Derek Dooley has already said his goodbyes to a conference that wasn’t so nice to him during his tenure at Tennessee, as he was canned shortly after Vanderbilt skull-pounded Dooley’s Vols 41-18. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney takes over the head coaching duties this weekend.
We know John L. Smith and Joker Phillips will indeed coach their last games in the SEC today and Saturday. However, could we see a fourth in Auburn’s Gene Chizik?
John L. Smith, Arkansas
The 64-year-old Smith will indeed coach his last game today against LSU. Although nothing has been made official that AD Jeff Long won’t rehire Smith, the chances of that happening are…it’s not happening. Smith’s tenure at Arkansas has been up and down, but he was hired to provide the players and Long a coach they were familiar with after the Bobby Petrino cluster.
Although Smith was quite goofy at times, he has been through more in just the last year than some coaches go through in their lifetime. He filed for bankruptcy with $40.7 million in debt from real estate deals gone wrong, and the same week the official debt was made public, his brother passed away. He delivered his unforgettable “smile” speech that will be replayed for years on end. He later had a gaffe at an Arkansas speaking event in which he called the Arkansas program “the state of Alabama program”.
Smith is currently 4-7 as Arkansas’ head coach, with his team underachieving in nearly every facet of the game, and he even lost to a Sun Belt Louisiana-Monroe as the then #8 team in the country.
Smith served his purpose at Arkansas, providing some stability in the wake of Petrino’s massive instability. But it won’t be enough to get him rehired, seeing Arkansas won’t be bowl eligible and will virtually lose all their stars on offense. It will be a major rebuilding project in Fayetteville. It will take the right hire to make it happen.
The Hogs have been said to be looking in the direction of TCU’s Gary Patterson to take over the reigns of the program. It remains to be seen whether or not it will happen. That would be the right hire, though.
Joker Phillips, Kentucky
The firing of Joker Phillips was rather bittersweet for Kentucky fans. After all, Phillips is a Kentucky guy, having played there and coached in the program for nearly 19 years, but the program is nowhere near where it needs to be to compete in the SEC.
Phillips inherited a stable team and roster from Rich Brooks, but in just three years, Phillips compiled a 13-23 head coaching record, going 7-16 in just the last two seasons after reaching a bowl game in his first season. Phillips has managed just four wins in conference play in the last three years and sits currently winless in the SEC in 2012.
AD Mitch Barnhart fired Phillips two weeks ago, but let him coach his final two games – Samford and Tennessee – to finish out the season. And what a way it would be to finish if the Cats take down the Vols for the second straight season.
Look, Kentucky knows they won’t compete for Eastern Division championships year-in and year-out, but the standard set of obtaining seven to eight wins and reaching bowl games is very doable.
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has already said to express his dis-interest in the job, and Duke head coach David Cutcliffe has signed an extension at Duke. It’s going to be interesting to see where the coaching search ends up for Barnhart and the Wildcats.
Gene Chizik, Auburn
The much-maligned Gene Chizik is indeed really starting to feel the heat, especially after the recent report on the NCAA investigation regarding Jovon Robinson.
Outside of Cam Newton’s remarkable 2010 season, Chizik sports a record of 19-18 at Auburn and is currently 3-8 in 2012.
Chizik has reeled in top recruiting classes year-in and year-out, but there has been zero development of blue-chip players throughout his tenure. Remember, Newton and Nick Fairley – the two biggest players in Chizik’s tenure – were JUCO transfers. So, Chizik didn’t develop either of those players. And once again, Auburn has a top recruiting class committed. Recruiting isn’t the problem and never will be the problem at Auburn.
The biggest problem with Auburn right now is that it is a dumpster fire of program with the NCAA breathing down their neck and an incompetent AD in Jay Jacobs.
Two weeks ago, we learned that president Jay Gogue was said to be making plans to fire Chizik after the season, but he planned to retain Jacobs as the AD.
Winning at Auburn is difficult enough, but the athletic department as a whole makes this a less attractive job if indeed Chizik does get fired. A blowout loss against in-state rival Alabama, and Chizik may pack his bags on Sunday.
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