SEC Football Media Days 2022: Fisher and Harsin weigh in

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Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher speaks at SEC Media Days Thursday. Fisher addressed his summer feud with Alabama coach Nick Saban, among other topics.

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In addition to my column, three takeaways from the fourth and final day of SEC Football Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame.

1. Jimbo Fisher addresses the elephant in the room

It didn’t take long for Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher to be asked about his summer feud with Alabama coach Nick Saban. Fisher fired back at Saban after the Alabama coach said the Fisher’s Aggies “bought” their No. 1-ranked recruiting class.

Saban later said he shouldn’t isolate Texas A&M and he never said the Aggies broke the rules, he was just pointing out what was happening with NIL in college football. This was after Fisher lambasted his (former) friend — the two worked together at LSU — for insinuating that Saban hadn’t always been honest.

“Look, we’re great,” Fisher said Thursday. “Two competitive guys who get into it. We all learn from the things we do in our business. Two competitive guys on a subject that is very — everywhere, as they say. There are no rules in this thing, where it goes. Every state has different laws and everything.

“And as he said, I heard a statement he made, the arguments we had in the staff room and on the basketball court and all those things. But on the basketball court, we didn’t have any. We were still on the same team. So we usually had them against other people. I have a lot of respect for Nick. Unfortunately, our case became public. It happens sometimes in this world. Nothing is more private, is it? »

Regarding NIL issues, Fisher said, “As I say, guys, there are no rules. Each state has its own rules. I mean, it’s not just an NCAA thing or a national thing. Every state. For example, in Texas, we cannot offer NIL to a recruit. We can’t say, we can’t promise. All we can say is if the guys on our team have it, that’s all we can say.

“Other states may present written contracts. They can send you a written contract to a guy. I experienced that in a recruitment business. It’s just the world we live in. We are frustrated because there is no unification of what happens and how it happens. It’s a different day and time. Change is inevitable. These are the rules we have to play, so we all have to adapt and adjust. Either you adapt and adjust, or you don’t, one of the two.

2. Bryan Harsin addresses the gorilla in the room

Bryan Harsin began his podium speech by mentioning that many people didn’t think the Auburn coach would make it to his second SEC Football Media Days. Not after what he called the “gorilla in the room,” the school’s offseason investigation into the actions of its sophomore coach.

“Going back to what happened in February, what I’m going to do now is fix it,” the former Boise State coach said. “Moving forward, this will be the last time I speak on this subject. There was an investigation. It was uncomfortable. It was baseless. It was an opportunity for people to attack me. personally, my family and also our program. And it didn’t work out.”

Harsin, 45, went 69-19 in seven seasons at Boise State before trailing Gus Malzahn to Auburn. The Tigers had a 6-7 campaign that included five straight losses to end the season. After losing to Alabama 24-22 in overtime, Auburn lost 17-13 to Houston in the Birmingham Bowl.

Then in February it was reported that supporters of the Auburn program were looking for a way to fire Harsin “with good reason”. When this effort failed, it was announced that he would be retained as head coach.

“What came out of this survey was a lot of positives,” Harsin said Thursday. “There was a silver lining to it all. What I saw from our players and coaches was leadership opportunities for them, which is exactly what they did. You get to see guys show leadership. You have had the chance to see coaches show leadership.

“What he’s done is he’s united our football team, our players, our staff, our football team. I’m really proud of our guys. I’m proud that something like that could be very difficult and challenging for a lot of people, the way our guys stepped up and handled the situation.

3. Hendon Hooker ready to take the next step in Tennessee

Virginia Tech Transfer Hendon Hooker didn’t win the starting quarterback job right away at Tennessee last season. Given the chance, however, Hooker took advantage of the opportunity, throwing for 31 touchdowns to just three interceptions as the Vols finished 7-6.

What does Hooker plan to do for an encore?

“I feel like I’m making progress in my game,” Hooker said Thursday. “I mean, I know it’s never going to be perfect. So there is always room to grow and I will never go a day without trying to improve my game.”

Hooker also said he was going to fall camp because the starter hadn’t changed his mind.

“It was no different,” he said. “I’m approaching the season the same whether I’m the starter or not. I’m ready to go out and compete, day in and day out, and I can’t wait to get to fall camp.

This story was originally published July 21, 2022 2:36 p.m.

John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of central Kentucky, he covered British football from 1987 until he was appointed sports columnist in 2000. He covered 20 consecutive Final Fours and 37 Kentucky Derbys.
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