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SEC Media Days: Spurrier talks rivalry games, football boosters

HOOVER, Ala. — Steve Spurrier is never short on opinions.

So it was no surprise South Carolina’s coach shared his thoughts on several topics as he led off Day 2 of SEC Media Days in the Wynfrey Hotel on Tuesday. It included his disappointment for the end of the Texas/Texas A&M rivalry

“Two schools that have been playing for over a hundred years, just because one of them joins another conference, get made at each other,” Spurrier said. “We’re not playing you anymore. … I think it’s sad.”

The Longhorns and Aggies — who were members of the Southwest Conference with Arkansas — met for the first time in 1894. The teams played annually from 1915-2011, but the series ended when the Aggies joined the SEC.

There are no plans for the teams to meet in the near future.

“Florida plays Florida State. We play Clemson. Georgia plays Georgia Tech,” Spurrier said. “We’re in difference conferences, but they are in-state rivals. The fans want to see that, to me. They want to see you beat the guys next door, the neighbors.

“I think it’s sad. I know they’re not going to play each other. That’s just my opinion.”

Texas A&M and South Carolina will meet for the first time, however, when the programs open the season on Aug. 28 in Columbia, S.C. The Aggies have replaced Arkansas as South Carolina’s permanent cross-division opponent.

The schools have created a trophy for the game as well. The Alamo Trophy — a bronze sculpture of former South Carolina student and Texas hero James Bonham — will be awarded to the winning team each season.

“I’m actually from Tennessee. I always was taught the hero of the Alamo was Davy Crockett so this was a new one for me. It’s a good story, I’m sure Bonham did some good things. But I always thought Davy Crockett was the hero of the Alamo, he and those 33 Tennessee guys that came in there and got killed, so forth.”

Boosters = NFL Owners

Steve Spurrier spent some time in the NFL. So the South Carolina coach has been around an NFL owner and believes big boosters are the college football equivalent.

“You’re sort of like an owner of the team,” Spurrier said. “The big donors in college are similar to an owner in the NFL because they put the money up.

“The best part about it, they don’t tell us what to do, though. They’re sort of the owners from a distance. They don’t tell you who to play, what plays to call, so forth.”

Spurrier said one of the head coach’s responsibilities is to get to know some of those big boosters, though. In fact, Spurrier and his wife typically host a dinner for them before the season. He also referenced a recent trip with one booster Tuesday.

“He took me to the Bahamas on his jet airplane, on his yacht, pretty good trip,” Spurrier said.

Spurrier said an increase in support from the big boosters has played a part in the South Carolina’s growing success. He said the Gamecocks had one “big-time donor” that contributed more than $1 million when he arrived. Now there are 11 or 12.

Football or Futbol

The SEC is preparing for the 2014 football season. But talk of the recently completed World Cup bled into the second day of SEC Media Days on Tuesday.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was asked about the World Cup, Liverpool and if he was the only conference coach watching the sport this summer. Mullen grew up watching soccer because his mother is a British citizen from North Wales and catches as many matches as possible during slow times.

“The World Cup is so exciting,” Mullen said. “You see the passion the fans have, the whole country is on top of it. Unbelievable. I do think SEC football could be compared to European soccer. The passion our fans have is equal.”

Replacing Half

Restoring Tennessee to an SEC power is no easy task for coach Butch Jones.

The second-year coach didn’t sugarcoat the challenge Tuesday.

“We’re not at the norm in terms of having to replace a third of our football team,” Jones said. “We’re having to replace almost half of our football team.”

The Volunteers have been to two bowl games in the past six years and have finished with a losing record five games in that span. Tennessee is 4-20 in conference games the past three seasons, but Jones said there are positives to plenty of new blood.

“This year half of our roster will be brand new,” Jones said. “With that, that has brought a lot of positive energy, excitement, momentum that surrounds Tennessee football. … We’ve had an influx of young talent and youthfulness.”

Home Cooking

If Johnny Manziel needs a home cooked meal in Ohio he knows where to get it.

Texas A&M punter Drew Kaser, who was Manziel’s teammates with the Aggies, said his parents live five minutes from the Cleveland Browns’ facility. So the lifelong Browns fan said he let Manziel know shortly after he was drafted last spring.

“I texted Johnny when he got drafted and I said, ‘Hey man, if you ever need anything my parents live five minutes from the facility. If you ever need a home cooked meal just let me know,’” Kaser said. “It’s awesome having Johnny play for my hometown team. The Browns need it. The Browns needed something.”

Kaser said Manziel hasn’t taken him up on the offer – yet.

Digital Viewing

Arkansas’ first appearance on the SEC Network’s digital platform — SEC Network+ — will come the same day as its premiere on Aug. 14.

The Razorbacks’ season-opening soccer game against Creighton will be available online at 7 p.m. Two more soccer games will be available the rest of the month against Utah State (Aug. 22 at 7 p.m.) and Oklahoma State (Aug. 24 at 7 p.m.).

In addition, two Arkansas volleyball games will be available as part of SEC Network+ in its first two weeks. Arkansas will play Tennessee State on Aug. 29 and Michigan on Aug. 30. Both games are at 7 p.m.

SEC Network+ —available on SECNetwork.com and via WatchESPN — will provide coverage of more than 550 digital-exclusive sporting events its first year.

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