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 firstname.lastname@example.org.