You want to know when you’re about to read something bad? Look for the phrase “said in a statement.”
If you follow SEC football closely, then you’ve become all too accustomed to reading those words over the last few months.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said in a statement ...
Alabama coach Nick Saban said in a statement ...
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said in a statement ...
Since the offseason began, there has been an overabundance of statements to come out of the conference, and not the proverbial statements that are made on the football field with wins and losses. Instead, we’re talking about statements that are vetted by those wearing suits and ties. Vetted because something went wrong and someone has to say something to answer for it.
When Laremy Tunsil's social media feed imploded on draft night, Ole Miss and Freeze prepared a statement on the matter.
When Bo Davis reportedly incurred recruiting violations and resigned, Saban was forced to put out a statement of his own.
When Aaron Moorehead subtweeting of a recruit went viral, Sumlin released a four-sentence statement referring to discipline that would “remain private.”
Whether it was an actual written statement or not, too many coaches have had to speak on too many issues that have nothing to do with depth charts or scheme this offseason. The SEC can’t thump its chest about winning another national championship right now because it’s too busy cleaning up its own messes.
At Tennessee there’s a Title IX lawsuit to consider. At Mississippi State, Dan Mullen remains mum on the status of signee Jeffery Simmons, who was allegedly shown on camera assaulting a woman. At Florida, it’s almost become an afterthought that the Gators went through spring practice without its former starting quarterback (Treon Harris) and star wide receiver (Antonio Callaway) because of suspensions that haven’t exactly been defined.
The same day Alabama announced Karl Dunbar as Davis’ replacement, there was another statement from Saban, this time on the dismissal of former No. 1 overall junior college prospect Charles Baldwin for violation of team rules.
(“Violation of team rules”; there’s another phrase to look for in stories.)
Last week, SEC Network anchor Peter Burns tweeted out his biggest questions for the 2016 season, things like whether Georgia running back Nick Chubb will be back to 100 percent, if Auburn has the personnel to run Gus Malzahn’s offense and whether or not Arkansas can get off to a quick start this year. They were all very worthy storylines to consider, and if you’re a diehard fan then you’ve spent a good deal of time debating them. But if you were only popping in on the SEC occasionally, then you might have some more serious questions of the conference, like why the heck the league can’t go a week without incurring negative press.
There are more than 100 days left until the first game is played and already this has been an offseason to forget for the SEC.
Which brings us to the offseason topic du jour: satellite camps.
One minute the satellite camp debate looked like the SEC’s crowning achievement. It was a moment of excellent politicking: The league’s coaches rallied against it, commissioner Greg Sankey joined in the cause and as soon as the NCAA Division I Council could consider it, the camps were shut down, effective immediately. But just as quickly as they could pat themselves on the back about reining in the so-called recruiting calendar, public sentiment turned. Three weeks later, the ban was lifted. The league that so often gets what it wants didn’t. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was free to resume his shirtless barnstorming tour through the South and Saban & Co. couldn’t do anything about it.
Of course, quickly after the ruling came down there was an email that hit many reporters’ inboxes. It was a statement from the SEC saying how the league was “disappointed with the NCAA governance process result.”
Like Sankey said in his statement, the SEC will soldier on, setting up satellite camps of its own. There’s little doubt that the league will continue to recruit on the highest level, too, with five SEC teams ranked in the top 10 of ESPN’s most recent class rankings.
But a loss is a loss, and yet another statement from the SEC is a sign of that.