ATLANTA — For Trent Pearson and Jason Miller, it was set up to be a perfect day: Atlanta United soccer at The Benz in the afternoon, SEC football talk in the evening at Centennial Olympic Park.
There ended up being some wrinkles. It started with the hometown soccer team not winning (they played Seattle to a 1-1 draw). And then Georgia coach Kirby Smart had to cancel his scheduled appearance on SEC Nation, which was broadcasting a live show from the park from 6 to 8 p.m.
But there were no complaints from these two fans.
“I saw on social media a few weeks ago that this was going on and I’m a season ticket holder for Atlanta United,” said Pearson, drinking a beer with his buddy underneath the UGA Alumni Association tent around dusk. “So I knew I wanted to come over and check it out afterward. It’s been pretty cool. I’m pumped it’s in Atlanta because Atlanta is the heart of the SEC.”
The SEC is holding its annual Football Media Days convention in Atlanta for the first time in history. It has been held in Birmingham since the late 1980s.
On Sunday, the league conducted its first-ever SEC Summerfest football kickoff celebration. The aim was to cater to fans. There was live music, food trucks, interactive games for kids and hospitality tents for all 14 of the SEC schools.
The finale was intended to be the SEC Nation show, featuring all the SEC Network’s television personalities and college football analysts. But the crowd had thinned out considerably by the time that started at 6 p.m. as Atlanta United fans headed home.
“I think it’s a great idea and it’ll only get better over time,” Pearson said. “This is the first year and not that many people knew about it. Atlanta is a lot better place for the SEC preseason meetings.”
As expected, Georgia fans had the strongest presence. But Florida and Auburn were also very well-represented. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn created a stir among and orange-and-blue set when he made an appearance on SEC Nation early in the show.
The SEC had announced that Smart was also going to make an appearance, but he backed out for unspecified reasons.
“He’s probably busy trying to see that Demetris Robertson gets eligible this season,” cracked Trent Woods, better known as Big Dawg III, the famous Georgia fan who wears the face of a bulldog painted atop his head.
Woods was headed toward the Centennial Park exit but still taking photos with fans around 7 p.m. He said he’d been there since about 3 p.m.
“And I forgot to put on sunscreen today, so I’m going to be feeling it later,” he said, rubbing the crown of his head.
All of the goings on Sunday were a sideshow to the main event that begins late Monday morning. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey will give a state of the SEC address around 11 a.m., kicking off four days of football talk and preseason hype in The Omni Hotel and College Football Hall of Fame.
Pearson’s ties to Georgia run deep. He’s a UGA alum who worked for the Bulldogs as an equipment manager while in school. He’s about to take a full-time job at The Citadel. The same can’t be said for his friend. Miller is actually a Georgia Tech alum but he said he also roots for Georgia in all but one game a year.
“Just don’t tell anybody,” Miller said.