HOOVER, Ala. -- Let's be honest about the SEC Media Days: It's an overexposed, televised circus. The SEC embraced these facts long ago and is perfectly OK with that.
The event invites fans into the hotel lobby for "Roll Tide" chants and autograph hunting, opens the doors to any and all media outlets named "Touchdown Alabama," increases the number of days for the event from three to four, and has wall-to-wall SEC Network coverage that this week included a ringing cowbell as other media tried to work. Alabama coach Nick Saban acknowledged the wink-wink, nod-nod of this circus in his opening remarks.
"I'm going to sit up here and very seriously talk about our team," Saban said, "and everything I'm going to say about our team, you've already written about ... but you're going to be serious and I'm going to be serious about talking about it again. That's the way we do things."
All of this is a roundabout way to say: Thank goodness for Bret Bielema, who is the SEC's new Steve Spurrier during this talking season.
Don't mistake what I'm saying: Bielema isn't the coach Spurrier was back in his day, nor does Bielema directly needle other coaches quite like Spurrier did before he turned stale late in his career. When Bielema publicly took on another SEC school a couple years ago, he said then-SEC commissioner Mike Slive "basically got after me as hard as any man has ever gotten after me, other than my father, in my life."
Still, as other coaches go through their talking points and cliches, Bielema is the SEC's best hope to keep this event entertaining, considering you don't learn much new football information. There are serious stories to write from the event. But a good rule of thumb: The less seriously you take yourself at SEC Media Days, the better off for your sanity.
Bielema was gold Wednesday at SEC Media Days. In honor of the new Spurrier, here's the best of Bielema's candidness. Judge the comparison for yourself.
On Arkansas not being in the news for arrests lately: "You don't have to worry whether or not I'm going to suspend anybody for the first game. It doesn't come up in our program. Not to say it won't. At some time it may rear its ugly head. ... You guys are getting me to talk about this too much. I believe in karma and there's things that come back."
On Michigan canceling its series vs. Arkansas: "I was in Europe with my wife. We were on a train headed to Paris. It's ironic for me to say that. ... My wife said, 'Hey, there's something on the internet about a Big Ten team canceling with an SEC team.' I said, 'I don't know anything about it.' She said, 'Really? Your picture's right here.' She's real quick. And so I read the article and realize we've been canceled. ... I understand the Michigan-Notre Dame thing sounds sexy to everybody else, but I think Michigan and Arkansas sounds sexy."
On his assistants targeting top recruits: "If you get one that's hot, that we like, that we've got him rated at the top, he's Farrah Fawcett."
On players leaving early for the NFL who won't get drafted high: "First and foremost, if you're not invited to (a proposed junior class NFL scouting combine), if you even think about coming out, you're a moron."
On Arkansas' talent: "At Arkansas we're not built very sexy, we're just kind of a work in progress. We need a lot of time in the bathroom to get ready and come out and look great. But when we do, we'll stop time."
On Hugh Freeze during the 4th-and-25 lateral vs. Ole Miss: "There's like 20 of them trying to tackle (Arkansas' Alex Collins) from out of bounds, including (Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze) was up there a little bit close. I thought he should have had a flag, but that's another conversation."
On losing offensive line coach Sam Pittman to Georgia: "Kirby (Smart), yeah, he actually called me a couple days before. First, he wanted to talk to my offense coordinator and try to take Dan Enos, and I said, 'I appreciate it, but there's a thing called the SEC clause (for some Arkansas coaches' contracts that prohibit them from leaving for a comparable SEC job), you can't have him. Kind of stuck my tongue out, wiggled my nose and felt good about it. One of the first things I didn't do was I didn't put an SEC clause on Coach Pittman. ... As far as what Georgia is getting, you got to try to figure that out on your own."
On a tripping penalty in 2014 wiping out a 57-yard run by Jonathan Williams: "We had an unfortunate tripping call called, which was a marvelous call for Steve Shaw and his staff. First tripping call I've ever seen in college football, but it was a good call, and we deserved it. But it did kind of change the momentum of the game and brought it back. I hope there's a moratorium on complaining about refing."
On Bielema's wife always attending SEC Media Days: "Maybe because there's a mall here but that's a totally different conversation."