As we tumble into a summer full of uncertainty regarding the state of the NCAA football power structure, let’s take a look at the absolute wealth of coaching talent that currently exists in the SEC. There is a stupid amount of good coaches in our little conference and it is clearly the job of a random blogger to evaluate, scrutinize, and rank these men according to some arbitrary measure. Let’s dive in, shall we?
1) Urban Meyer – I’m starting off with a bit of an upset as he has health issues and isn’t the reigning national champion coach; however, Meyer does have two BCS trophies to his name and has a 6-1 bowl record with just 10 seasons as a head coach. The man has never, in his collegiate coaching career, won less than 8 games in a season (and that was in his first year at Bowling Green). In the SEC, he has 2 conference championships. Also? He won big at friggin Utah where Saban was above average at Michigan State. He has a slight edge.
2) Nick Saban – Meyer is #1 and Saban is #1a. His overall bowl record is a little shabbier than Meyer’s at 5-6, but he had 3 straight losses while HC of Michigan State. In a real football conference, he has compiled 2 national championships and 2 SEC championships at two different schools (although scribes that hate the BCS voted for the pretty boys on the west coast in 2004 so one of those isn’t considered a full national championship). If this ranking is done at the end of this coming season, it could very well shift Saban up to the #1 spot.
3) Les Miles – Now it starts to get interesting. Do you rank Miles high because of his championship or do you dock him significantly because of his recent gaffs and time management problems? I’m willing to put a guy with a BCS win and a 5-3 bowl record higher up on the scale especially considering his championship QB was Matt Flynn. He also has the best line regarding the recent realignment issues facing college football. When asked if Texas would make a nice addition to the SEC, Miles responded, “them or the Green Bay Packers, one of the two.” Nice.
4) Mark Richt – Probably the guy most thankful for the notion that there isn’t anybody better available. After witnessing the distress that schools like Notre Dame and Alabama have gone through by trying to upgrade an above-average (or average) coach to a great one, Georgia has stuck with Richt (much to some fans chagrin). The result is that Omaha, Nebraska native is the current longest-tenured coach in the SEC. Richt owns an overall 7-2 bowl record and has never missed a bowl game in his nine years as HC. In his worst two years, he still won 8 games and he has 2 SEC titles to his name. He gets flack for not maximizing his talent and being conservative at times (and doing things like losing to Kentucky), but, at the end of the day, his record is impressive enough to keep him around.
5) Houston Nutt – Mississippi – He is a bit loopy, but you can’t argue with his success. At Murray State he won 11 games two years in a row and nabbed the OVC title both times. At Fayetteville, he won 3 division titles and won at least 8 games 6 times in 10 seasons. He also took down big name teams like Texas with regularity. He has notched 9-4 records in both seasons running Ole Miss as well as two Cotton Bowl wins.
6) Bobby Petrino – Arkansas – This guy just looks like a jerk, doesn’t he? For all the flack Hal Mumme got for being a smarmy piss-ant, you would think Petrino would get more criticism. Wanna know why he doesn’t? He wins more than Mumme did. One need only look at the quagmire that the Louisville program became after Petrino left to see the impact he has on a program. He has a Conference USA title and a Big East title to his name as well as a 3-2 bowl record in 6 years of head coaching experience. Not bad when you consider one of those bowl wins was a BCS game in the Orange Bowl. He is building the Hogs program into a contender and could place higher on the list after the season, but, for now, #6 feels right.
7) Steve Spurrier – South Carolina – I bumped Miles up a few notches because of his championship, but I’m not going to for the human visor. Why? Because Miles won a championship recently and has but a few gaffes in recent seasons. Spurrier has clearly lost something since coming back to the SEC from the Washington Redskins. At Florida, he never won less than 9 games over 12 seasons but in 5 seasons with the Gamecocks he has only won 8 games once. His first year, he went 5-3 in the SEC and the next 4 seasons went 3-5, 3-5, 4-4, 3-5. For fans that have Alabama attitude with a Vanderbilt trophy case, that just isn’t cutting it. Spurrier is an annoyance to UK fans because our team hasn’t been able to beat him, but lately that is due less to Steve’s coaching acumen and more to luck or bad decisions on the Big Blue’s side of the field. He ranks this high based on past performance and the belief that he might be able to do it again (I mean, he got Duke to an 8-4 record), but I’m not confident.
8: Bobby Johnson – Vanderbilt – You win at Furman and Vandy (enough to get them to a bowl game and win the darn thing) and you get my respect.
9) Dan Mullen – Mississippi State – What can you say? 5-7 record last year, but he is a Meyer disciple and has brought an exciting offense to Starkville. He is also recruiting his butt off. He gets the big edge for guys with limited coaching experience on potential alone.
10) Gene Chizik – Auburn – He stunk at Iowa State going 5-19 in two seasons there, but then he comes to Auburn and goes 8-5 in his first season. Tiger fans love him now, but one Outback Bowl win and a 3-5 SEC record won’t satiate them for long.
11) Joker Phillips – Kentucky – Rookie coaches get the bottom two spots out of principle. UK gets the edge out of good taste.
12) Derek Dooley – Tennessee – What can you say? Seems like a nice guy, but I hope he sucks.
Your turn. Put your list (or make fun of mine) in the comments.