login | Register

SEC Coaching - None Better

In the end, it was a surprise.  But the surprise came in the school chosen, no the destination - the SEC West.

Bobby Petrino finally made it to the coaching promised land when he was named the head coach of Arkansas late last night.  Fresh off of a Monday Night Football debacle against New Orleans, Petrino made the move.

Today, the SEC stands as the coaching mecca of college football.

In the past few seasons, the SEC has weeded out those over their head or watched coaches emerge into elite status.  For two straight years, the SEC has raided the NFL to steal away coaches.  That says a lot.

Let's do a quick rundown:


Florida - Florida's Urban Meyer cleansed the palette after the bitterness that Ron Zook's hiring left in Gator Nation's mouth.  Meyer has answered the call by showing his ability to shift coaching styles.  Meyer inherited a great defense from Zook, but the wrong offensive personnel to run his system.  Meyer kept the recruiting up by landing Tim Tebow.  The rest is history - national championship last year and a Heisman for Tebow, the only sophomore to win the award.

In many ways, Meyer set the high standard for today's SEC coaches.  Meyer was heavily sought after while at Utah.  He seemed the shoe-in Notre Dame coach.  Unfortunately for the Domers, Meyer saw the college football landscape changing, and Notre Dame not adapting to it.  Meyer went to Florida to win and did.  Now, he is getting paid at a very high level.

Meyer showed what the SEC can mean to a great coach - an NFL-level paycheck, job security, and a god-like status around a state and a region.  What's not to like?

Georgia - Put Mark Richt squarely into the category of the coach who made the move to elite status.  Richt has always been a fine coach, but his job this year was his best.  The SEC East was loaded this year with every school having their best team in many a year.  Georgia had a young team, one that was an unknown.

After struggling out of the gate and getting blown out by Tennessee on the road, Richt regrouped his Bulldogs.  They never lost again beating their dreaded rival Florida in Jacksonville for the first time in years.  By season's end, most thought Georgia to be the SEC's best overall team.  Their early season loss to Tennessee prevented them from playing in the SEC Championship, but the Dogs still got a BCS bid.

Georgia fans always liked Richt, but they had to worry whether he could go head to head with the Meyers and the Sabans.  They found out this year (after beating both) that the answer is yes!

Kentucky - Rich Brooks was dead in the water a couple of seasons ago, but that all changed midway through last year.  Brooks had built a program once before in Oregon from the ground up, albeit at a time when patience was a little more of a virtue.  When Brooks got the Kentucky job, he had been out of football for two years, and he hadn't been in college football since 1994. 

Brooks took the long term approach in Kentucky, and it paid off.   The Wildcats have a solid team who have now won big games (beating #1 LSU), have developed NFL quality talent (Andre Woodson), and have been to back to back bowl games.

Kentucky has real stability for the first time in decades.  Wildcat fans can remind themselves that the Bear used to coach here.  Their sports legacy lives beyond basketball once again.

South Carolina - Steve Spurrier is an SEC legend.  His arrival single-handedly changed the conference from a "run first" league to one that had high-powered passing offenses.   Spurrier also did it his way - never sucking up to the media or other opposing coaches.  Regardless of what Gator fans think, Spurrier built their program and finally made it relevant on the national scene.

The Ole Ball Coach has his hands full in Columbia.  He thought that this was his year to make the move and win the SEC East.  That wasn't to be.  Still, Spurrier has the Gamecocks relevant and competitive.  He is a legend.  He will be back in 2008.

Vanderbilt - Bobby Johnson seemed like a strange hire, but like Brooks, he was given time to build his program.  Good for Vandy.  Johnson's time there has paid off taking the Dores to the brink of bowl bids in two straight years as well as winning games against their division rivals.

Developing Jay Cutler to a first round pick in the NFL Draft may be the most important thing Johnson did.  If NFL teams draft your kids, you can recruit good kids.

Like Kentucky under Brooks, Vandy can now line up toe to toe with the SEC brethren and punch back.  They don't have to win with smoke and mirrors.  And they still keep their academic standards.  That's a serious accomplishment.

(Turning down Duke this off season is also a sign of Johnson's commitment to Vanderbilt.)


Alabama - This is the school that took everything to the next level.  For years Alabama has been caught in the "Bear Hangover" not finding the right coach to carry on his great legacy while still being able to make the job his own.  Bama boosters kept making the same mistake by assuming that Alabama only needed a good steward (ie cheap coach) and the Alabama mystique would do the rest.  The Mike DuBose era was soon followed by a period of ill fitting coaches who didn't understand the job or the school (Dennis Franchione and Mike Price).

Mike Shula's tenure was the last straw.  Shula had the right resume (Alabama connections), but he couldn't win big games.  Alabama was falling into obscurity inside the conference they used to dominate.  When Alabama fired Shula, the embarrassment of their situation came to light when they couldn't get West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez to come.  Instead, he used Alabama to get a lucrative extension.

When the Alabama boosters got on a jet and headed down to get Nick Saban, it was a seismic shift in college coaching.  The Tide announced that they weren't settling for less than #1.  They paid Saban more than he was making in Miami.  In doing so, Alabama re-established the pecking order as their fans see it - 1. Alabama  2.  NFL  3.  LSU.

Saban might have only finished 6-6, but the best is yet to come for the Tide.  They are relevant again.  They have a coach who has won SEC West championships and national titles.

Most importantly, Alabama has re-entered the big time college football game.

Auburn - It has been a long shaky road for Tommy Tuberville, but he can finally call Auburn home.  Tuberville has been allowed to settle in and see that the school is now his.

Tuberville's win in Saban's first year says everything that Auburn fans have come to expect from Tuberville.  He doesn't back down to anyone.  Yes, Auburn had some disappointing losses this season, but they remained competitive, beat Florida again, and beat their dreaded rival.

Tuberville waved off a move to Texas A&M, flirted with both LSU (if Les Miles left) and Arkansas before coming back to make Auburn his long term home.  The dismissal of OC Al Borges is telling as well.  Tuberville won't wait to make changes.  He wants his team to be elite.  He is up for that challenge.

(The recent change from OC Al Borges to Tony Franklin from Troy shows that Tuberville continues to adapt to this ever-toughening conference.)

Arkansas - The Hogs weren't afraid.  After letting Houston Nutt walk away, most national pundits decried their lack of realism about the Arkansas program.  Most thought that Nutt was as good as Arkansas could do.

Bam!  Bobby Petrino!  No disrespect to Houston Nutt, but Bobby Petrino is a grand slam home run for Arkansas.  Swampland Sports has been saying all season that Petrino would be back in college, and that any school would be lucky to have him.  The media is ripping him now for abandoning ship, but Petrino can't be faulted for his last two moves (leaving Louisville and leaving the Falcons).

Petrino built Louisville into a national contender.  He did it at a school, a conference, and a state that has little to no football tradition.  Any coach of his level would have to wonder what it was like to coach at a school that has the resources in place to play for national titles every year.

To Louisville's credit, they stepped up and paid him.  They should be thankful to Petrino for that.  He raised that school's expectations.  (Seeing Steve Kragthorpe's struggles in his first year at Louisville only shows the depth of Petrino's magic.)

The Falcons blew it with Petrino and have no one to blame but themselves.  This deserves its own longer essay, and it will get one, but the short story is that the Falcons developed a player-coddling culture beginning with Michael Vick.  When Petrino tried to shake things up after Vick's legal troubles took him from the team, management and ownership let him twist in the wind while his players grumbled behind his back.

The simple fact is that Petrino took a pay cut to come to Arkansas.  That isn't the sign of a opportunist.  That is the sign of someone who realizes that great jobs only come around so often.  You can bet that Arkansan Butch Davis wishes he had waited one more year before committing to UNC (although he did turn Arkansas' interest this year into a lucrative extension).  He would be Arkansas' coach right now if he were available.

Like Alabama, Arkansas wanted to regain their stature.  Although most pundits consider the school to be a mid tier program, people forget their history in the SWC.  Arkansas might have a small recruting base in state

LSU - Thanks to some big time bungling by Michigan, LSU gets to keep a fine coach in Les Miles.  With a gambler's mentality, Miles has taken the Tigers to the BCS title game after winning the SEC Championship.

Miles came in as coach in a rush after Saban left for Miami, and he struggled for acceptance despite handling the tough hand of Katrina in his first season.  This season was a make or break year for Miles.  Saban was back, not only in the SEC, but in the SEC West.  Many predicted that Miles wasn't long for this job.

Instead, Miles solidified himself from this turmoil in a way reminiscent of Tuberville at Auburn.  Today, LSU is happy to have him. 

Unless Michigan pulls a rabbit out of a hat, Miles should be in Baton Rouge for a while.

Ole Miss - This program simply hasn't been relevant since integration.  That is a sad fact.  The Johnny Vaught years were the last of that formerly dominant era of Ole Miss football.

Ole Miss had two problems - finding good coaching and good recruiting and getting them at the same time.  Although Billy Brewer and David Cutcliffe had their moments (Tommy Tuberville bolted for Auburn's greener pastures early in his tenure), none have had the Rebels in position for much.  Cutcliffe was a tough call, but health issues played a role.

When Ole Miss went in another direction with Ed Orgeron, it was a signal that the school was serious about recruiting.  Meat Market chronicled Orgeron's time in Ole Miss.  It ended poorly, but the base of talent is now there.  Ole Miss only needed a good coach.

Houston Nutt was a brilliant hire.  Nutt's experience in the SEC West, plus his ability to win whether running or throwing the ball shows his versatility.  He will adapt his coaching to fit his personnel - something you have to do to win at Ole Miss or any other school that isn't elite enough to pick and choose recruits.

Freed from the expectations at Arkansas, Nutt can expect a glowing feeling of love coming from the win-hungry Rebel base.   Much like Spurrier at Carolina, Nutt has a job better suited for his abilities.  Ole Miss and he will be far better off because of that.

Mississippi State - No coach deserves more kudos than Sly Croom.  An Alabama player under Bear Bryant, Croom was passed over by his alma mater who hired the inexperienced Mike Shula.  That experiment ended poorly and expensively with the hiring of Nick Saban.

Croom struggled early in his tenure, but he never lost faith.  He took over a decimated program in a tough place to win.  This year, the Bulldogs finished with a winning record, beat Alabama and Auburn, and will be going to a bowl game.

Croom is the first black head coach in SEC history.  His success at Mississippi State is a credit to him and black coaches everywhere that never got a chance before.  In reading Meat Market, it was clear that Croom is a very good recruiter as the book told that story of how Croom stole away one of Orgeron's committed recruits.

Mississippi State might be a sleeping giant in the SEC for years to come.

related tags

Tribal Fever,
South Carolina,

Currently there are 2 comments. Leave one now!

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.
Copyright 1998-2018 by Swampland Inc. All rights reserved.