BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - 2019 SEC football functions got off to a roaring start on Monday at the Hyatt-Regency in Hoover.
As coaches, student-athletes and dozens of reporters flocked toward the revolving doors of the Riverchase Galleria, storylines for the upcoming college football season slowly began to slip through the cracks.
They weren’t exactly what fans would expect to hear prior to fall camp, however. Particularly not if you’re a fan in the greater Knoxville area.
Here are three takeaways from today’s opening session of SEC Media Days.
Sankey strikes again
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey is no stranger to taking a public stance on controversial issues and that reality once again manifested itself in Hoover on Monday.
Aside from a comedic reference to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Sankey took to the podium to discuss several issues that have come to prominence over the last few years, including the targeting rule.
One of the most controversial infractions within the collegiate football realm, many fans were left with social media outrage last season due to targeting calls that were presumed unfair. Correct or not, dozens of people took to social media to voice their displeasure.
It didn’t go unnoticed, either.
“The reality of targeting, it is a well-intended rule that is difficult to officiate and controversial even when applied correctly,” Sankey said. “I’m encouraged by the willingness to update the rule this year.”
ESPN’s 'College Football 150' plans announced
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of college football, ESPN will be ushering out three years worth of new content within the next four months, a project the network has long kept under wraps.
Set to begin on August 24, the 16-week long event will dive into the game’s complete history, including an 11-episode documentary focused on college football’s narrative, examining it as both a grueling, physical sport and a cultural phenomenon.
Featuring personalities such as former Vols Peyton Manning and Charles Davis, the worldwide leader in sports is set to put a new spin on the sport that has captivated both the southeast and much of the country.
Florida-Tennessee no longer a rivalry…to some
In the early 2000’s, Tennessee-Florida was arguably the biggest rivalry in college football. Outside of Ohio State-Michigan, it was difficult to find a more heated, tense matchup between two teams that had a genuine dislike for each other.
Since 2004, however, fortunes have not exactly been on the Vols’ side, and a particular Florida Gator has taken notice.
Having taken 13 of the last 14 meetings with Tennessee, Florida running back Lamical Perine quickly brushed off the idea that UT is one of the Gators’ most fierce rivals within the conference.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a rivalry, it’s just another game,” Perine said. “We prepare just like it’s a regular game. I wouldn’t call it a rivalry game. LSU, that’s a rivalry game.”
The Vols’ lone win over Florida in 15 years came in 2016, a 38-28 drubbing at Neyland Stadium. Despite that, UT has not been able to replicate that same success.
A year later, Tennessee lost a heartbreaker in the final seconds in Gainesville. They didn’t fare much better a year ago either as the Gators thumped the Vols 47-21 in Knoxville. Florida holds the overall series edge with a 28-20 overall record against the Big Orange.
The Gators host the Vols on Sept. 21 this season in Gainesville in what will prove to be UT’s first true test of the season.