Championship coaches on hot seat? That's life in the big-money SEC
To the right you'll find the résumés compiled by two college football coaches in their current jobs. Try to guess which one could be in danger of losing his job if he has a bad season in 2010.
If you pay most of your college football attention to the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-10, you probably think this is a trick question. Neither of these guys gets fired unless he orchestrates a
If you follow the SEC, you
Don't believe it? Ask yourself this: Two Augusts ago, could you have imagined any scenario in which
It may not be fair. It certainly isn't sensible. But that's the SEC. Outsize passion plus dollars equals a short leash for football coaches. This also should serve as a sign of things to come as lucrative television deals begin to kick in more money to programs in the Big Ten and ACC and soon in the Big 12 and Pac-10/12. Don't be shocked if seemingly successful coaches in other conferences start getting canned because they don't win the national title every year.
That is the blessing and the curse of the SEC. A few days ago,
In any other conference, Richt's name wouldn't appear anywhere near the phrase "hot seat." "I didn't know it had," Richt said at the SEC spring meetings in June, his lip curling into a smile. "Is that true?" In his two least successful seasons (2001 and 2009), he won eight games. He's never notched single-digit wins in back-to-back seasons. Yet here he is.
At Georgia's athletic board meeting in May, then-athletic director
Evans is gone now, thanks to a late-night traffic stop and a pair of red panties in his lap. His incoming replacement is
After last season, the fiercely loyal Richt had to sacrifice defensive coordinator
Here's the problem with those national title expectations. In every other region besides SEC country and Austin, Texas, people understand that only one team can win the BCS title in a given season. But the people in Athens, Baton Rouge, Gainesville and Tuscaloosa legitimately believe their team should win every year. (Those in Auburn and Knoxville also felt that way at various points in the past 15 years.) This creates a mathematical conundrum.
"The expectations from '05 right on through have been the same," LSU's Miles said. "Win the West, have an opportunity to win the SEC title and win the last game." Loosely translated, that means the expectation at LSU is to win the national title.
Miles has done that, but even as he was leading his "damn strong football team" to a BCS title in 2007, his fan base had doubts. Some wondered if the superior roster predecessor
No matter what really happened that night in 2007, Miles has averaged more than 10 wins a year. He has won a conference title and a national title. He has led the Tigers to BCS bowls in 40 percent of his seasons at LSU. Yet a not-insignificant portion of his fan base wishes he'd taken the Michigan job after the 2007 season.
"The league is better now than it's ever been," said Alabama's Saban, who has coached in the Big Ten (Michigan State) and at two SEC pressure-cookers. "I thought it was an outstanding league before. From top to bottom, there's probably more good coaches, more good programs, more good teams than ever before."
That's the blessing and the curse of the SEC. As the programs improve, the expectations rise. The league has won the last four BCS titles, and a coach who claimed one of those titles might get run out of town if he wins fewer than nine games this season despite playing in a division in which all six teams are potentially good enough to play in New Year's Day bowls.
Get ready for this, fans of other leagues. The Big Ten Network has made that conference the nation's most lucrative, and with that money may come the kind of irrational expectations that previously seemed limited to areas beneath the Mason-Dixon Line. Ohio State's
Just because a guy can't win more than 11 games a season doesn't necessarily mean there is always someone better out there. That won't stop programs with money to burn for looking for that guy. That's life in the SEC -- and soon in other leagues as well -- and not-quite-successful enough coaches must learn to ignore the pressure that comes with coaching in a cash-cow league.
"It's like a good quarterback," Richt said. "A good quarterback can't worry about what's swirling around. You've got to focus on your job. If you worry about things you can't control or that won't help you succeed, then you're really being counterproductive."