The SEC has the coaching fever, and it’s been that way for a long time. But the coaching-firing, coach-hiring, coach-crazy, cuckoo-fan ways of the Southeastern Conference in the final weeks of 2017 is nothing short of foam-at-the-mouth madness.
Let’s try to recap:
— Sackings. Fired … at least so far … are Jim McElwain (Florida), Butch Jones (Tennessee), Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M), and Bret Bielema (Arkansas).
— Promoted from interim coach to head coach for 2018: Matt Luke, Ole Miss.
— Moving to another SEC job: After leading Mississippi State on a nine-season run that raised the profile and the performance of a notoriously struggling program in Starkville, Dan Mullen is taking over as the new coach at Florida. This is a homecoming of sorts for Mullen, who was a QB coach and offensive coordinator on Urban Meyer’s Florida staff between 2005 and 2008. During Mullen’s four seasons as a key Meyer assistant, the Gators went 44-9, won two SEC championships and won two national championships under the BCS format. Working with Mullen, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow won multiple prestigious awards including the 2007 Heisman Trophy. Mullen’s speciality is identifying and developing quarterbacks; his QB roster through coaching stops include Tebow, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald. Despite some of the whining you may hear from the perpetual malcontents in the Florida fan base, this is a terrific hire. Florida needs a coach that can find a talented quarterback to lead a creative, high-scoring offense. Mullen fits the profile and has an insider’s knowledge of the tricky terrain in Gainesville.
— Unfilled head-coaching jobs, at least as I type this now: Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas.
— The updated Nick Saban body count: once the teams that are searching for head coaches get their selection in place, the other 13 SEC programs will have employed 43 head coaches (non-interim) since Saban came to Tuscaloosa in 2007 to rebuild the Alabama empire. There were 23 firings among the 43 coaches … several coaches who retired … several others who moved on to new jobs on their own … and of course, that 43 count includes the SEC coaches who haven’t been fired yet — as well as the few coaches that haven’t been hired (but will be.) The head-coach turnover in the 14-member SEC has been so extreme and absurd, Mizzou’s Barry Odom is now tied for 5th for most seniority among conference coaches. And Odom is finishing his SECOND season. The only SEC bosses that have been in their current jobs longer than Odom are Saban (11th season), Kentucky’s Mark Stoops (5th), Auburn’s Gus Malzahn (4th) and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason (4th.)
And finally … a special category:
— Almost hired, only to have an agreement rescinded after delusional, dishonest fans and media went wild on a berserk, over-the-top protest so intense and nutty that it scared the spineless Tennessee administration into backing out of a tentative agreement. Here’s the deal: Tennessee sought to hire Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, who was the national Coach of the Year as the head coach at Rutgers in 2006 in recognition of his exceptional work in reviving the historically futile and laughable Rutgers football program. In his final seven seasons at Rutgers, Schiano coached his team to six bowl games and six winning records. That may not seem like a big deal to the uninformed, but Rutgers’ clown-faced program hadn’t played in a bowl game since 1978 … and in the 24-year stretch before Schiano posted a winning season in 2005, the Scarlet Knights endured 18 losing seasons. So when Schiano won 11 games in 2006 as part of a five-season streak of winning records, the achievement was substantial.
Somehow, Schiano’s miracle-worker raising of a dead program (Rutgers) wasn’t good enough for the coach-killing buffoons who turned into fantasy-camp protestors and raised so much hell near dear Ol’ Rocky Top you’d think they were staging a looney-tunes version reenactment of the Civil War’s “Knoxville Campaign” to repel the evil Yankee forces that tried to sneak Schiano behind enemy lines.
Unlike James Longstreet, who failed in the real Knoxville Campaign, these goofballs secured a precious victory. In losing their marbles, the lunatic fringe saved the “Marble City” from the invasion of an untrustworthy northerner football coach.
Worse, these cowards didn’t have the grits to take a stand based on sincere objection to Schiano’s hiring on coaching merits. Instead, these tough guys tried to position themselves as principled, ethical, high-minded people of morality. They brazenly linked Schiano to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.
When Mike McQueary testified in the Sandusky case, he said he was told by someone else — in other words, hearsay — that Schiano, then a young assistant, had witnessed Sandusky engaging in improper activity with a boy. Schiano denied it — vociferously — and the Pennsylvania attorney general who prosecuted the case believed Schiano.
Moreover, Schiano passed extensive background checks before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired him as head coach. And Ohio State did the same before bringing Schiano before the 2016 season to coordinate Meyer’s defense.
“We spent hours & hours interviewing & background checks on Greg Schiano,” former Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik wrote on Twitter. “Yes we didn’t win (at Tampa Bay). Fact: he’s honest, an awesome father/husband, & an excellent football coach. This shouldn’t be whether YOU think you like him or not, you don’t even know him.”
This phony Tennessee rebellion was all about football and a lack of confidence in Schiano’s coaching ability. But the protestors hid behind a bogus reason in taking Schiano down. This wasn’t about Schiano’s integrity; this is about Tennessee’s warped, hysterically detached-from-reality belief that the Vols should hire themselves a big-time coach! A star! A coach who is worthy of this esteemed program! Don’t forget that our Vols are BIG TIME, boys … BIG TIME!
These are probably some of the same empty heads who ran off the highly successful Phillip Fulmer after a bad 2008 … the Fulmer who recruited Peyton Manning to Knoxville … the Fulmer who had a .743 winning percentage in 17 seasons at Tennessee … the Fulmer who led the Vols to the national championship in 1998.
Fulmer wasn’t up to those vaunted Tennessee standards.
Maybe they should hire him back.
Since firing Fulmer, Tennessee has a 57-56 record since 2009 … and that includes a dreadful 23-49 mark in SEC games … and a 7-37 record against Top 25 opponents … an 0-23 record when playing a Top 10 opponent.
Hell, Mizzou has been more successful than Tennessee since 2009.
But Tennessee is a big-boy program … an elite program … a remarkable college football dynasty that should have Jon Gruden crawling to Knoxville to beg for this coaching job.
Damn, come to think of it …
Ol’ Bill Belichick should be honored to have the Tennessee job if the Vols asked him to take it.
You bet, boys. BIG TIME!
Grab another jar of moonshine …. because it’s time to sing “Rocky Top” again.
Thanks for reading…