Live coverage from Birmingham, where SB Nation is taking in the spectacle of SEC Media Days.
Steve Spurrier mounts the dais, fit and preening in a pink tie nobody else on earth with that ruddy a complexion could pull off, and sporting hair that will not look so magnificently chestnut come November. He's noticeably more jocular than the Spurrier the White we saw last July, with the sheen of a recent division championship still apparent, despite everything that happened on a scoreboard in December. Highlights from a rollicking Q&A session follow:
• Spurrier thinks this is the best group of players he's ever had at South Carolina, and that there's still "plenty more out there for us to go after. Time will tell." In typical Spurrier fashion, he dispenses with his opening marks in perfunctory fashion, and with a twinkle in his eye, asks, "Any questions?" like there's a chance every hand in the room isn't about to bolt up.
• Spurrier thinks he has the best running back and wide receiver in the country in Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery. Lattimore will shortly become the toast of the day for refusing to entertain stupid questions about Stephen Garcia.
• And speaking of Stephen Garcia, here comes the "I don't openly loathe my starting quarterback ... much" song and dance we all know so well. Spurrier's tone of voice is impossible to replicate here, but the closest comparison would be a consistently misbehaving pet he can't get rid of because his wife loves the damn thing. "Stephen has some guidelines he must follow to be reinstated in August," but he's been doing everything asked of him and going to his workouts. Oh, and he might not be the starter, of course. Sure, Coach. "He and Connor Shaw will battle it out a little bit. He may be our best quarterback, but we're gonna have a little competition this year." A reporter: Can you talk about your unlimited patience with Garcia?" Spurrier: "Well, I guess we don't wanna kick him out for stupidity." Another reporter: "How sure are you Stephen Garcia will--" Spurrier interrupts this sentence with what is either a cough, a snarl, or a harrumph. I'm going with all three. "--keep his nose clean this time?" Spurrier fires right back, "Well first of all, he may get beat out by Connor Shaw." Coach, are you sorry you don't have a clear and undeniable leader on this team? "Yeah, that would be nice," like he's ordering fish.
• On the ever-expanding coffers of the SEC: "Dan Mullen's got a jet airplaine out there." I have to assume Dan Mullen piloted this in himself, parachuted out over the convention center, and allowed the plane to smash unmanned into a nearby hillside.
• Were there any factors besides the threat of Lattimore that led to last year's division title? The conventional wisdom is also Spurrier's opinion: Down years for Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee.
• On Mike Slive's earlier proposition that college scholarships for NCAA athletes be expanded into multi-year awards: "No, it's a terrible idea, Commissioner. You sportswriters get a two-year deal? You go bad, you don't show up for work, your butt's gonna be out on the street." A pause. "Luckily, coaches have four- or five-year contracts."
• On how much longer he intends to keep at this before retiring to Augusta National: It may be time to reduce his standard answer from four or five more years to three or four, but "If it was going bad and we were getting beat, I'd be gone."