HOOVER, Ala. -- The scandal at Penn State and the legacy of Joe Paterno are on the minds of many attending SEC Media Days.
And the opinions vary widely.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive chose to address it during his prepared remarks Tuesday. Slive never mentioned Penn State by name, but it was clear what he was referencing.
Last weeks headlines remind us that we must be ever vigilant on all issues of integrity and that our primary mission is to educate and protect young people, Slive said.
It was last week that former FBI director Louis Freeh issued a report, commissioned by Penn State, that further called into question how much Paterno knew about his assistant coach Jerry Sanduskys activities. Sandusky was convicted last month on numerous child molestation charges.
We must maintain an honest and open dialogue across all levels of university administration, Slive said. There must be an effective system of checks and balances within the administrative structure to protect all who come in contact with it, especially those who cannot protect themselves. No one program, no one person, no matter how popular, no matter how successful, can be allowed to derail the soul of an institution.
On the other hand, two SEC coaches who were asked about Paterno chose to speak well of him.
Missouris Gary Pinkel went the furthest when he spoke to local reporters in a small session.
Joe Paternos a friend that I got to know professionally, and you cant take away the greatness of this man, Pinkel said, according to the Columbia (Mo.) Tribune. He was a great man. However you analyze this, you cant erase all that this guys done. You cant do that. Nobody can do that. ... Im sure he would, maybe if he could do it over again he would followed up a few things. But dont take away all this guy did, and to sit there and blame him for all this, I think is wrong.
South Carolinas Steve Spurrier spoke more generally in support for how Paterno handled his job as a football coach.
The only thing I would say about Coach Paterno, when he coached college football, he did everything right, Spurrier said. His teams played fair, fundamentally sound. He was always revered for doing the right things. I dont want to get into the other side of a terrible, terrible situation. But as a college football coach, I remember him that way, also.
In search of an arm
First-year Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin spent the spring installing a wide-open passing offense, a scheme that seems like a poor fit in the power-driven SEC.
People say we throw the ball all the time. Thats fine. Id like for people to think that, Sumlin said, pointing out that his teams at Houston ran the ball 45 percent of the time. Being called pass-happy, thats fine with us.
What could make running his offense against SEC West defenses like LSU and Alabama more difficult is that Texas A&M will be breaking in a new quarterback after the Miami Dolphins selected Ryan Tannehill with the eighth pick in Aprils NFL draft.
Sumlin maintains that the Aggies still have an open quarterback competition among three players, but receiver Ryan Swope, the Aggies leading pass-catcher, indicated Tuesday that sophomore Jameill Showers was the frontrunner to earn the job.
He can zip it, hes very comfortable, hes got great skills, Swope said. Hes done a lot of the little things that will help him be a great football player.
At the SECs spring meetings in Destin, Fla., in May, the conference established a working committee to investigate the effects of concussions and how to better evaluate and treat the injury.
New rules to limit concussions have sparked debate that football is losing its physicality, but Pinkel said he supports any effort to limit the injury.
I think the awareness, the rule changes, the spearing, getting the crown of the helmet, all the different things theyre analyzing and calling now, its good, Pinkel said. If we dont control it, were going to have severe problems.
Three of the SECs top players facing injury should be ready for the start of the season. South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore (torn ACL), Texas A&M running back Christine Michael (torn ACL) and Missouri quarterback James Franklin (torn labrum) are all expected to be ready for the season.
Lattimore has been a full participant in offseason workouts, Gamecocks receiver Ace Sanders said, and Sumlin indicated that Michael could have participated in spring practice, but the Aggies held him out due to injury.
Franklin is not participating in 7-on-7 workouts, but he has gone back to throwing footballs, and Pinkel said Missouris trainers expect him to be ready.
It serves as a positive sign for Slive that three of the SECs head football coaches are black. Two of them, Sumlin and Vanderbilts James Franklin, appeared Tuesday.
Ten years ago, the story was that no minority served as a head football coach in the history of the Southeastern Conference, Slive said. I am very grateful that the hiring of minority coaches in the Southeastern Conference is no longer a story. It is simply who we are.
Slive had less to say about ongoing negotiations on a new television contract. The SEC would like to alter its pacts with CBS and ESPN to account for expansion to 14 teams, and it is also set to start its own network.
Slive said the goal is to provide fans with greater access to favored teams, more opportunities to watch rivals, and more insight into who we are: a conference of 14 great universities.