Life in the circus: Nothing quite like media days

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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Butch Davis tells reporters he's 'optimistic' about his future at UNC. Less than two days later, he's fired. (AP)  
Butch Davis tells reporters he's 'optimistic' about his future at UNC. Less than two days later, he's fired. (AP)  

HOOVER, Ala. --

Or, is it PINEHURST, N.C. --

Wait, there's the Magnificent Mile. This has to be Big country. CHICAGO --

Where did all these sailboats come from? I must be in NEWPORT, R.I. --

In the past two weeks, my dateline constantly changed as I was fortunate enough to attend four of the six automatic qualifying BCS conference media days: SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big East.

I believe ESPN's Joe Schad was the only individual to go 6-for-6 and attend all six -- the Schad Slam. However, I made it to Brigham Young's media day and Schad did not. Actually, I think I know why. I saw a list of the banned items on BYU's honor code: no cheating, no premarital sex, no alcohol or drugs, no smoking and no Schad.

So, here's a quick trip down memory lane -- or what's left of my memory -- after a steady diet of Golden Flakes Sweet Heat Barbecue chips, Dr. Pepper, caramel apple pie, box lunches and lobster. Also I'd like to give a special thank you to the Delta Airlines pilot on my flight to Providence, R.I., who was considerate enough to apologize for his sudden midair turn. He mentioned something about having to avoid a small engine aircraft. Very much appreciated, sir.

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My Media Day March began in Hoover, Ala., at SEC media days. This is the mother of all conference media days spread out over three days. Camera men actually film coaches walking from room to room. This thing is only one male reporter wearing a wedding dress away from matching the circus-type atmosphere of Super Bowl media day. Well, there's always hope next year.

With a record 1,050 credentials issued, Mike Slive opened up the festivities with his state of the union address touching on the drastic changes needed throughout college football. Later, Slive was asked about potential SEC expansion and smiles. "I can get to 16 teams in 15 minutes." In Dallas, the news reaches Dan Beebe, who turns to an aide: "Mr. McKittrick, take us to DEFCON 1."

In Gene Chizik's main media session, the Auburn coach is asked 22 questions, nine that contained the word "NCAA, investigation or third-party bag man." Chizik -- or at least the robot at the podium that looked and sounded like Chizik -- repeatedly references his excellent sleeping habits. It's obvious after listening to Chizik that the only person who sleeps better than Chizik is Michael Jackson.

"I'll say as I've said it maybe the fifth time today," Chizik responds about yet another NCAA question, "I feel really good when my head hits the pillow."

It's later discovered that "pillow" is actually the code name for Cecil Newton.

Alabama's Nick Saban is a big hit as usual. Last year he called agents pimps. This year, he targets the media, criticizing us for being negative. A few questions later, a media member asks Saban about the Crimson Tide's competition at punter. Negative media indeed: don't we realize Alabama will never punt this year?

Les Miles, the quote machine that also happens to coach LSU, is asked about Slive's proposal to increase the grade point average for incoming freshmen to 2.5.

"I got a degree in economics from a very prestigious institution [Michigan]," Miles said. "I can't tell you when I achieved a 2.5, I hope I have."

Miles later touches on grass-eating, a basketball video he made where he blocks a shot by his 7-year-old daughter, Macy, and he also calls out anonymous individuals who post on internet message boards under the name "Slick Willie." I guess we know what Willie Lyles' message board handle is now.

At ACC media days, North Carolina coach Butch Davis patently and respectfully answers all 482 questions from the media about the Tar Heels' NCAA infractions. As he leaves the media room, I ask him one last question -- what he thinks the potential penalties will be. "I'm optimistic," he says. Less than 48 hours later, Davis is fired.

A day after Davis is fired Dick Baddour resigns as North Carolina's athletic director. Ironically on the same day, the ACC releases the league's college basketball prospectus.

The Pinehurst Lodge, where the ACC media days were held, is simply magnificent. The media dining area is located in one of the ballrooms and looks like an exact replicate of Disney World's Hall of Presidents. I peaked behind the curtain and saw some broken down and rusted animatronic versions of Gene Corrigan, Bobby Bowden and Larry Coker. However, there was a brand new Ralph Friedgen model that had just arrived.

At the Big 12 media days in Dallas, the Big 12 reaches a compromise with the Longhorn Network. The league prohibits the Longhorn Network from televising high school games, but will allow the network to televise games between Texas high schools and teams from the Sun Belt Conference.

During a function one evening, the Big 12 showed a promotional film about the rebranding of the league. Commissioner Dan Beebe is introduced to the strains from the movie The Natural. CBSSports.com has learned next year's musical introduction for Beebe will be All My Ex's Live In Texas A&M.

At the Big Ten media days in Chicago, the first difference I immediately notice between the Big Ten and SEC media days is that the Big Ten reporters don't start their questions with "we."

Later, though, a Nebraska TV "reporter" asked Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz for his autograph to give to his girlfriend. That's a big no-no, something even SEC reporters know is strictly forbidden -- unless, of course, no one is looking.

Nebraska and Iowa announced their annual series will be a trophy game called "The Heroes Game." The SEC responded by announcing "The Superheroes Game" -- every SEC game, every week.

For me, the highlight of Big Ten's media days occurred at the league's kickoff luncheon. Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins delivered an unbelievable speech about the responsibilities of today's student-athletes. Every Big Ten coach plus commissioner Jim Delany spoke at the luncheon. Cousins was the only one that received a standing ovation and deservedly so.

At the Big East's media days on Tuesday, each coach was asked to make a brief three-minute opening remark. Connecticut's Paul Pasquolini was more than five minutes into his speech when he started breaking down UConn's roster, position by position. The mixture of eating too much lobster the previous night at the league's clam bake and Pasquolini reciting the entire depth chart put every one in the room in a coma.

The best thing about conference media days is that they are finally over. And that means the start of the season is now less than four weeks away. Hopefully, Pasquolini will be done talking by then.

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