Division & Pod Formats for a 16 Team SEC; What Sam Pittman Said About His Shoes and a Paul Eells Story

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Q. Our first question is from Sed76 who says: During SEC Media Days SEC commissioner Sankey finally acknowledged the refs totally botched the ending of the Auburn game last year. When OU and Texas join the SEC do you think the added revenue will allow the conference to invest in some competent officials.

A. That is a very good question. A lot of Arkansas fans I’ve talked to over the years are convinced that it’s not that the refs are incompetent but that they are biased in favor of certain teams. Their theory is that teams like Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Florida are more high profile. Their image around the country is more important to the conference office than teams like Arkansas, Missouri, Vanderbilt and so on. It’s hard for me the accept that. But if their theory is correct then Texas and OU will be protected too. I’m waiting to see if Texas and or Oklahoma loses a game on a bad call in their first season. If that happens then we’ll know that the conspiracy theory fans are wrong. So then what? How much weight is Texas, in particular, going to throw around. Those folks are used to getting their way. So adding two high profile schools like that just might bring about a change in the refs.

It will be interesting to see this unfold.

Q. TD Waters on Facebook says: I’ve heard that Texas and Oklahoma could be joining the SEC as early as next season. Is that true?

A. That was going around last week but the official announcement from the SEC after the two schools had been unanimously voted in, indicated that it would be 2025 when they start play. Certainly that could change. Former Oklahoma State head coach Pat Jones said over the weekend that it looks like Oklahoma and Texas Tech will go to the Pac 12. If Big 12 teams start going to other conferences the league could basically fall apart, clearing the way for Texas and OU to join sooner. But even if that happens its not clear how much it would speed up the process.

Q. AlabamaHog asks: With the additions to the SEC, do you think the conference will have a two division or a four pod format? What would be your best speculation of the divisional/pod teams grouped with the HOGS?

A. Two divisions of eight teams would be the most fair because each team would play the other seven teams in their division every year with just one crossover game each season. Crossover games create unbalanced schedules. In any given year some teams are going to have easier crossover games and others are going to have tougher crossover games. Before expansions and divisions all teams in a conference played the same conference schedule.

With the so call four pod system they’re taking about now, teams in each pod would play the other three in their pod plus five crossover games. The differences in the schedule team-to-team would be huge. Imagine a season where Arkansas is in a pod with Texas and OU and crossover games against teams like Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Remember last year when Arkansas got Georgia and Florida as their extra SEC games?

But the flaw in the two divisions system is you’d play each team in the other division just one time in an 8 year cycle and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has already said he favors more crossover games as a way of bringing more SEC teams to each school’s campus more often as a way to enhance the total conference experience for fans.

My own guess is that we’ll end up with the four pod system and here’s how I think it will look.

In Arkansas’ pod will be Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

Texas A&M would end up in a pod with LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

In the SEC East you’d have Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Alabama and Auburn in a pod.

South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida would be in the remaining pod.

Again, keep in mind that in a pod system teams would be playing five games each year with teams from other pods. That’s where the schedule can get really unbalanced but I do think that’s where we’re headed.

Q. MuskogeeHogFan wants to know: What is the status of our top rated JC Transfer Jalen Williams who was supposed to be a huge addition and contributor at Defensive Tackle? I’ve heard nothing mentioned about him in months.

A. He got hurt last spring. Not sure what the injury was. Sam Pittman didn’t mention him at Media Days but I’m told that he’s okay. You won’t have to wait much longer to find out about him. August Camp starts this Friday. I’ll be checking him out along with offensive tackle Ty’Kieast Crawford who was also hurt in the spring. Both are highly rated and yet we haven’t seen them yet. Those are natural stories coming up.

Q. Swine American asks: Have you heard of an university being dismissed from an athletic conference? If so, as an example, could the SEC dismiss Arkansas and/or Missouri because Texas and Oklahoma would be far more desirable from both a competitive and economic standpoint. Is there any possibility of this happening?

A. No. The SEC is adding teams not kicking them out. Also while I’m not disputing that OU and Texas are big names in football and will bring a big TV audience into the SEC it’s not like Arkansas is dog meat. Arkansas has been to the SEC championship game three times in football. In sports other than football Arkansas has been at or near the top in many of them year to year. Vanderbilt has survived two expansions since 1992 and if ever there was a program that didn’t fit in the SEC, Vandy would be it. So Arkansas isn’t going anywhere.

Q. robs4516 says: Please discuss the talent and depth at linebacker, other than Morgan and Pool.

A. Lets take a look at the post spring depth chart at the two linebacker positions. At Will linebacker Hayden Henry is the most experienced number two in the room. He’s a redshirt senior backing up Bumper Pool. Played in every game last season. Had 25 tackles on the year. Henry is more than capable of doing the job when the coaches feel like Pool needs to sit out a series and rest. Behind Henry is Dion Edwards, he’s another one of those so called super seniors. Guys who are their sixth season due to the extra year granted by the NCAA because of COVID. He played against both Missouri and Alabama last year after Grant Morgan got hurt and he had a couple of tackles against the Tide.

At the Mike linebacker spot behind Grant Morgan, who is another super senior, we have Andrew Parker, a 4th year junior. He also played in all 10 games last season and made 12 tackles, four of them against Alabama. Behind Parker is Levi Draper, the University of Oklahoma transfer who played against Georgia last year and then missed the rest of the season with an injury. Another redshirt senior is Levi Draper and he’s the biggest guy in the linebacker room. Behind him is a very talented freshman, Chris Paul Jr. He played on a state championship team in Georgia, was rated the number 22 middle linebacker in the country last year. Paul also had eight tackles in the Red-White game last spring.

So as we see Arkansas has plenty of depth at linebacker.

Q. James Hawgfield says: Supposedly Texas and Texas A&M were going to follow Arkansas to the SEC in the early 90’s. If that is true then this move by Texas to the SEC finally completes the plan Coach Broyles had for Arkansas when he decided to move us to the SEC but 30 years later than expected.

A. Texas A&M was ready to come but Texas thought it was too good for the SEC. The school administration wanted to join what was then the PAC 10 because of better what they thought was better academics. The PAC 10 didn’t want Texas so Texas decided to say put.

Also the Texas state legislature was threatening to withhold state aid to Texas and A&M if they left so the Aggies decided it would be harder to fight that alone so they stayed too.

This is also interesting. Roy Kramer, who was SEC Commissioner at the time, wanted to bring Florida State into the SEC East but Bobby Bowden decided the ACC was a better fit for Florida State at the time, so Kramer ended up inviting South Carolina instead.

Twenty years later the Aggies finally said, enough is enough and they jumped to the SEC and, as you pointed out, thirty years after the fact Texas has changed its tune about the SEC.

Also a story emerged last week that Florida State wants in although that may take a while to happen because of existing TV contracts that run into the 2030’s.

Q. @LBM61 on Twitter says: I saw this video on Twitter where all these guys are in a room having a party. They’re supposed to represent each SEC school. The A&M guy is over in a corner all mad and suddenly Texas and OU come into the room and everybody is laughing at the A&M guy. I thought it was in poor taste.

A. Everybody knows that I’m no A&M fan but I agree with you. I don’t like the way the SEC office has handled this. They basically kept A&M in the dark and then sprang it on them when they had no way to stop it. It reminded me of the way the conference office brought A&M in and gave them the day after Thanksgiving game with LSU, which had become a tradition with Hog fans. The SEC said too bad. Missouri is now your rivalry game. That’s just one of many things that I don’t like about the SEC. But it is what it is. The best way A&M can deal with all of this is to manhandle Texas when they come into the SEC. I’d love to see it.

Q. Lanny says: I heard that Sam Pittman told a funny story at SEC Media days about his shoes but I never saw or read anything a about it. Do you know the story?

A. Bob Holt was doing one of those things that he always does where he asks a coach several questions about the same thing. Mike Anderson used to say that Bob would keep asking a different version of the same question until he got the quote he wanted. So Bob was asking Pittman about Chris Paul who, as we’ve already mentioned, made several tackles in the spring game. Finally Sam said to him, “Bob I really didn’t notice what he did because my feet where hurting really bad at the time.”

Bob was like, Why were your feet hurting? And Pittman goes into this story about how somebody convinced him that with all games televised, even the spring game, coaches have to be aware of how they look. So he wears these fancy shoes that look really cool but they were hell on his feet. So he said he learned a lesson. He said, Look at me? You think anybody cares whether I look cool or not? So from now on I’m wearing comfortable shoes no matter what they look like.

So Bob got a different quote from the one he wanted but Sam got to tell a funny story.

Q. NashWPS18 wants to know: What is your favorite Paul Eells story? Chuck is great, but what I’d give to hear Mr Eells call one more game and say “Touchdown Arkansas.”

A. Arkansas was playing at A&M back in the 80’s. I had arranged to feed back a taped post game report featuring highlights from a satellite truck parked at the stadium. Paul found out about it and wanted to know if he could use that same truck to feed something from him. I told him sure . He had to fly out on a private plane not long after the game so I told him I could record his voice reading my script and add it to the same video I was using. I’d put both reports up on the bird and his people back Little Rock could download it. What I didn’t think about was that Paul read a lot slower that I did. So when I added his voice to my video it didn’t fit. I had a deadline to get the stuff fed and I was trying to edit his voice to fit my video. I almost blew the whole thing but thankfully I got it done with like 30 seconds to spare. The next time I saw him I told him what happened and said, “Paul, has anybody ever told you that you read really, really slow?” He looked at me and said, “Mike has anybody ever told you that you read really, really fast?” Then we both started laughing.

Paul was a great guy with a wonderful sense of humor.

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