It’s probably all for the better that the Southwestern Athletic Conference will command the television cameras and digital recorders on a Friday.
While the Southeastern Conference has celebrated four days worth of media opportunities, the SWAC will at least keep football fans talking through the weekend. The change, of course, came after the SEC added a fourth day on Monday, when the SWAC began all the media fireworks in the Birmingham, Alabama, area in recent years.
And I will be heading to the Birmingham Marriott as I likely pass by cars leaving the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, rather than head to the heart of Birmingham as SEC early birds arrive in the suburban town.
Here are some hot topics we’ll address at Friday’s SWAC Media Day:
— New coaches: Four teams each have a new head coach, the most notable being former Jackson State leader Rick Comegy at Mississippi Valley State. The success he had at Jackson, including the past two Eastern Division championships, weren’t enough to keep him around in the Mississippi capital …
… Wait a minute, let’s just tell it like it is: Two straight SWAC championship defeats cost him his job, and he now has the challenge of getting the Delta Devils to an echelon they haven’t reached since the days of Jerry Rice. What is it going to be like for him when he faces his old team? Can he win at Valley?
How much pressure does Harold Jackson face in leading Jackson State to a championship? Does Florida’s Will Muschamp stand a better chance at a contract extension than Jackson does if the Tigers don’t take home the Eddie Robinson Trophy?
— Lions adding Kyle Coleman: Monte Coleman never formally announced it, but his son Kyle will finish his career at UAPB after three seasons at Arkansas State that resulted in two bowl victories. What will he bring to a defense that has become Linebacker U. in black college football? How will his addition benefit a rising standout at that position in Willie Duncan III and potential All-SWAC performer Antonio Jenkins? Or will Monte adjust his defense to make Kyle a rover or let him play some secondary?
— No Ben Anderson at Media Day: According to the Media Day roster the SWAC released earlier this week, quarterback Ben Anderson is not among the players expected to attend Friday.
This may not be a big deal at all, but for someone who is constantly a candidate for black college All-American honors, the 2012 SWAC championship offensive MVP and 2013 preseason All-SWAC player of the year, one can’t help wondering.
Anderson is 2,984 yards away from 10,000 for his career, a plateau only 87 Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks have reached. (Arkansas State’s Ryan Aplin, who finished his career in 2012, ranks 67th with 10,758.)
But for all his accomplishments, he won’t get to meet the regional press — yet.
The SWAC’s continued struggles with Academic Progress Rates tends to be a hot topic as well, but since the conference is permitting all 10 schools to compete for its championships — the NCAA postseason ban still stands for those that are so penalized — it may not be one of major interest this time around.
What’s new is that the UAPB football team — and three others in the conference — wouldn’t qualify for an NCAA playoff because it posted a low APR. But neither the SWAC nor Ivy League sends a team to the NCAAs, anyway.
What’s not new is the question of how the SWAC universities address the matter. Answers usually range from: “Each player has a progress form to be filled out by his professors, and he doesn’t get on the bus (to go to a game) unless he turns it in,” to “We’ve expanded our study hall periods and cut back on our practice time.” To UAPB’s credit, athletic director Lonza Hardy Jr. has hired more academic support personnel for the entire department and he uses a computer program to track each student-athletes’ progress in the classroom.
By the time you read this, I’ll be dancing around the hotel ballroom getting the answers you’re looking for.
I.C. Murrell is the sports editor of The Commercial. Email him at email@example.com.