Now that the Paul Finebaum drama has been settled, the SEC can get on with kicking off the college football season like it does every year. Only this year, the league plans to make SEC Football Media Days a bigger deal than ever.
All the rhetoric that annually precedes the season will get underway this week as coaches and players from all 14 teams and more than 1,000 media members who follow them descend on Atlanta for the first time in history. But the SEC plans to crank it up a notch — starting on Sunday, a day earlier than usual — and incorporating fans into the proceedings.
Centennial Olympic Park is where SEC football fans will want to be between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday. That’s the location for the first SEC Football Kickoff Summerfest. Presented by Regions Bank, the free event will feature live music, interactive games for kids, food trucks and party tents set up for each of the respective 14 schools. The main event gets underway at 6 p.m. as SEC Nation – the SEC’s version of College GameDay featuring that Finebaum guy and all the other SEC Network personalities — goes live from the park. Country music artist John King will be playing live and there will be a deejay as well.
“The thought was just to make one of our bigger, signature events just a little bit bigger by allowing more fans to participate,” said Herb Vincent, the SEC’s associate commissioner for communications. “The opportunity we have there in Atlanta is outstanding with Centennial Olympic Park being right across the street from the College Football Hall of Fame. … Basically, it’s an opportunity to tailgate in the summer time.”
Georgia and Auburn fans hoping to get the early scoop on their respective teams are urged to show up Sunday. Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn have been confirmed as guests on SEC Nation.
It definitely should make for a happening scene in downtown Atlanta. In addition to the SEC’s considerable presence, Atlanta United FC – the city’s wildly popular professional soccer club – will be playing a match against Seattle nearby at Mercedes-Benz Stadium at 2 p.m.
“We think we’ll get some spillover from that,” Vincent said. “The College Football Hall of Fame is open and they’ll be showing the World Cup, so there should be a lot of activity downtown.”
Media Days itself won’t get started until late Monday morning inside the Hall of Fame, but fans are invited to greet their favorite coaches and players in the lobby of the Marietta Street facility across the street from Centennial Olympic Park. But expect the atmosphere to be considerably less festive as teams and reporters begin to discuss in earnest the serious business of what to expect this coming season.
Led off by a state of the conference message from SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey on Monday, each head coach and three selected players will take turns on the podium throughout the week. The event concludes on Thursday. Following is the lineup:
MONDAY (All times Eastern)
- 11:30 a.m. – 3:10 p.m.: Commissioner Greg Sankey and Texas A&M
- 2 p.m. – 6:50 p.m.: Kentucky and LSU
- 8:30 a.m. – 8:50 a.m.: Steve Shaw, SEC Coordinator of Football Officials
- 9 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.: Georgia and Ole Miss
- 1:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.: Arkansas and Florida
- 8:30 a.m. – 8:40 a.m.: David Fletcher, Football Bowl Association
- 8:40 a.m. – 8:55 a.m.: Bill Hancock, Executive Director College Football Playoff
- 9 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.: Mississippi State and Tennessee
- 1:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.: Alabama and Missouri
- 8:30 a.m. – 8:40 a.m.: Football Writers Association of America
- 8:40 a.m. – 8:55 a.m.: National Football Foundation
- 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.: Auburn, Vanderbilt and South Carolina
At the end of the week, media members will vote on all-conference teams and predict an order of finish. Georgia and Alabama are the prohibitive favorites to win their respective divisions heading in.
But the real fun to be had happens on Sunday. The SEC is hopeful that great turnout will spur on a new tradition.
“We won’t know much about it until it happens,” Vincent said. “It depends on the weather, of course. But we think it should be a lot of fun.”