By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
One of my favorite things about SEC Media Days is studying the personalities of the 12 coaches, comparing and contrasting the men leading the teams in the country’s most dominant football conference.
The cast ranges from agonizingly dull to beautifully eccentric to fiery, and every one of them reminds me of someone else.
Take LSU’s Les Miles. I liken him to Tony LaRussa: Drives you crazy with some of his crazy decisions, but winds up winning a lot more than he loses. (Good thing there’s no clock in baseball.)
Bobby Petrino reminds me of Data from Star Trek fame, only less colorful.
Derek Dooley is one of the more honest and entertaining coaches. Spencer Hall of EDSBS.com gave an apt description of the Tennessee coach: “Dooley wins title of ‘SEC coach who most resembles a meerkat scanning the horizon during Q and A.'”
Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, the polar opposite of predecessor and noted turkey inseminator Robbie Caldwell, reminds me of … Dan Mullen. Only more so.
Yes, James Franklin is more Dan Mullen than Dan Mullen is, in many ways. Except instead of appealing to people’s inner blind loyalty, he appeals to reason. Silly man, but he’ll learn.
“I need young men to make decisions based on the long haul,” Franklin said. “Don’t commit to the logo on the helmet, don’t commit to the jerseys. Make the decision for the right reason, which is being able to get an education that’s going to set you up for the long haul.”
If only it were that way, but it’s not.
This brings me back to Mullen. I’ll be honest, he reminds me of a used car salesman, except the more you listen to him, the more believable he sounds.
He was asked about turning Starkville into an advantage, and the questioner said the town isn’t “in most minds the garden spot of the Southeastern Conference.”
Mullen admitted that getting people to Starkville was one of his “biggest challenges,” and then extolled its many virtues. He said it’s a matter of just getting prospects to visit, and then opening their eyes to the possibilities.
“I see us continuing to build more and more success as more and more people have the opportunity to come to see what a great place Starkville is,” Mullen said.
He said when offseason rumors would arise about him taking another job, he’d “kind of laugh” about it. He truly seems set on remaining in Starkville and turning MSU into a regular contender.
Conventional wisdom says he’s unlikely to succeed. But is conventional wisdom really what it used to be?
You’ve got Nebraska moving to the Big 10-ish, BYU going independent, and Boise State is going to get to a BCS title game one of these days (right?). Texas is trying to start its own network.
The college football landscape is changing, and now seems like the time for weird, uncommon things to happen. Once upon a time, Bobby Bowden turned Florida State into a national power, and look at what’s happened at Stanford.
I think Franklin is on to something about not committing to a logo, although certain brands still hold a lot of sway just because of who they are. But as the Boises and TCUs have shown us, you don’t have to go to Alabama or Penn State to garner national attention and compete for high stakes.
So heck, why can’t Franklin make something special happen at Vandy? Maybe he and Mullen are starting some sort of revolution here.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at NEMS360.com.