College football season is upon us, and Playbook had an audience with the kings of college football -- the SEC coaches.
So all week long, we're bringing you the Playbook SEC Coaches' Questionnaire to get to the really important stuff. Last year, we discussed the hot topics of the day, such as which coach was the best-dressed, which clichés are the worst, and what type of music they listen to.
This year, we've got some new faces -- even two new teams -- and a set of new questions. On Day 1, we go into the living (and dining) rooms of recruits. You'll definitely detect a theme here: None of the coaches will turn down a meal, south Louisiana plays a big part, and the head coaches generally enjoy tormenting their assistants. Off we go:
Playbook: What's the weirdest thing a family has ever served you on a recruiting visit? Is there anything that you've just had to power through?
Will Muschamp: No, I've been very fortunate. I've enjoyed most all the meals. I enjoy eating, as you can see. I've never really had a bad meal.
James Franklin: I am not a picky eater. Never have been. I'm very thankful for whatever's put in front of me. The two things that I struggle with are liver and chitlins [a soul food in the South -- pig intestines -- also known as chitterlings]. I will try liver and chitlins, but I still don't like 'em. And I'll try them every year. But no, they're not me. ... But I'm gonna eat it. Whatever you put in front of me, I'm gonna eat it.
Dan Mullen: I don't know if there was one of those. But we had a swing this year of three guys in New Orleans, and they all called each other. It started with chicken, and then some rice. A jambalaya-type dish. We go on to another place, and they had another enormous spread. And then the third house had another enormous spread. And they kind of all knew I was coming, and set me up. And I called to make sure they weren't all serving the same thing. And by the third one, I could barely eat. I felt like the guy on "Man vs. Food" right there, trying to get through the challenge of the three home visits. The great thing is all the food was spectacular. Whether it be the gumbo at one house, the jambalaya at another ... it was spectacular.
Gary Pinkel: I think you have to eat, number one. Whether you like it or not, you have to eat. The most unusual thing that happened to me ... a few years ago in St. Louis, we had three home visits, at 4 o'clock, 6 o'clock and 8 o'clock. At every one of those houses, they had dinner for us. The [assistant] coach that takes me through [the visits] is supposed to take care of that. So I ate three dinners in a row. We laughed about it later, but oh my gosh, I didn't feel very good after that.
Derek Dooley: Never. I absolutely love eating. There's never been a meal that I haven't enjoyed. And I especially enjoy when you get into some local cuisine. Probably my favorite part of recruiting south Louisiana is going down there and getting a good authentic Cajun meal. What I enjoy the most about those are the coaches who come with me, who have to, as you say, power through it. I purposely go back and get seconds and thirds, so they have to keep up. I haven't had a meal I haven't liked yet.
Kevin Sumlin: I had a family feed me something that, to this day, I don't know what it was. All I know is my mouth was on fire for at least 45 minutes afterwards. The player ended up coming to Houston, and he still won't tell me what it was I ate. Ralph Oragwu, he was from Nigeria. His sister got up and left [the table], and I raked half of it on the assistant coach's plate that was with me. I smoothed it out all over the plate so it looked like I ate a bunch of it. We got in the car, and I had to pull over at the first place and get a big ol' thing of water. My mouth was still on fire. After Ralph got [to Houston], even two years later, I would ask him what that was I ate. And he would just look at me and smile.
Gene Chizik: Well, we've had some very interesting dinners. Everywhere from attempts at Thai food to attempts at Haitian food. We've eaten pretty much everything. Thank goodness I'm definitely not picky. We've had the full spectrum from everything from an "A" meal to an "F" meal, but you'd never know. You wouldn't be able to tell.
John L. Smith: Nothing that I've had to power through. There's one meal that sticks out in my mind in all my years of coaching. I was recruiting a young man out of the Seattle area. It was a single mom with this young man who we were recruiting. And they did not have a dime. And I know she had to go out and spend probably a month of her salary to feed me that night. And she fed me like a king. Which, you walk out and you say, why would you not recruit this guy and give him everything you can? Because she was so appreciative of you being there, of maybe -- maybe -- giving her son an opportunity to get an education. And you looked at that and say, gosh, you know she had to spend everything she had. So that meal sticks out to me as the most special meal that I've ever gone through in a recruit's home.
Nick Saban: When I was at LSU, the culture of the food that you have in south Louisiana, and the culture of the people, is very hospitable. I mean, almost every home I went into, you had to eat. It was more the multiples of eating that food, maybe two dinners a night. I'm talking about jambalaya, I'm talking about crawfish, and on and on.
Steve Spurrier: No, I've never had anything particularly bad. It's always been pretty good. You eat part of it, anyway, even if you don't like it. I never remember anything too bad. You just take small portions usually. You just get about as much as you like on a home visit.
Mark Richt: I would say there are some things you like better than others. [Laughs] The thing about it is, when you go in their home, they're putting their best in front of you, and you really appreciate that. I always look at it as a blessing, so I do a pretty good job of eating what's in front of me. Thankfully, I'm not that picky of an eater, either.
Hugh Freeze: The weirdest meal I've ever been served is really, to this day, I'm not sure what it was. It was some kind of noodles. But I couldn't quite pick out the flavor of it, with the meat. But we powered through it. And I've got one coach on my staff that absolutely cannot stand spicy food. And we're down in Louisiana, and we get some jambalaya, and I made him eat it, and I was loving every minute of it.
Joker Phillips: First of all, I'm allergic to shellfish, so I've had to turn that down. But after that, you do not turn down anything. And you always go back for second helpings. This past year, I had a lunch, and three hours later, I had a dinner at another recruit's house. It went from fried chicken to red velvet cake to yum-yum pie. [Playbook: What is yum-yum pie?] That's what I said. [Laughs] I've had curried goat. I don’t turn down anything except for shellfish. Other things, it's the best thing you've ever eaten, and you better go back and get seconds. When I was an assistant, I told our head coaches, you've got to get a small portion the first time. But you better get seconds. You want mama to feel good about her cooking all day.
Les Miles: Yeah. Yep. I had cow tongue. It was a dessert, and it was in Louisiana. It was pickled. And it looked just like a cow tongue. In fact, it was cow tongue and cow lips, for that matter. Everybody took a little sliver. Kind of chopped it up good. And... it tasted pretty good. It really wasn't all that bad. It was kind of a little briny. But, you know, I kind of enjoyed it. How wonderful it is that you're in their home, and somebody wants to be hospitable to you. Why wouldn't you want to be a good visitor?