Slive said he understands SEC mystique

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 31, 2002

BNI Newswire

BIRMINGHAM – He’s been on the job for less than a month, but new Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive has already mastered the art of stroking the egos of SEC fans and media-types.

"This is the best college football conference in the nation," Slive said while addressing a room full of sports writers at Tuesday’s first day of the SEC’s annual Football Media Days. "We have the best traditions and we have the best rivalries."

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Slive led off his address to gathered members of the print media by listing the monetary and scholastic accomplishments of SEC football during the past year.

With hundreds of media outlets on hand for the event, many seemingly waiting with baited-breath on the next coach’s comment. Too, the crowd waited for Slive and how he would handle his first major conference media day. Others still wonder how he will fill the shoes of departed former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer.

Slive indicated he understands how important football is in this part of the country and what his roll is in leading the nation’s top revenue generating conference into the future.

"You cannot be a part of this event and not understand the depth of passion for this sport in this part of the country," Slive explained. "This conference has a tradition of excellence. It is a privilege for me to be a part of this family and tradition."

Georgia coach still ‘ticked’ over Auburn game: After last season’s clock-management foul-up which likely cost Georgia the Auburn game, Mark Richt was bothered, deeply he said, by what he considered personal error.

"I was very disappointed after that," Richt said. "It stung me pretty hard and a lot of fans did too right after it was over. This offseason I took a look back on it and knew there were ways I needed to improve."

He indicated there are so many factors which must be considered when the clock is winding down. There are some things he can improve upon, however.

"I’ve got to get used to being on the field instead of in the booth," Richt confessed. "There is a big difference between seeing the entire field from the booth and your perspective from the sideline. It’s definitely been an adjustment."

The most important thing Richt said he had to remember is the fact mistakes happen.

"No one is immune to making mistakes with the clock in that kind of situation," he explained. "I guess it comes with experience. You learn from those kinds of mistakes and move on. There were fans who were ready to kill me, but since it happened most have been great and said just get over it."

Nutt shows confidence in troubled Hamlin: The 2002 season should be Arkansas free safety Ken Hamlin’s junior campaign. Last season, as a sophomore, he amassed 118 total tackles, good for second on the team. He had three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. He’s listed as No. 1 on the depth chart as the season begins.

However, Hamlin is currently behind bars, serving a sentence in a work-release program following an alcohol-related incident earlier in the year.

"He is serving his debt to society even as we speak," Houston Nutt said on Tuesday during SEC Football Media Days. "As far as I know he is in jail right now."

While Hamlin is expected to get his legal issues situated in time for the season and is currently on the team, Nutt said he knows a number of people would have been just as happy to see the coach kick the player off the team. Nutt said the only reason he didn’t do that was simply because he believes Hamlin will make needed changes.

"I believe I can still have an impact on this kid’s life," Nutt said. "If I did not, I would have removed him from the team. He’s been given a second chance and I believe he will be man-enough and responsible enough to do that."

Arkansas Running back Cedric Cobb is in the same predicament, but also seems set to rejoin the team when fall practice begins.

Leadership LSU’s biggest question mark: Last season did not begin as well as Nick Saban had hoped it would. After finishing his first season at LSU with an 8-4 record and a second place finish in the SEC West, expectations were high for the Tigers. Louisiana State opened the 2001 season 4-3. Saban said he was given a rough introduction to Southeastern Conference football.

"Everybody in Louisiana wanted to run me out of town on a rail," Saban remembered. "My family and I were in the car on the way back from dinner and we had a talk radio show tuned in. They were going at me pretty good. When we pulled into the yard, my daughter asked me ‘does this mean we have to move again?’."

Fortunately for Saban, the season got better from that point. The Tigers won their final six games of the season, finished with a 10-win season for the first time in more than a decade, defeated Tennessee in the SEC Championship game and won a BCS game by defeating Illinois 47-34 in the Sugar Bowl.

One thing, Saban said, changed the course of the season, even as fans and talk-shows and news-columnists were calling for his head following the Ole Miss game.

"When our players decided we were going to come together and play well, we started winning and we started playing well," Saban remembered. "It was a chemistry issue last season. We don’t

want to go through that this year."

Now, the question remains for Saban and LSU…does the team continue to do the things it takes to be a 10-win team each season or does it slink back into mediocrity?

"We have to make good decisions about the things we should not do and the things we should do," the coach explained. "We have to find more leaders and guys that will step up and take on bigger roles. We don’t have the big-play, go to guys like we did last season on offense with Rohan (Davey) and Josh (Reed). We’ve re-emphasized to the players that if they do this part, accept their roles and are determined to succeed, a lot can be accomplished. We just need people to step up."