Friday July 11, 2014 SEC Football Media Days has come long way since Skywriter's Tour ended
Updated: 2:13pm, July 11
Updated: 2:13pm, July 11
More than 1,000 media members will descend on SEC Media Days starting Monday.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The first one was held at the Holiday Inn Medical Center in Birmingham. The year was 1985.
There was no Radio Row, and ESPN sure didn't broadcast the event live. What about a catchy hashtag? Ha, people would have thought you talked Russian if you asked about a Twitter hashtag.
The SEC Football Media Days that will be the epicenter of the college football world starting Monday in Hoover, Ala. -- a suburb of Birmingham -- resembles the inaugural version 29 years ago in very few ways.
Let's see. There were football coaches and players. There were reporters and notepads. Yep, that's about it.
"I remember it was run like a first one,'' longtime Gators SID/historian Norm Carlson said Thursday. "You had to do everything on your own to get guys with different media. It's gotten better and better."
Carlson returned to his alma mater in 1962 to work in UF's sports-information office after starting his career as a sports writer in Atlanta and then a stint in Auburn's athletic department.
He's been here ever since in some capacity and has seen the transformation up close and personal.
Before there was an SEC Football Media Days, there was the SEC Skywriter's Tour. Another longtime Florida storyteller, Buddy Martin of SouthernPigskin.com, recalled the Skywriter's Tour in this column on Thursday.
The conference loaded up some of the South's most notable sports writers and flew them around to each campus so they could talk to players and coaches before the season.
Sounds like a bunch of fun if you ask me. After reading Martin's column, sounds like they had a bunch of fun. Check out this Bear Bryant story I came across researching the Skywriter’s Tour.
The SEC fly-around ended in the mid-1980s and gave way to a centrally located event where everyone could catch up to kick off the season.
Still, the scene at that Holiday Inn in 1985 was nothing like what the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover will look like next week.
"I bet it wasn't 25 percent of what it is today,'' Carlson said. “Most of the media there was from Alabama. They could just drive over."
To help the Gators get some coverage back home, a few Sunshine State writers tagged along with the Florida contingent to the first event. They flew up on a twin-engine prop plane called the Blue Goose. The pilot was named Captain Jack.
Thankfully, they landed safely, everyone got their stories – those that could be told in a family newspaper – and the event took off from there.
At the '85 event, Galen Hall was entering his first full season as Florida's head coach. Punter Ray Criswell and running back Neal Anderson were Florida’s player representatives.
Carlson recalls coaching up Hall on dealing with media. While a well-respected coach, Hall was not especially media savvy at that stage of his career.
All went well. Once it was over, Captain Jack piloted the Blue Goose safely back to Gainesville.
On Monday Florida head coach Will Muschamp and players Jeff Driskel, Dante Fowler Jr. and Vernon Hargreaves III will fly to Hoover for the latest version of SEC Football Media Days.
Interest in the event is at an all-time high. The Birmingham News ran an online poll recently asking readers which Alabama players Nick Saban should bring along.
The league issued a record 1,239 media credentials to last year’s event. That’s more than double the total (500) from 2004.
Muschamp and Co. can expect another crowded hotel lobby on Monday afternoon when they arrive for their turn.
Times have changed. Captain Jack and the Blue Goose have long retired. Meanwhile, SEC Football Media Days continues to evolve, for better or worse.
Thanks to the SEC office, here is a look at UF representatives at SEC Media Days:
Year Coach Players
1985 Galen Hall Ray Criswell, Neal Anderson
1986 Hall Kerwin Bell, Ricky Nattiel
1987 Hall K. Bell, Louis Oliver
1988 Hall Emmitt Smith, Jeff Roth
1989 Hall E. Smith, Richard Fain
1990 Steve Spurrier Chris Bromley, Huey Richardson
1991 Spurrier Brad Culpepper, Shane Matthews
1992 Spurrier S. Matthews, Carlton Miles
1993 Spurrier Kevin Carter, Willie Jackson
1994 Spurrier Jack Jackson, Ellis Johnson
1995 Spurrier Mark Campbell, Jason Odom
1996 Spurrier Lawrence Wright, Danny Wuerffel
1997 Spurrier Ed Chester, Terry Jackson
1998 Spurrier T. Jackson, Jevon Kearse
1999 Spurrier Derrick Chambers, Travis Taylor
2000 Spurrier Alex Brown, Mike Pearson
2001 Spurrier Todd Johnson, Zac Zedalis
2002 Ron Zook Rex Grossman, Ian Scott
2003 Zook Keiwan Ratliff, Max Starks
2004 Zook Mike Degory, Travis Harris
2005 Urban Meyer M. Degory, Jarvis Herring
2006 Meyer Chris Leak, Marcus Thomas
2007 Meyer Andre Caldwell, Tony Joiner
2008 Meyer Tim Tebow, Phil Trautwein
2009 Meyer T. Tebow, Brandon Spikes
2010 Meyer Ahmad Black, Mike Pouncey, Justin Trattou
2011 Will Muschamp John Brantley, Deonte Thompson, William Green
2012 Muschamp Jon Bostic, Mike Gillislee, Lerentee McCray
2013 Muschamp Jeff Driskel, Dominique Easley, Jon Halapio
2014 Muschamp J. Driskel, Dante Fowler Jr., Vernon Hargreaves III