Scott Davis: Back With A Bang
Scott Davis has followed Gamecock sports for more than 30 years and provides commentary from a fan perspective.
He writes a weekly newsletter that's emailed each Friday. To sign up for the newsletter, click here. Following is the newsletter for Friday, July 23, 2021.
Scott also writes a weekly column that appears on Gamecock Central during football season.
Football season doesn’t just slide in through the backdoor.
It doesn’t sneak up on us. It doesn’t catch us by surprise.
We don’t wake up one Saturday morning in September, scratch our heads and think, “Wait, is this game day?" Not anymore.
In our chaotic and busy age, brute force is required to command our attention, and thus football storms back into our lives like a tidal wave, a rising tide, an atomic bomb.
After drifting quietly through months of sleepy off-season days, I was looking forward to this week. At long last, something would actually be happening.
The annual SEC Media Days had arrived, and since no one enjoys the grand spectacle of uncomfortable coaches standing impatiently behind a podium in a hotel ballroom more than I do, I was prepared to fire up the SEC Network and spend hours, and even days, watching the likes of Nick Saban and Kirby Smart staring blankly into a camera while grimly fielding questions from a gathered media
SEC Media Days represent one of those milestones on the calendar that mark your progression towards football’s return. They help us move through the year like feast days did for the early Christians: It’s recruiting season, spring practice and spring game, then media days, fall practice, football is back and God Bless America. When SEC Media Days arrive, you know you’re close.
I thought this would be all the news I needed for this week after months of no news. Give me some coaches looking awkward in suits and ties, give me some cameras, give me a podium and I’m all set.
But this is the Southeastern Conference, man. This is college football.
And with a new season on the horizon, it just wasn’t enough to gather some coaches and some reporters and squeeze them into a nondescript suburban hotel.
We also needed to properly commemorate the occasion by floating a few blockbuster rumors that just might change the face of the league and the sport itself and obliterate everything we thought we knew about the game.
Are you ready for some football?
Winning the Press Conference
For South Carolina fans, the assemblage of coaches and reporters in Hoover, Alabama, this week offered yet another opportunity to watch new head coach Shane Beamer check off a first. He dazzled supporters at his first press conference after being named to the position, then dazzled again during the first few weeks of in-person recruiting in June.
Could we expect him to dazzle the national media at Media Days?
After Beamer spoke to the crowd with purpose and passion, the SEC Network’s Jordan Rodgers hung this money quote on the board: “I’d play for Shane Beamer in a heartbeat.” (Jordan Rodgers: Shane Beamer 'early lead for MVP' at Media Days).
Beamer wasn’t just upbeat about his new position. He was convincingly upbeat. I came away from his press conference thinking, “You know what – why hasn’t South Carolina been particularly successful in its football history? We’ve got everything you need to get it done here.” I’m not sure I was thinking that nine months ago.
The quality that Gamecock fans have rallied around – Beamer’s earnest genuineness – seems to be winning hearts and minds outside the university’s circle, too.
“I had a mom sit in my office and tell me, ‘Coach, the best thing about this visit is you guys are the exact same people in person that you are on Zoom,’” Beamer told the media. “And I said, ‘What do you mean by that?’ She said, ‘We've done so many of these virtual visits, they act one way on the computer, and then you get around them for a weekend, and they're completely different. That's not the way you guys are.’” (Here’s a complete transcript of Beamer’s lively Media Days appearance: Everything South Carolina Gamecocks head football coach Shane Beamer said at the SEC Media Day podium).
Beamer has been routinely winning press conferences since his arrival at South Carolina, so his performance in Hoover shouldn’t have been a surprise. But there was an authentic confidence nestled within his friendly demeanor that was particularly encouraging to longtime Gamecock fans like me.
And all of this would have been more than enough to get me fired up for September and “2001” and “It’s another Carolina…FIRST DOWN!” and “It is Saturday in South Carolina…WELCOME TO WILLIAMS-BRICE!” (Welcome to Williams-Brice 2016).
I was already going to be thinking about football from now until September 4. I didn’t need another reason to think about football.
But I’ve got one.
Within hours of Beamer’s return to Columbia after his walk-off homer in Hoover, while the SEC Media Days still pressed onward, the word started trickling out. Something was brewing. And it was massive.
It was Godzilla. It was a 9.0 Richter scale earthquake.
This was the kind of news that would cause you to put down your phone, stand up in a daze, walk into your bathroom, stare into the mirror and utter a long, Keanu Reeves-inspired WHOA (The Matrix - Whoa - YouTube).
The rumors were bold and in all-caps: Texas wanted to flee the Big 12 for the SEC. And if they hopped the fence, Oklahoma was coming with them. (Texas, Oklahoma inquire about joining SEC)
A conference that already included Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU and Tennessee (not to mention Texas A&M and Auburn) could be adding Texas? And Oklahoma? My head wasn’t just spinning, it was inside a centrifuge.
Of course, rumors like this come down the pike here and there, typically right around this time of the year when conferences are gathering publicly to prepare for a new season (Superconference - Wikipedia). A decade ago, Texas and Oklahoma were whispered to be heading to the Pac 12 in what looked to be a done deal (that subsequently came undone), and sometimes athletic administrators and boosters enjoy floating gossip just to see what the buzz might set in motion.
But this one feels a little different. No one in a position of power seems to be denying the story with anything resembling vehemence. “We are only worried about the 2021 season,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, emphatically declining to douse the raging fire. “Somebody dropped a report from unnamed people.”
And if those unnamed people have any idea what they’re talking about, the biggest conference in college sports is somehow going to get bigger.
In other words, thank God we’ve got a confident coach behind the podium.
We’re going to need him.
Tell me what you think about Shane Beamer’s performance at SEC Media Days, whether you’re making hotel reservations for road trips to Austin or Norman, or anything else on your mind by writing me at email@example.com.
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