Hot-seat situations sizzle throughout the SEC, with big turnover possible and a huge chance for renewal ahead.
The coming year could be recalled as the flash point when the conference made a pivot toward recapturing its former glory. If major coaching turnover happens, and the right hires are made, the coming year will be remembered as the moment when the SEC began catching up to the ACC and Big Ten after a slide back.
It’s about time.
The cold reality is this: The ACC and Big Ten passed the SEC because of superior coaching. Beyond Alabama’s Nick Saban and a rising Kirby Smart at Georgia, who within the SEC’s crop of coaches hasn’t felt heat? Who within the group hasn’t made fans wonder why better options weren’t found?
Some starving for change, from Tennessee to Texas A&M and elsewhere, could receive their wish soon.
A major SEC reset is possible in the coming months. Ole Miss interim coach Matt Luke won’t be back. Butch Jones is trying to stiff-arm pitchforks and Tiki torches on Rocky Top. Arkansas’ Bret Bielema has backed himself into trouble. Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin stands on a bed of hot coals. Missouri’s Barry Odom scrambles to show an athletic director who didn’t hire him that he can keep the Tigers from ripping apart at the seams.
Any or all those jobs might open before the 2018 season. The coaches in question made themselves vulnerable with shaky showings, from Jones’ inconsistency to Bielema’s mediocrity to Sumlin’s late-season whiffs to Odom’s overall bleh. If upgrades happen, a big step toward improving the SEC’s depth will be made.
This can’t happen quickly enough. Yes, the ACC and Big Ten boast brand-name heavyweights: Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. But those conferences also feature intriguing faces who add prestige to their respective leagues: Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Purdue’s Jeff Brohm; North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren, Miami’s Mark Richt and Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente. The gulf between the top two or three teams and others in the ACC and Big Ten is less noticeable.
There’s no reason why the SEC must be different. There’s no reason why the SEC must be worse.
In some cases, examples of the coaching depth within the ACC and Big Ten are reminders of what the SEC no longer has. Think Franklin, who coached Vanderbilt from 2011 to 2013, could help a struggling SEC program? How about Richt, who was at Georgia from 2001 to 2015? How about Meyer, who was at Florida from 2005 to 2010?
The SEC needs another Franklin, Richt and Meyer. It needs its own Doeren and Fuente. Heck, it needs someone cut from the same cloth as Les Miles and Steve Spurrier. It needs the distance between its upper and middle classes to close to return to the days when the conference’s depth was admired and feared.
The possible turnover ahead could allow that to happen.
It can’t get much worse for the SEC. It’s embarrassing that the conference’s coaching lineup this fall is Saban, Smart and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, then a bunch of others slipping on thin ice. A large part of the conference’s regression can be blamed on a misguided attempt by some schools to try to reproduce Alabama’s dominance by hiring a Saban disciple (looking at you, Florida) or baffling lapses in judgment (looking at you, LSU). SEC athletic directors must do better in crunch time.
The good news for the conference is that a chance for reinvention might happen soon. As with many things in life, major progress can’t happen without pain first. No pivot would happen overnight. But within the next five seasons, noticeable improvement could take place if smart coaching hires are made.
The ACC and Big Ten figured this out years ago.
Now, it’s time for the SEC to do the same.
The post If this happens, SEC finally will catch up to ACC, Big Ten appeared first on SEC Country.