HOOVER, Ala. — Just before Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher addressed reporters Wednesday at SEC media days, the Houston Chronicle dropped a bombshell, reporting that Oklahoma and Texas of the Big 12 have reached out to the SEC about switching conferences.
Brent Zwerneman, the Chronicle’s Texas A&M beat writer, reported that the move could be announced “within a couple weeks,” setting off a frenzy at The Wynfrey Hotel as reporters jostled for confirmation from SEC officials.
Asked about the Sooners and Longhorns allegedly looking to join the SEC, Fisher quipped, “I bet they would (like to).”
“I don’t know,” he continued. “I’m just worried about A&M, you know what I mean? Listen, we’ve got the greatest league in ball. ... The choices they make or what they do, I don’t know. But I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m just worried about A&M. I control what I want to control here.”
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, here all week for SEC media days, declined to address the report specifically to multiple outlets, saying he was focused on the 2021 season. Oklahoma and Texas issued written responses, neither denying the reports or their interest in leaving the Big 12 for the SEC.
Leach not sold on NIL
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach, now in his ninth job in college football over the last 35 years, believes college athletes transfer too much. Leach, who agreed to a five-year contract extension at Washington State five weeks before he was named the head coach at Mississippi State, believes college athletes shouldn’t make endorsement money until after they graduate.
No one has ever accused Leach of expressing politically correct opinions, but when it comes to the sport’s most powerful and pivotal trends this offseason — the transfer portal and the name, image and likeness rules — Leach cut against the grain in Wednesday’s appearance at SEC media days.
Leach’s Bulldogs roster includes nine Division I transfers — including high-profile additions quarterback Jack Abraham (Southern Miss), safety Jalen Green (Texas) and offensive lineman Scott Lashley (Alabama) — but he indicated Wednesday he doesn’t like the new NCAA rule allowing immediate eligibility for first-time transfers, saying, “It’s too easy to transfer right now.”
“I think too often there’s a temptation to cut and run,” he added. “I don’t think that’s always the best course because you learn a lot by persevering and sitting in there and pushing through adversity.”
Vandy’s true son
Plenty of SEC schools have hired alums as head coaches, producing varying degrees of success. Some have thrived, like Steve Spurrier at Florida and Kirby Smart at Georgia. Others struggled, like Mike Dubose and Mike Shula at Alabama, Joker Phillips at Kentucky, Matt Luke at Ole Miss and Barry Odom at Missouri.
Vanderbilt is betting on a success story with first-year coach Clark Lea, who played fullback for the Commodores from 2002-04. He even brought his gold Vandy helmet from his playing days to Hoover. Even though the Commodores won just six games in Lea’s three seasons as a player, he jumped at the chance to return to his alma mater, saying “There’s no better program in the country than Vanderbilt football.”
“There’s an unyielding belief in what’s possible there. That’s through my experience,” said Lea, who was Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator the last three seasons. “As a competitor, the three years that I was there playing were the toughest three years of my career and it was hard, but it was formative.”