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Friday July 11, 2014 SEC Football Media Days has come long way since Skywriter's Tour ended

Updated: 2:13pm, July 11

SEC Media Days

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

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