SEC Media Days, the league’s annual preview of a fast-approaching football season, landed in Atlanta after more than three decades in the Birmingham, Ala., area.
The four-day event, at which more than 1,000 media members will hear from coaches and players representing the 14 SEC football teams, began Monday at the College Football Hall of Fame and the adjacent Omni Atlanta Hotel.
“We’re excited to bring one of our signature events to Atlanta,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said.
The event had been held in Birmingham or neighboring Hoover, Ala., every year since 1985 and is scheduled to return to Hoover next year. Sites for 2020 and beyond haven’t been determined, but the SEC envisions moving the event around to various parts of the conference footprint. The Dallas area is considered a likely destination, and Atlanta officials hope to persuade the league to return the event here in some future year.
“I’ve been clear, in my mind, (there) is some portability,” Sankey said.
For this week, a blue carpet has been spread through the lobby of the Hall of Fame. Admission to that area is free for fans to greet arriving players and coaches as long as space is available. The lobby is expected to draw a crowd Tuesday morning when Georgia coach Kirby Smart and three UGA players make their Media Days appearances.
The Hall of Fame’s 45-yard-long indoor playing field has been converted to a main staging area for coaches’ news conferences and player interviews, creating what Sankey called a “special and unique” setting with its artificial turf and goal post.
Hosting Media Days produces “fantastic visibility for Atlanta” because of the extensive national media coverage it draws, Atlanta Sports Council president Dan Corso said Monday.
“I think it solidifies Atlanta’s position as the epicenter of college football,” Corso said. “As you watched the coverage beginning (Monday) morning on SEC Network, you saw all the visuals of downtown -- the aerial shots of not only the College Football Hall of Fame and Centennial Olympic Park but our downtown landscape.”
Sankey said holding the event in Atlanta “reminds us of this city’s important place in the history of the Southeastern Conference.”
He noted that the league’s “first-ever” annual meeting was held “on West Peachtree Street at the old Biltmore Hotel” on Feb. 27, 1933. He mentioned that the SEC Championship football game has been played in Atlanta for the past 24 years and that two SEC teams, Alabama and Georgia, met in Atlanta in the College Football Playoff national championship game last season.
And Sankey said he hopes some of the players meeting the media here this week will return to the same building someday to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
SEC Media Days might have come to Atlanta one year earlier, Sankey said, if not for construction delays at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened last August.
“We thought very intentionally about moving Media Days here last summer,” Sankey said. “The Falcons were great in conversation and thought, wow, what a neat way to have the (stadium’s) first college football event be SEC Media Days in or around Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Obviously construction (delays) made that a possibility that wasn’t real for us last year.
“But it started a set of thoughts and preparations that led us here (now).”
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