ATLANTA — Friday marked the 10th anniversary of Les Miles’ bizarre “Have a great day!” speech on the eve of the 2007 SEC Championship Game.
And you thought that was a crazy day.
Here’s a summary of Friday's news across the glorious Southeastern Conference:
• Ole Miss gets slapped with a second year’s bowl ban from the NCAA infractions committee, loses 13 more scholarships and its former coaches get wallpapered with show cause penalties.
• Jimbo Fisher leaves Florida State for Texas A&M. As he flies over Baton Rouge from Tallahassee to College Station, he can hear faint cries from 30,000 feet below of “Why not us, Jimbeaux!” over the engines.
• Tennessee, which ran off Philip Fulmer as football coach in 2008, cans current athletic director John Currie in mid-search and brings back Fulmer as AD.
• And, oh yes, Auburn and Georgia are sequestered here among the peach trees, set to play for the SEC championship on Saturday and a locked-up berth in the CFP semifinals (possibly in the Sugar Bowl).
That SEC championship game is last on this list facetiously, but it’s not No. 1.
In a conference that has well-earned a reputation for being a cutthroat, rabid and frequently scandal-ridden football powerhouse, there has never been a week like this.
And it’s not over yet.
Some thoughts …
… Because Ole Miss got a second year’s bowl ban for 2018, its rising seniors are free to transfer and play immediately. Rising sophomores and juniors can petition to transfer if they wish. If I was LSU, I’d try to find out if Rebels quarterback Shea Patterson wants to come home to Louisiana. Yes, you’re sticking a fork into your Myles Brennan plans for 2018 and beyond, but as is increasingly obvious in the SEC, you have to do what you can to win now.
I asked former LSU star and SEC Network analyst Marcus Spears on Friday if he would take a run at Patterson. Spears didn’t want to say because he works with the SEC Network, but he winked in an over-the-top way.
“I would try to get the most talented guy,” he said.
… The consequences for LSU President F. King Alexander and athletic director Joe Alleva could be serious over them not being able/willing to lure Fisher to Baton Rouge in 2015 or 2016, when a year later he said yes to Baton Rouge native and LSU grad Scott Woodward, now athletic director at Texas A&M.
This is how we believe the Fisher situation went down with LSU: Alleva wanted to hire him in 2015 but was blocked by Alexander, who didn’t want to beg the state legislature for funding while LSU paid Miles millions not to coach. In 2016, LSU made Tom Herman its top choice, but his top choice was Texas. LSU would likely have had to offer Fisher what he’s going to get at Texas A&M — $75 million for 10 years — but was unwilling to do it.
You can say LSU should have fired Miles in 2015, but it’s still no guarantee Fisher would have come. The situation there hadn’t soured for Jimbo to the point that it has now. And frankly, I don’t blame LSU for not wanting to cave to Jimmy Sexton’s (Fisher’s agent) ransom note. Texas A&M is desperate. LSU is not. Woodward took the risk LSU wasn’t willing to take, for better or worse.
LSU isn't blameless in the college athletics arms race, but for those who want to slam Alexander, consider what he said last year about out-of-control spending: “It’s just ironic that we generate $120 million in athletics and that’s about as much as we get from the state to run the university. Something is wrong with this picture.” Maybe it’s right that LSU was unwilling to cross a line and do what it can with what it has.
… Have I ever seen anything like the Tennessee coaching search? Never. Fulmer’s return could bring stability, but he’s still got to convince someone to take the job. They’re lining up like Rockettes, this list of folks who have turned Tennessee down. Miles is still free, Phil.
… As for the SEC Championship Game, it’s almost an afterthought that the SEC has three teams in the CFP top six: No. 2 Auburn, No. 5 Alabama and No. 6 Georgia. The winner of Saturday’s Auburn-Georgia rematch — the Tigers blew the doors off the Bulldogs 40-17 three weeks ago — will be in the CFP semifinals. Alabama is hoping for TCU to upset No. 3 Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game or Ohio State to knock off No. 4 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game to slip into the top four. It could give the SEC two of the four teams in the CFP, an unprecedented feat.
It would be the proper capper to an unprecedented week.