There are two constants about SEC Media Days — Steve Spurrier will have an issue to push and a few noses to tweak.
Tuesday was no different, as South Carolina’s ninth-year coach took the podium to address a throng of a reported 1,200 credentialed media. He went right into it, discussing the topic he’s trying to get pushed through the SEC — giving football and basketball players more expense money.
“We’re only talking about $300 a game, basketball would be a little less,” Spurrier said. “But where the players in the course of the year would have $3,600, $3,900, depending on how many games you play, just to have a little bit of pocket money and their parents to have money to come to the games. We all voted 14-0, that’s all of us coaches.”
The idea was talked about by SEC commissioner Mike Slive. Slive said the conference has introduced an “Agenda of Change,” which includes three areas — redefining benefits available to student-athletes, strengthening academic eligibility requirements and modernizing recruiting rules.
The idea has some traction, with Spurrier saying that it’s not a pay-for-play rule, but a way to give the players a little more of the gigantic pot that is available. With that out of the way, Spurrier aimed at a popular target — Notre Dame.
“I know the Notre Damers will get mad at me and us coaches, maybe, for saying that,” Spurrier said. “If you were a Notre Damer, you would say, ‘We’re supposed to be independent in football, always this, that and the other.’ From all of the rest of us in a conference, we say, ‘Why aren’t they in a conference?’ ”
Spurrier said it was unfair to have the BCS deciding on a four-team playoff, with input from Notre Dame’s athletics director.
“They’re sort of in the ACC,” Spurrier said. “It’s sort of hard to figure out why they have their own conference.”
His own man
Bruce Ellington might have been the most unrecognized athlete at Day 1 of SEC Media Days, the diminutive wideout decked out in a dark suit with a snazzy green bow tie. Still, he managed to make a statement.
Many have looked at Ellington and said that he has to be “the next Ace Sanders” for the Gamecocks. Ellington said he just wants to be himself, the same guy who caught the last offensive play of the last season, which won the Outback Bowl.
“I’ve been the same person,” Ellington said. “I’ve heard it before — I have to be the next Devan Downey, I have to be the next Ace. I’m just going to be myself. I’m going to be Bruce Ellington, and do whatever I got to do to help the team.”
Connor Shaw, who declared he’s 100 percent healthy from the foot and shoulder injuries that hindered him in 2012, mentioned that he’s been working at different positions.
“We’ve talked about me motioning in and out of the backfield, playing a little receiver, playing a little running back, and I think I’m athletic and fast enough to do that,” Shaw said. “I’m excited about it.”
Shaw, a former stellar receiver at Flowery Branch (Ga.) High before switching to quarterback as a junior, has experience catching the ball. The Gamecocks have had random plays over the years with Shaw split wide and an Ellington or Sanders coming in to take the snap, but Shaw never has caught a pass in a game.
As expected, the SEC announced game times for USC’s first three games on Tuesday. The 6 p.m. season-opener on Aug. 29 against North Carolina was already known, but the Gamecocks’ SEC opener at Georgia on Sept. 7 will begin at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN, and USC and Vanderbilt will begin at 7 p.m. on Sept. 14 on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.
Dates to note
USC’s first practice will be at 7:15 p.m. on Aug. 2, and likely will be open to the public. Fan Appreciation Day will be Aug. 11 at Colonial Life Arena at a time to be announced.