Live coverage from Birmingham, where SB Nation is taking in the spectacle of SEC Media Days.
"So the juices are flowing, I'm sure, from everybody." This is the second sentence we'll hear in this interview session, and it's as good as it's going to get. (For the record, he was discussing the anticipation of the upcoming season, we think.) Gene "Chiznap" Chizik is his own brand of soporific. Last year he set a new benchmark for say-nothing coachspeak at the 2010 Media Days, and with the added luster of a national title and slick stench of scandal hanging around the program, you might think this press encounter would yield a few surprises. You are dearly mistaken:
• There will be no rehashing of last year's title run, or of expectations for this year's depleted Auburn squad: "The minute our plane hit the ground in Montgomery in January, we had moved on."
• A joke! A joke! A reporter asks about keeping Gus Malzahn from bolting to a plum HC gig. Chizik: "You must be from Arkansas, huh?" This is the high point of Chizik's session, and it's a good one. If you don't want to read further, nobody will blame you.
• A Harvey Updyke question is lobbed, allowing Chizik to state he's adamant the Iron Bowl represents one of the greatest rivalries in college football, like anybody's arguing it's not.
• The by-now rote questions of the value of recruiting services pop up, and Chizik surprises by stating he thinks they can be of value. He's the first coach to do so within our earshot this week.
• And on to the good stuff, and the deflections: Julie Roe Lach, and their much-publicized run-in in Destin. When Gene Chizik's jaw clenches, his whole face goes with it. The brush-off: "Typically, I don't talk about what I thought were private meetings. [...] It was very informative, and there were some clarifications that were made, that had to do with process. [...] I don't operate on rumors and innuendoes and anything of that nature. [...] My job every day at Auburn is to recruit, graduate, and win championships." Does he regret agitating the NCAA? "Oh, I didn't see that as an angry or agitated exchange at all." One cold smile, and we're off. If you're wondering at home why he's not getting more questions of a CHEATERZ DURR nature, it's because this is what happens when he does. The guy just camos up.
• The first question regarding the Danny Sheridan bag man interview actually takes about twenty minutes to get to, but here goes the jaw again: "I'll make this real clear. The NCAA, on more than one occasion, has said that Auburn has done nothing wrong in recruiting Cam Newton. Nothing's changed. You can't control everybody's microphone, and I don't try to."
• The first truly pushy question hits towards the end of the afternoon, with one reporter coming straight out and asking whether there's a "fraternity of silence" between programs regarding NCAA infractions. The response is vintage Chizik: "I certainly can't speculate on how everybody else feels, and what their silence is or not." For the second time, he pledges he sleeps great every night. Coach, what's your sleep number?