ATLANTA (AP) — The Southeastern Conference is a leading player in the dramatic changes to the national football landscape. New Louisiana State coach Brian Kelly likens them to a game of musical chairs, and warns there’s not enough chairs for every school.

“That’s the current state of college football,” Kelly said Monday at SEC media days, a high-pressure game to find a desired conference.

The SEC will become a 16-team conference in 2025 with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma. The Big Ten recently countered by voting to add Southern California and UCLA as conference members beginning in 2024.

Kelly’s former school, Notre Dame, may be the biggest prize in the expansion race. It continues to operate as an independent school in football but would be an attractive addition for any league.

Might the SEC have interest in another power grab? SEC commissioner Greg Sankey didn’t go that far: “It is a compliment that people from all across the country and all across the globe want to be a part of the Southeastern Conference.”

In an apparent reference to the Big Ten’s reach into California, Sankey said the SEC won’t be pushed into an expansion competition.

“There’s no sense of urgency in our league, no panic and reaction to others’ decisions,” Sankey said. “We know who we are. We are confident in our collective strength, and we are uniquely positioned to continue to provide remarkable experiences, educationally and athletically, along with world-class support to student-athletes.”

Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin, who previously was at USC, said he doesn’t like to see traditions and rivalries end.

“When you go to places, you’ve been to USC, all these different places, you see how passionate fans are about certain things, what matters, rivalries,” he said. “For those to be dismantled for money is kind of a shame.”

Kiffin also said the challenges for USC and UCLA moving to the Big Ten are not the same as what Texas and Oklahoma will face when adjusting to the SEC.

“You know, they’ve been playing in great conferences and against great opponents,” Kiffin said of the four schools. “I mean, I just say how it is. I don’t know that there’s a huge jump into the Big Ten. I think going to the SEC is a whole another animal. … Said it for a long time: The SEC just means more. And it does. It’s different, it’s ahead of the game.”

The SEC has won three consecutive national championships in football: Georgia beat Alabama in last season’s all-SEC championship game. LSU won the 2019 title, followed by Alabama in 2020.

Sankey was careful to mention those most recent championships before adding that four different SEC teams won four consecutive national titles in a stretch that began in 2007: LSU, Florida, Alabama and Auburn. A sixth SEC team, Tennessee, won the 1998 championship.

“I’ll let you make the comparisons between us and our colleagues as it relates to national championship success in football,” Sankey said.

The SEC is seeking to maintain its edge while other conferences are trying to improve their standing in the national title picture.

“In this environment, I’m proud to say in my view, I think in the view of our entire membership, the Southeastern Conference is stronger now than at any other time in our history,” Sankey said.

Clearly, the SEC is open to adding to that strength.

“We know who we are,” he said. “We’re confident in our success. We’re really looking forward to the expansion and being at 16 teams. Don’t feel pressured to just operate at a number. But we’ll watch what happens around us and be thoughtful but be nimble.”


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Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey speaks during SEC Media Days, Monday, July 18, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) Conference commissioner Greg Sankey speaks during SEC Media Days, Monday, July 18, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

LSU coach Brian Kelly speaks during an NCAA college football news conference at the SEC Media Days, Monday, July 18, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) coach Brian Kelly speaks during an NCAA college football news conference at the SEC Media Days, Monday, July 18, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Mississippi head coach Lane Kiffin speaks during NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Monday, July 18, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) head coach Lane Kiffin speaks during NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Monday, July 18, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


AP Sports Writer

Kiffin describes opening query about Saban as ‘pretty usual’

ATLANTA (AP) — Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin provided a strong hint he and other SEC coaches who were former assistants on Alabama coach Nick Saban’s staff, including Georgia coach Kirby Smart, may grow tired of questions about their former boss.

Kiffin smirked when his first question Monday at the Southeastern Conference Media Days asked him to recall Saban’s philosophy on trick plays.

“Well, Kirby Smart used to say sometimes you come up here and just talking about Alabama,” Kiffin said. “So our first question somehow is about Nick Saban, so … that’s pretty usual.”

Kiffin smiled before adding Saban liked trick plays — but only when they worked.


New LSU coach Brian Kelly was bold enough to sample a Louisiana accent when he was hired to a 10-year deal in November.

At his first SEC Media Days appearance, Kelly was asked to use his best Cajun accent when talking about his favorite Louisiana food. This time, he deferred.

Kelly, the Massachusetts native and former Notre Dame coach, said his accent is complicated.

“Understand now, I have a Boston, Midwestern, Louisiana accent now,” Kelly said. “It’s three dialects into one. It’s no longer family, I got all kinds of stuff to throw at you. Just be ready.”

Kelly listed two new favorite foods.

“The best? You know, it’s probably the crawfish etouffee,” he said. “I don’t know how you top that. I would say also the grilled oysters. If you haven’t had grilled oysters, try that. That will get your cholesterol level up high pretty quickly. That’s pretty good, too.”


Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz said he supports renewing rivalries with Texas and Oklahoma when those schools join the SEC in 2025.

“I’m all for it,” Drinkwitz said. “I think I said up here earlier that I think the beauty of college football is the rivalries that we have. I think it’s the shared traditions and pageantry of the game.

“I think we’ve got to be careful that we don’t miss that or lose that in search of better TV contracts or better TV exposure. We’re going to lose the basis of who we are.”


Football is still king in the state of Mississippi, but the baseball programs have been hot topics, too.

Ole Miss won the College World Series title in June, a year after rival Mississippi State pulled off the same feat. So college baseball was a topic the Rebels players were happy to talk about.

“I think that was just great for the state of Mississippi that we could also do it,” Ole Miss offensive lineman Nick Broeker said.

And in the title aftermath, Broeker and defensive lineman Cedric Johnson said the celebration was something to see.

“Oxford was crazy. I’ve never seen Oxford like that,” Broeker said. “Every place was just slammed. Every restaurant. Everything. It was just unbelievable how everybody really came together. It was awesome to see.”

Added Johnson: “You could feel the energy. It was just crazy. Everybody on social media, just the whole campus, you could just feel it. Just the energy radiating throughout everybody.”


The first three teams appearing at media days all have ongoing quarterback battles impacted by the transfer portal.

Not exactly an uncommon storyline these days.

At Mississippi, USC transfer Jaxson Dart is vying with Luke Altmyer to replace standout quarterback Matt Corral, a third-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in this year’s NFL draft.

Arizona State transfer Jayden Daniels has joined the quarterback competition at LSU. Daniels is vying for the job with Myles Brennan and Garrett Nussmeier.

Brennan missed last season with a broken arm. Max Johnson, a 33-game starter, transferred to SEC West rival Texas A&M.

Former Missouri starter Connor Bazelak transferred to Indiana. Coach Eliah Drinkwitz brought in former Southern Miss starter Jack Abraham, who spent last season at Mississippi State but didn’t play because of injury. Brady Cook and Tyler Macon are returnees.

Obviously none of the coaches are tipping their hands as to any current front-runner. Kelly summed up what he’s looking for from whoever emerges.

“Number 1, they’ve got to take care of the football,” Kelly said. “Number 2, they have to get the ball to playmakers. I have playmakers on offense that are already in place. Number 3, they’ve got to make plays.

“The ultimate decision-making on who that quarterback is, he’ll have to hit those three notes. I think all of these guys can do that. We’ll have to put them in that position so we can evaluate that.”


AP Sports Writer John Zenor contributed to this report.