SEC Coaching Carousel: Are there really FIVE opening?
This is how you get fired within 23 months of hoisting a National Championship Trophy.
- Lose to an ACC team (Clemson) in the season opener.
- Lose to a non-top 25 team and traditional conference bottom-feeder (Mississippi State) in week two.
- Squeak out an overtime victory over an 8-4 team from the Sunbelt (Louisiana-Monroe) in week three.
- Lose at home to a rival (LSU) in week four.
- Take a week off.
- Lose to a team whose coach was fired just before the season and who will finish the year 4-8 (Arkansas) in week six.
- Lose to the team that finished last in your division the year before (Ole Miss) in week seven.
- Lose to effing Vanderbilt in week eight.
- Lose to the new guy in your division (A&M) by 42 points in week nine.
- Beat the tar out of New Mexico State in week ten.
- Lose to cross-divisional rival (Georgia) 38-0 in week eleven.
- Beat an FCS school (Alabama A&M) in week twelve.
- Lose to your biggest rival, one so big ESPN made a documentary about it (Alabama) 49-0 in your season’s last game.
2010 was obviously an outlier for Chizik. But, I’d assert that his inability to otherwise compete with rivals (LSU, Georgia and Alabama) cost him more booster/fan support than his 3-9 campaign this season (which might also have been an outlier, but we’ll never get the chance to see). Here is how the Genie in the Bottle has fared against those three teams in his four years as the chief War Eagle:
- LSU: 1-3 with a combined score of LSU: 105, Auburn: 54
- Georgia: 1-3 with a combined score of Georgia: 145, Auburn: 80
- Alabama: 1-3 with a combines score of Alabama: 144, Auburn 63
Losing to rivals got Tommy Tubberville fired and Gene Chizik hired. Losing to Rivals got Gene Chizik fired. Or maybe it was just losing in general.
With Tennessee, Kentucky, Auburn and Arkansas already looking for new coaches there seems to be a coaching shortage in the SEC. Maybe Jon Gruden will come to Knoxville, but having lived in East Tennessee I don’t think any amount of money would make his posh job with ESPN worth leaving for life in Knoxville amongst rabid orange wearers. Maybe Charlie Strong will be baited back south. Maybe Gus Malzahn will return to Auburn (although I’d look to go another direction). But who else is a real candidate? Will we finally see Kirby Smart make the move?
Here is what I find interesting about each gig:
- Tennessee: This would have been an elite gig following Fulmer but the pooch was screwed by hiring an un-seasoned snake in Lane Kiffin who still can’t coach worth a darn (USC was preseason number one according to some sources and finished 7-5). The job would have still been top-tier after that, but hiring of Derek Dooley (the polar opposite of Kiffin in every way except that he also couldn’t coach) drove the program further south. There is turmoil out the tail in Tennessee following and the next guy will be the Vols’ fourth coach since 2008. I don’t think Bray stays (why would he?). I don’t think Patterson stays. The program needs to rebuild. I don’t see why a big-time coach (like Gruden) would come “just for the challenge.” It’s the equivalent of Mitt Romney taking his political defeat and deciding to go into politics in Israel because he wants to “face a challenge.”
- Arkansas: This program is just one year removed from elite status, but what a year it has been. Fayetteville is a tough sell for anyone regardless of occupation. It could get ugly. And I’m not sure that the Razorbacks return any talent. And, Arkansas is not exactly a traditional power-house. In some ways Malzahn makes a lot more since at Arkansas (he was there in 2006) than he does at Auburn. He could build on Arkansas’ recent tradition of high-powered offenses and probably remain in peace in Fayeteville. He will always be “Chizik’s old guy” at Auburn, and it’s never too good to be too closely associated with the guy you’re replacing.
- Auburn: This is the best available job in the SEC. This is an (overly) proud program that cares about rivalries (see previous section) and has an administration that cares about one thing and one thing only: winning. Plus, Auburn has talent – at least according to the recruiting classes. Charlie Strong or a tough, defensive minded coach would be great here. I’m sure Kirby Smart is out given his Alabama ties, but that would make me giddy. Talk about stirring the pot.
- Kentucky: The Wildcats used to have the “Hey, it is an SEC job” card in their pocket to lure an up-and-coming head coach. But with at least three other posts open that card has lost its power. I think Kentucky is going to really have a hard time landing a significant player.
The Fifth Open Job
And there is a rumor (just a rumor) that Gary Pinkel may be out at Missouri. There are two sides at play here: 1. The performance side and 2. The personal side. If Pinkel is canned for performance then I think Missouri is giving him a raw deal. I’ve blasted Mizzou all along, but frankly they performed exactly the way they should have performed in their new conference. Pinkel didn’t fail as a coach, the administration failed by forcing the move. He had not time to develop an SEC-caliber defense (or offense) or put together an SEC recruiting class.
Now, Pinkel has had personal issued (DUI last year) and just settled a divorce that requires him to pay his now ex-wife $270k a year as long as he remains the coach in Columbia (he’s been there since 2001). The rumor is that Pinkel is “resigning” which if true could be forced or by his own will. Maybe he has his eye on another opening in the conference or just doesn’t want to pay the old lady. In any even this is still just speculation.
SEC fans will surely miss chanting “Drive Home Drunk” at Gary Pinkel if he does in fact exit.
The Dark Horse
I might be certifiably crazy, but would Jim Tressel be a candidate for an SEC gig? Or any? Tressel isn’t young at 59, but he’s not that old. He’s got a proven track-record and I’d assert that his character flaws – namely a lack of supervision over a bunch of thugs who got free tattoos in exchange for autographs – pale in comparison to those of say, Bobby Petrino.
I would think he could still recruit as his name still resonates and he appeared in a BCS Bowl just two years ago. And, I think he’d want redemption.
But who knows, I might be missing something. Coaching isn’t my thing. Just ask Ole Miss. They hired Hugh Freeze over me.
That’s all I got/