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SEC: Top Level for Coaches?

By Patrick Snow

Many of us who grew up in the South have always believed that the SEC was King when it came to sports and our allegiances. We watched and cheered for professional teams, but our passion was always at the collegiate level. For many years, coaches have moved from the Amateurs to the ‘Pros’ mainly for monetary reasons, but you also heard many of them use the term “moving up to next level”. After the events of the last decade-both in our Swampland footprint and throughout the nation – you have to wonder just how much better the professional level really is anymore.

It was very understandable years ago when a coach felt like he had to jump to the NFL or NBA with an opportunity to increase his salary by 3, 4, or 5 times over. But with SEC coaching money growing exponentially, that gap has closed in recent years. And as far as the ‘coaching’ end of the job, you can definitely argue that the big-time collegiate gig is better. While professional athletes are the ‘best of the best’, coaches at that level tend to have little control over contracts or player behavior. Between the front office and the player’s union, your ability to instill discipline and work ethic is just not the same as in college. I know Bobby Petrino probably loves 2 days a month when he gets paid, but he looks pretty frustrated the other 28 as the Falcons continue to lose and his millionaire ‘leaders’ continue to complain about him to the media.

Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier both learned the hard way as they took the big money and new challenge of the NFL. Whether in football or basketball, coaches who jump to the pros tend to take over bad clubs with desperate owners who are willing to give them big money. The problem is that these organizations are usually poorly run and have many more problems than the head coach. With more expectations than ever because of their contract and less control over the team, these coaches invariably fail on the playing field and look miserable doing it. Billy Donovan almost made the mistake that his mentor Rick Pitino did a decade earlier. I’m willing to bet that over the next few years, Coach D will be thrilled he’s in Gainesville instead of down the road in Orlando.

Even with the intense competition and expectations, you can succeed in the SEC and make millions doing it if you are truly a top coach. The SEC has more multi-million dollar coaches than any other conference. As this trend continues, a little more money at the professional level will not be as enticing once you factor in the added headaches and lack of control. Besides, what exactly do you have to pay for when you are ‘King’ in an SEC town?


* I wrote several months back about the gaining popularity of college baseball, particularly in the South. Watching the Rockies and Diamondbacks play in the NLCS is an affirmation of how good the college game has become in our region. Check out the rosters of these two lower payroll teams, and you’ll see how much they believe in the Southern (especially SEC/ACC) college game. Here’s the impressive list:

Rockies - Todd Helton (Tennessee), Brad Hawpe (LSU), Josh Fogg (Florida), Seth Smith (Ole Miss), Chris Iannetta (UNC), Cory Sullivan (Wake Forest), and Ryan Speier (Radford).

Diamondbacks – Brandon Webb (Kentucky), Stephen Drew (Florida State), Mark Reynolds (Virginia), Robby Hammock (Georgia), Augie Ojeda (Tennessee), Dustin Nippert (West Virginia), and Micah Owings (Tulane).

* 43-year old Vinny Testaverde may start this week for Carolina? Wow. Nothing against Vinny, but where is the quarterback development in the NFL?

* Kudos to one of the best coached teams in our region, Wake Forest. They have now beaten Florida State two years in a row.

* Keep an eye on Track Owner Bruton Smith and his threat to move the Lowe’s Motor Speedway after his Drag Strip proposal was shot down by the local government. Many think he is just bluffing, but you never know with the eccentric billionaire Smith. This story will become very interesting in North Carolina.

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