HOOVER, Ala. — Nobody knows yet whether Robbie Caldwell can coach or not. But if he performs on the field as well as he did at Southeastern Conference Football Media Days, Vanderbilt might be on to something.
Caldwell, who was named the interim coach at Vandy following the resignation of Bobby Johnson two weeks ago, hosted one of the most entertaining sessions in Media Days history Thursday and was given an ovation by reporters at the end of his news conference.
Caldwell's down-home, aw-shucks, good ol' boy persona was a huge hit with the media, who are usually working on other stories or out in the hallway during the Vandy portion of Media Days. But by the end of Caldwell's presentation he was being bombarded with questions from reporters hoping for a funny response. Some of his better material included:
■ On the relative anonymity of being an interim head coach at Vanderbilt, Caldwell said, "I can still walk in places and nobody knows me. Last night, I was opening the door for people and they gave me a tip."
■ Caldwell, who was Johnson's assistant line coach for eight seasons, said his first hourly paying job was on the inseminating crew at a turkey farm where he helped fertilize the eggs so it could produce a better turkey in the hatchery process.
When asked if his job at a turkey farm affected his ability to enjoy Thanksgiving, the heavy-set Caldwell opened up his jacket, showed off his waistline and replied, "No, it hasn't. You can tell by looking at me. If I told some of these ladies what they put in that lipstick right there; oh, my goodness. I de-beaked, blood tested, vaccinated. I've done it all. It was pretty special."
Vanderbilt linebacker Chris Marve said that Caldwell's easygoing nature has helped to ease the sting of Johnson's abrupt departure.
"Coach Caldwell's personality has helped the transition," Marve said. "He's a very upbeat guy, a colorful, friendly guy who can break the tension in a room. But he also knows how to be serious."
Caldwell's moment in the sun might not last long, as Vandy has made him no promises beyond this year. But he's planning on enjoying the ride.
"I mean, think about it; here I am, I go from lining the field to I'm a head coach in the SEC," Caldwell said. "I'm telling you, what a thrill. It's a dream. All we've got to do is come out swinging."
Sign of the times
It didn't take South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier long to talk about his record. Not his won-loss record, but his recent arrest record in Columbia.
"We've only had one player arrested in the past two years, and those charges were dropped," Spurrier said. "That's good nowadays."
Off-the-field incidents have gotten a lot of play lately with all the recent arrests and agent involvement. Spurrier said that while athletes haven't necessarily changed, how situations are handled and covered have.
"I think they're more common now because players are getting arrested for everything that in the old days they didn't get arrested for," he said. "I can sort of remember back in our day if you were out and something happened, they would say, 'Can you get home? We'll drive you home.' They did not go into the tank that night. But nowadays, as we all know, you go straight to jail if you've broken the law. There's no room for error. Times are a little different than they were 25, 30 years ago."
Richt not worried about 'hot seat'
Mark Richt is 90-27 at Georgia, brought the Bulldogs their first SEC title in 20 years in 2002 and has won at least 10 games or more in six of his nine seasons at the helm.
But there are whispers that the folks in Athens might be getting a little restless after the loaded 2008 team underachieved and last year's squad limped to an 8-5 finish.
But Richt didn't seem fazed about any hot-seat talk.
"I understand the business," he said. "I understand just how things go. So I don't worry about it. My goal is to focus on the important things and the things I can control. I can control my attitude. I can control my effort. I can control, you know, certain things. That's what I focus on. Then the things I can't control, I just trust the Lord with that. That's kind of how I've been operating since 1986."
Kickoff Luncheon sold out
The 2010 Kentucky football luncheon, scheduled for July 30 at the Lexington Convention Center, is sold out.