year. Last year it was former Tennessee coach Philip Fulmer being served with a subpoena upon arrival. This year, the topic de jour amongst all the scribes and other media of the SEC was the failure of the SEC coaches to unanimously select Tim Tebow as the first team, All-SEC quarterback. It all started off innocently enough with Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson joking on the first day about the media searching for the culprit when asked about who he voted for, yet by Friday, the media had let things escalate to the point that South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was on the verge of breaking down when trying to explain his mistake in not voting for Tebow. All of this in the same week that several SEC commentators, AJC legend Tony Barnhart among them, came out publicly against Nashville based, AOL Fanhosue writer Clay Travis, for asking Tim Tebow if he was saving himself for marriage. CBS's Dennis Dodd angrily wrote, "There's a setting for all this: It's called open mike night. The rest of us, we're trying to get some work done here."

And what work might that be Mr. Dodd? Undertaking some pseudo investigative journalism, letting the biggest non-story of the century become a weeklong soap opera culminating with one of the SEC's greatest coaches ever having to profusely apologize for mistakenly not voting Tim Tebow as a first team All-SEC selection? Seriously. Don't get me wrong, I think Tim Tebow is probably the finest college football player I have ever seen, and by all accounts he is a model human being, which is the point Clay Travis was trying to emphasize by asking him about his virginity. But somewhere in the middle of this witch hunt, Tebow became a tragic figure to the press, a victim of a hidden agenda. Even after Spurrier's emotional confession, the press was asking if the accidental vote was really an intended slight against his alma mata? Was this really just a bit of gamesmanship instead? ESPN's College Football Live put this question to its viewers. Maybe someone could provide proof to the contrary, but when Spurrier said that FSU stood for Free Shoes University or noted that you can't spell Citrus without U and T, he didn't suffer from a sleepless night afterward as he allegedly did last Thursday night when he realized his school's mistake in not voting for Tebow.

It pains me to agree with anything that Nick Saban says, but he was right when, after admitting that he had indeed voted for Tebow, he noted that everyone should be allowed to vote however they wanted to. In typical Saban fashion, he then went on to overstate his point by saying that people have been fighting for the right to choose freely in this country for a while now. Wait, what Nick? As ESPN writer Pat Forde noted, I don't think the Marines planted the flag at Iwo Jima so that SEC coaches could vote however they wanted to in a pre-season poll, but Saban more or less made his point. Coach Chizik followed this up the next day by refusing at first to say with whom he had cast his vote, saying it was a private matter, but it soon became obvious to him that silence in this zany atmosphere would be seen as an implication of guilt. I thought to myself that it would have been interesting had Tubs still been around for this edition of SEC Media Days. After all, his teams went 2-0 against Tebow while losing to Jevan Snead last year, so in theory he might have a legitimate reason for not voting for Tebow.

That's not the point though. I think it is pretty obvious that Tim Tebow is the best quarterback in the SEC, probably the country, and maybe ever, but I also know that he has a couple of National Championships (not to mention SEC Championships), a Heisman Trophy (if SEC writers want to raise such a fuss, how about going after Big 12 Heisman Trophy Voters for leaving Tebow off their ballots last year), a future seemingly with no ceiling where he may well add to his previous honors during the upcoming season. Am I suppose to feel bad that one coach accidentally left Tebow off of his pre-season ballot? To borrow from Allen Iverson's famous treatise on practice, we talkin' about pre-season...not regular season, not regular season...pre-season. Is this really a story of any note? We're coming off of a Spring and Summer that was littered with possible secondary recruiting violations (you can't spell secondary without SEC) for multiple SEC programs, and while I don't think that's the next Woodward or Bernstein story either, it's certainly a more legitimate topic to cover in depth instead of Tebow vote-gate 2009.

The one bit of relevant information to come out of this story is the revelation that Spurrier himself did not cast the vote, but even then, it's the worst kept secret in the SEC that coaches do not take these votes seriously. It's well known that the school's SID is much more likely to fill out such ballots. What's puzzling is that the media knew this, yet they were still relentless in their search for the guilty party when each coach stepped up for his session with the press. If we are going to focus on any part of this story, why not zero in on holding the coaches more accountable in their votes, not so much with these needless pre-season polls, but with the USA Today/Coaches' Poll that still forms part of the BCS formula? I guess that's too much to ask from those in today's media who would rather chase (or generate) a story that is only notable for...well, nothing. Several Media outlets like to comment extensively about what a circus SEC Media Days is, all the while ignoring the fact that it is they who often contribute to this zany setting as much as the fans (especially Alabama, but also Auburn) that they so often belittle.


Ed said...

Enjoyed this aspect of southern football regalry. Yes, Tim Tebow is a great person and outstanding Christian. I still can't say much for his coach; and just earlier this week he was being compared to the Bear; oh yeah, I didn't think much of the Bear either.

Michael said...

Yeah, if I hate Saban anymore than I do Meyer, it is only because he coaches at Alabama. I do think it is laughable, however, that Bama fans (i.e. Finebaum) pretend like he's only a moderately good coach. Who else amongst active head coaches has two national championships? Carrol, Paterno, Bowden, and Meyer, who may be all by himself with three after this season. But yeah, he's not a very good coach. What? Still a terd though.

scottatl said...

Media days is the most hilarious thing ever! you guys may not like Mayer or Saban but I know all Auburn fans would be glad to have either esp Saban. Although it seems weird to say, Saban plays football like all Auburn fans would want to: dominating defense, power running game and a smart passing game.

Eddie said...

I agree with you Scott.

scottatl said...


Sad but true.....The thing is I have absolutely no idea what to expect when the tigers hit the field this year (Lack of a 25-30 carry running back scares me). We absoluely must stop team attrition and try to be in the situation where we can pick and choose our 85 instead of not even reaching the limit.

Michael said...

"Saban plays football like all Auburn fans would want to: dominating defense, power running game and a smart passing game."

To be fair, Saban obviously has an advantage over Chiz at this point in their coaching careers, but I also think Chizik aspires to play dominating defense, have a power running game, and be smart with the passing game. I think Malzahn does run an offense that is based off a power running game and he likes to go deep in the passing game. He even mixes in play-action, so I'm pretty happy with what the offense is going to aspire to do. It's just a question of giving them time.

As to whether most Auburn fans would want Saban or Meyer as a head coach, it's not worth spending any time thinking about. Meyer and Saban appear to be better coaches than Chiz, but I'll at least wait a season before I long for any other coach. Kind of a whole thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife sort of thing.

scottatl said...

Yeha i was just saying we would love someone with that same coaching style...not the actual coach...basically anyone who wins

Michael said...

Not going to disagree with that Scott. Maybe we have that. I hope we do, but we'll find out soon enough I suppose. Thanks for the feedback.

Anonymous said...

The thing is I have absolutely no idea what to expect when the tigers hit the field this year..
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