Adams: SEC's hot seat could be surprise

Three SEC football coaches and three men's basketball coaches were fired this past school year. But that isn't necessarily bad news for the coaches in those sports who weren't fired.

A firing storm of that magnitude is usually followed by a lull. In the aftermath, there's no SEC football coach who's on the brink of becoming an ex-SEC football coach.

Tennessee, Auburn and Mississippi State just hired new coaches. Not even SEC programs fire football coaches after one season. So Lane Kiffin (UT), Gene Chizik (Auburn) and Dan Mullen (Mississippi State) are safe - as is second-year Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, the only returning SEC football coach who had a losing season in 2008. The Razorbacks, who fielded one of the youngest teams in the country, actually made significant progress under Petrino.

The nine returning coaches in SEC basketball also have fewer reasons than usual to be worried about job security. In a league dominated by underclassmen in 2008-09, the large majority of teams will be improved next season. And an improved team rarely leads to the firing of its coach.

When the next school year begins, neither SEC football nor men's basketball has an obvious candidate for the proverbial coaching hot seat. So how do you fill that void?

Best answer: By scrutinizing three of the SEC's most successful coaches - South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Georgia's Mark Richt and LSU's Les Miles.

Spurrier's Florida teams dominated the conference in the 1990s, and he's second only to Alabama's Bear Bryant for his coaching impact on SEC football. That's why his four years at South Carolina are puzzling.

Certainly, he has improved South Carolina's program. He has taken the Gamecocks to three bowls in four years and has made them more competitive against the best programs in the conference.

It's not his record, so much as his offense, that's in question. He put together a prolific offense at Duke of all places and has long been regarded as one of the game's great offensive coaches. But his fourth South Carolina team ranked 97th nationally in total offense, and his fifth team will have plenty of question marks on offense as well.

It just doesn't add up.

Miles' first three years at LSU were the best three years in school history. They included 34 victories in 40 games and a national championship in 2007.

But some LSU fans are focusing on his fourth season, the first in which he didn't benefit from the players recruited by his predecessor, Nick Saban. Not even the most optimistic LSU fans envisioned back-to-back national championships, but they weren't expecting a 8-5 record, either - particularly when it could be attributed, in part, to the coaching staff's selection of a quarterback and Miles' decision to use co-defensive coordinators.

You have to look really hard to find shortcomings in Richt's eight-year run at Georgia. But SEC fans do look really hard.

Georgia has won three SEC championships, finished second nationally in 2007, and never won fewer than eight games under Richt. All it hasn't done is win a national championship.

While Georgia has been the most consistent program in the conference this decade, Florida has won two national titles and LSU has won one. The difference: Those programs maximized their opportunities.

Georgia had its best shot at a national title in 2002 when it went 13-1. A 20-13 loss to a five-loss Florida team coached by Ron Zook prevented the Bulldogs from playing for a national title.

The presence of Saban at Alabama and Urban Meyer doesn't help Richt. They come across as tougher, more intense coaches, who are obsessed with winning. Moreover, both won big last season against Georgia.

Never mind that Georgia beat Alabama and Florida in 2007. SEC fans have short memories.

In a league as competitive and high-paying as this one, there are only two ways for a coach to avoid criticism: win the most recent national championship game or take Vanderbilt to a bowl game.

Bobby Johnson led Vanderbilt to a victory over Boston College in the Music City Bowl last December. He's good for another 27 years.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 34

teampenny#658108 writes:

Good piece. Believe it is time for the old ball coach to go. If Meyer wins his third NC he has to be ranked as one of the great coaches ever in the SEC-that hurts to say! Go Vols

chargervol writes:

I think Spurrier will hang it up in a couple of years. He has nothing else to prove. Miles is still bringing in good recruiting classes, and he has proven he can win big games with good players. The closest one to the hot seat might just be Richt. If he loses to Fla., and if Tennessee beats him with Kiffin being in his first year, and lose another game or two the noose might start to tighten-up a little. GO VOLS!!!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Naw, let the Ole ball coach stay.

He deserves everything he gets in roosterville.

AlpharettaVol1 writes:

I think Georgia has won only 2 SEC championships under Richt...not 3 as Adams says...I would say it's a minor point but it's really not...
UGA won in 2002 and 2005...isn't that all?

the10sevol writes:

"Spurrier's Florida teams dominated the conference in the 1990s, and he's second only to Alabama's Bear Bryant for his coaching impact on SEC football."
that might come as a shock to a few folks like robert neyland, frank broyles, vince dooley, and shug jordan...
just my thoughts...

bhorton#213253 writes:

don't worry...urbie is headin' for domerland soon (n.d.)

springtx_vol writes:

Urban is going to be favored to win a third MNC in four years. He has Brantley sitting on the bench for two more years after Tebow leaves. The only real question is whether how far the Gators will fall after losing as many as 15 starters off of this years team. They still have questions on the OL and DL, but everywhere else they are going to be as good as last year as long as they can replace Harvin (big question, but they did win the SECCG without him).

Richt is going to have to prove that he can win without a top QB. I don't know if Cox is the short term answer and a freshman QB, even one named Tebow, doesn't win championships in the SEC.

SC is going to continue to be strong defensively, where are they going to get any offense? Spurrier has been an enigma as an offensive genius.

Vandy/Ky will continue to be successful by going 6-6 or 7-5 and going to a bowl game. They will not challenge for the SEC Championship any time soon.

So, I don't see any coaches in the East having any concerns for the next three years or so. And I don't see Urban going to ND. UF can pay their coaches as much or more than any school in the nation.

FWBVol writes:

I have never been impressed by Miles as a coach. He seems like a cry baby control freak second only to Urban in the SEC in those categories. The national championship LSU won in 2007 is stil questionable. LSU was lucky to be UT in the SEC title game, and even luckier to be in the NC game with two losses.

My guess is Miles will get the boot before Spurrier. I realize I might have to eat those words.

ANGRYWOLF writes:

in response to FWBVol:

I have never been impressed by Miles as a coach. He seems like a cry baby control freak second only to Urban in the SEC in those categories. The national championship LSU won in 2007 is stil questionable. LSU was lucky to be UT in the SEC title game, and even luckier to be in the NC game with two losses.

My guess is Miles will get the boot before Spurrier. I realize I might have to eat those words.

You''ll have to eat them.That was a poor analysis in my view..
It takes luck to win any national championship these days so LSU's isn't any more questionable than that of anyone else..

If LSU gets/has a decent QB they will be ok...and Miles won't get the boot.

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

in response to biggestutfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

For the last time...it's KIFFIN not Kiffen.

Seahawk writes:

in response to the10sevol:

"Spurrier's Florida teams dominated the conference in the 1990s, and he's second only to Alabama's Bear Bryant for his coaching impact on SEC football."
that might come as a shock to a few folks like robert neyland, frank broyles, vince dooley, and shug jordan...
just my thoughts...

Shug Jordan? The man won 1 SEC title. Neyland won 4, Dooley had several co-championships, but only 3 outright, and Broyles never coached in the SEC (he coached in the old SWC). Spurrier won 6 SEC titles in 10 years, including 4 in a row. Pretty damn impressive. By comparison, Bryant won 13 SEC titles and 6 national championships. After Bryant, the closest thing to domination in the SEC has been Spurrier's run at UF.

mywaynow writes:

Adams will be ecstatic when he can put CLK on his endangered coach list. If Urban was the UT coach Adams would be lambasting him as much as he praises him now. Bottom line - Adams hates UT and all the coaches at UT.

fivewides writes:

Richt will get the chance to bring in new coordinators before his job is seriously in question. Probably should have already done that imho...Bobo's been as mediocre on the staff as he was on the field. Monte Kiffin's presence doesn't make things any easier for the typically under-performing Ga. WRs and QBs.

Les' penchant for rolling the dice in game situations will eventually catch up and get him run out of town. He's gotta be on long odds after some of the head shakers from the past couple of years. That's one of the luckiest bunches in recent memory...

Look for the ol' ball coach to hang it up after one, maybe two more.

the10sevol writes:

in response to eldee:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

you are correct, of course, that name just kinda jumped out before i could stop it, lol

BigVolFaninSC writes:

in response to pdhuff#552644:

Naw, let the Ole ball coach stay.

He deserves everything he gets in roosterville.

You got that right! He hasn't quite yet experienced enough humility to balance his arrogance! I love to point to the fact that he never beat the Cowboys when he was Redskins coach and he's only won a couple against the Vols while coaching the chickens! May the humiliation continue! Original recipe or extra crispy?! Go VOLS!!!

hueypilot writes:

Good provocative article. Must admit I can't be objective about Spurrier. His mouth offended me as a Tennessee fan much like Kiffin is doing to Florida fans. His offense was way ahead of defenses, but we, and others started putting our best atheletes at DB and we went after speed, speed and more speed. And Bob Stoops went to Oklahoma and now he couldn't go for it on fourth and long because his defense couldn't bail him out anymore and he went from dominant to just another football coach.
So I am happy saying he is getting what he deserved after all his smart assed comments, mostly at Fulmer's expense.

After being run off by his ex-whipping boy, Phil, and make no mistake that 2001 defeat in Gainesville was the occasion for him being summoned to Foley's office the following Monday. That's right, a Hall of Fame coach summoned to the AD's office and then being told it was obvious Florida football had sunk and in order to remain as the ol ball coach at Florida, he would have to make some staff changes. Well, we all know no one is going to tell the smartest (assed) football coach in the country what to do so off to the NFL. Where he was below average and now he lives out the twilight of his coaching career at a second rate school turning out second rate teams that can only beat Tennessee when we're terrible. And for what? So he can get a membership to Augusta National, after, and only AFTER, he leaves South Carolina under South Carolina's terms. Cause if he quits and makes SC look bad, no Augusta membership. Hootie Johnson, former SC fullback and past president at Augusta will see to that. You see Lou Holtz got his SC membership just that same way. So Spurrier finishes his career prostituting himself in a backwater job, so he can get a golf club membership. A perfect finish to a guy who should have gone to Tennessee to play college football anyway (That is the real reason I never liked him) A fitting ending, at least for me.

rockytopatl writes:

in response to mywaynow:

Adams will be ecstatic when he can put CLK on his endangered coach list. If Urban was the UT coach Adams would be lambasting him as much as he praises him now. Bottom line - Adams hates UT and all the coaches at UT.

Adams doesn't hate UT. He only hates readers who don't understand that sports journalism is not being a sad-sack homer.

Ralph_Crampton writes:

Spurrier, the great innovator of college football, the native Tennessean is probably the top coach of all time. What else does he have to prove...he took over a bottom-rung South Carolina which is considered the graveyard for college coaches and has already taken them to three bowl games in four years...playing with inferior talent, a product of Johnson City, Steve practically reinvented the "fun and gun" offense which forced SEC teams to change from defensive stalwarts to offensive titans. Thus in the last four years, the SEC has won three national titles. Thanks to Steve, who still to this day refers to himself as "just ane ole boy from Tennessee".....Thanks Steve, football fans in the Volunteer state are still proud of you. we only wish you could have coached our beloved Vols during your great career.

CoverOrange writes:

Steve Spurrier lost the fire just like Phil did. He'll retire before anyone gets too close with a match.

Miles will be on the hot seat after Florida rips Chavis' defense and the offense can't score any points on Bama or Ole Miss. Don't get me wrong, I liked John Chavis at UT but his gambling run stopping defenses had problems with vertical misdirection offenses. And Miles is no offensive genius.

Good article JA. Nice to see that you did a little homework.

gslaton#227127 writes:

Basically, this is all about recruiting. Spurrier had the Florida reservoir of talent at his disposal at UF..now, Meyer does. Meyer is a better recruiter. At USC, Spurrier is struggling, like Fulmer did the last few years, to attract outside talent. Especially from Florida. Lane Kiffin isn't concerned about the old SEC pecking order(?). He knew the real answer at UT was better talent. Spurrier will retire at USC as an average coach if he stays there.

Ralph_Crampton writes:

Generally, it has been known for years that Spurrier secretly had a burning desire to become head coach of the Volunteers. But it was not to be, for one reason or another, Vol heads' and Spurrier were never on the same course. The Volunteers had a golden opportunity to grab Spurrier at the same time Battle was fired as Vol coach...but instead, at the urging of a legion of Vol fans and alumni, Johnny Majors was chosen. A devastating decision as it turned out. This in no way is a slap at Majors, We all loved Johnny, still do, and none can argue that he is not one of us. But we had a chance to grab the " The Einstein" of college football at the tip of our fingers. With a young Spurrier at the helm, the Vols might have been the "team of two decades in college football. His ideas on passing with stunning new and innovative crossing patterns placed him years ahead of the college game after he accepted the coaching job at Florida". Helpless coaches on opposing teams could only stand there on the sidelines and watch the Gators high powered offense go up and down the field. I recall, observing Lou Holtz, who was head coach at South Carolina just after he left Notre Dame, standing on the sidelines as the Gators' scored into the fiftie's..Lou, stood frozen, with mouth open looking on with amazement as the Florida team handed him his most lopsided loss ever. Just think my Vol friends how close we came.

10volunteers98 writes:

in response to DCflorida1:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Jarvis who?Kiffin got David Oku AND Bryce Brown.And,by the way,he only had three months to recruit after he arrived at U.T.Chicken neck Spurrier had years.The Vols finished in the top ten in recruiting.Some had them as high as #8.Where did S.C.finish? Sit back and watch what Kiffin & Co.can do with a full year of recruiting.GO VOLS!!!

10volunteers98 writes:

in response to Ralph_Crampton:

Generally, it has been known for years that Spurrier secretly had a burning desire to become head coach of the Volunteers. But it was not to be, for one reason or another, Vol heads' and Spurrier were never on the same course. The Volunteers had a golden opportunity to grab Spurrier at the same time Battle was fired as Vol coach...but instead, at the urging of a legion of Vol fans and alumni, Johnny Majors was chosen. A devastating decision as it turned out. This in no way is a slap at Majors, We all loved Johnny, still do, and none can argue that he is not one of us. But we had a chance to grab the " The Einstein" of college football at the tip of our fingers. With a young Spurrier at the helm, the Vols might have been the "team of two decades in college football. His ideas on passing with stunning new and innovative crossing patterns placed him years ahead of the college game after he accepted the coaching job at Florida". Helpless coaches on opposing teams could only stand there on the sidelines and watch the Gators high powered offense go up and down the field. I recall, observing Lou Holtz, who was head coach at South Carolina just after he left Notre Dame, standing on the sidelines as the Gators' scored into the fiftie's..Lou, stood frozen, with mouth open looking on with amazement as the Florida team handed him his most lopsided loss ever. Just think my Vol friends how close we came.

I can`t stand Spurrier OR the Gay-tors.But I must say that I agree with you,Ralph.I could have learned to love Spurrier if he had coached the Vols.He indeed was an offensive master,and he still ain`t bad.Just doesn`t get the kind of talent he had at Florida.

mywaynow writes:

in response to rockytopatl:

Adams doesn't hate UT. He only hates readers who don't understand that sports journalism is not being a sad-sack homer.

Why is he worried about sports journalism - he is a columnists not a journalist. I'm not a homer, I just don't like Adams - never will.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER:

For the last time...it's KIFFIN not Kiffen.

I hear you, buddy, but, believe me, this is NOT the last time. Some so-called Vol fans won't be able to spell Kiffin's name right five years from now, after he has won a couple of conference championships and maybe even a national championship. And that without considering the 'lopers who will misspell it intentionally.

Ralph_Crampton writes:

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY VOL FANS.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to Ralph_Crampton:

Generally, it has been known for years that Spurrier secretly had a burning desire to become head coach of the Volunteers. But it was not to be, for one reason or another, Vol heads' and Spurrier were never on the same course. The Volunteers had a golden opportunity to grab Spurrier at the same time Battle was fired as Vol coach...but instead, at the urging of a legion of Vol fans and alumni, Johnny Majors was chosen. A devastating decision as it turned out. This in no way is a slap at Majors, We all loved Johnny, still do, and none can argue that he is not one of us. But we had a chance to grab the " The Einstein" of college football at the tip of our fingers. With a young Spurrier at the helm, the Vols might have been the "team of two decades in college football. His ideas on passing with stunning new and innovative crossing patterns placed him years ahead of the college game after he accepted the coaching job at Florida". Helpless coaches on opposing teams could only stand there on the sidelines and watch the Gators high powered offense go up and down the field. I recall, observing Lou Holtz, who was head coach at South Carolina just after he left Notre Dame, standing on the sidelines as the Gators' scored into the fiftie's..Lou, stood frozen, with mouth open looking on with amazement as the Florida team handed him his most lopsided loss ever. Just think my Vol friends how close we came.

Stevie was still trying to play pro ball when Battle was fired. No idea existed at that point of what he would become. Huge, huge, huge leap of faith.

sameolvolalum writes:

in response to eldee:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yep. Broyles' Arkansas teams were innovative and big winners----in the SWC. Miles is a crybaby, Meyer is a narcissistic jerk and so is Saban. Nevertheless, they're three of the most effective coaches in the country, as have been most who've won NC's (but not all---see Joe Paterno) Woody Hayes and Bear Bryant were NOT easy to get along with, either. It's a tough job and most have to be brash. Kiffin's not won a game yet, but a majority of us in Vol Land think he's putting a real winner together. IMHO, Spurrier's on his last legs. He can't even stir up controversy anymore. 'Can't wait 'til September.

Bufforange00 writes:

"While Georgia has been the most consistent program in the conference this decade, Florida has won two national titles and LSU has won one. The difference: Those programs maximized their opportunities."

Hate to tell you John, but LSU has won 2 BCS titles just as Florida has this decade. And Georgia only won the conference in 2002 and 2005 (twice). Please get your facts straight.

Bufforange00 writes:

Poll

Greatest Impact (SEC Coaches)

1. Bear Bryant
2. Robert Neyland
3. Steve Spurrier
4. Vince Dooley
5. Urban Meyer
6. Nick Saban
7. Frank Thomas
8. John Vaught
9. Shug Jordan
10. Phillip Fulmer
11. Gene Stallings
12. Charlie Mcclendon
13. Mark Richt
14. Pat Dye
15. Les Miles

Bottom 10 in last 25 years

10. Ray Goff
9. any Vandy Coach in last 50 yrs
8. Bill Curry
7. Danny Ford
6. Mike Shula
5. Curley Hallman
4. Mike Archer
3. Gerry Dinardo
2. Galen Hall
1. WORST- Johnny Majors---!

back2backchamps writes:

in response to tenn_smoothie:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You can live with LSUs titles because they aren't a "rival" of UT. The only reason UT and UF dislike each other now is because when the conference expanded we became "rivals". When UF visited UT in 1985 it was just another SEC game.

RPBVolunteer writes:

Didn't LSU win two this decade? A split with those cheaters from SoCal.

99gator writes:

i can handle an argument between neyland and spurrier.

but, frank broyles never coached in the SEC.

vince dooley's career was made by one player.

and shug jordan doesn't belong in the conversation. pat dye won more than shug jordan.

Ralph_Crampton writes:

I will never forget the Vol-Duke game around 1980--give me a year or two either way...but Spurrier was the head coach of the Blue Devils one of the worst football programs in the nation. In the game against the Vols, Duke was suc h a heavy underdog that Vegas pulled th2 game off the boards. This was also around the time that Vol fans expected coach Majors to make his move into the nation's elite football powers. However, Duke proved stubborn and hung in there with the Volunteers..few paid attention to the new Duke coach...Spurrier...the Vols clung to the lead by less than a touchdown...it was late in the game..Duke had the ball and had moved the ball inside the Volunteers' 50-yard line, The Vols trying desparately to hang on and run out the clock. Spurrier called timeout...time for one play..maybe two...with time back in...Spurrier called a trick play..it would take a long pass for the Blue Devils to win...a field goal was out as I recall the Vols lead by five points..the Dukesters needed a touchdown...and everyone in Neyland stadium knew it as Vol fans began to leave the stadium breathing a sigh of relief. The Duke QB rolled out after a fake handoff down the middle...The Blue Devils were lined up in a sort of spread formation and confounding crossing patterns by their receivers then suddenly, there he was! A lone Duke receiver was standing in the end zone...the nearest Vol was at least ten yards away, the Vol defender aware that his man had beaten him snapped fingers in disgust as the Blue Devils receiver caught the game winning touchdown just as the game ended. The long dark shadow of Spurrier fell across the land. Many Vol fans left the stands broken-hearted that night...and those who saw that game will never forget it.

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