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Will the SEC see four head coaching vacancies?

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Four teams that are really struggling through the first half of the season are Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee. Along with those four teams, the head coaches are feeling more and more heat as the year progresses. We know there will be at least one of the four – Arkansas – open at year’s end, but Kentucky, Auburn and Tennessee could make changes as well.

Arkansas (3-4, 2-2)
John L. Smith will be replaced, and Athletic Director Jeff Long said he wants to hire a new head coach within two weeks after the season is over. Although Long has said that Coach Smith will be considered to be hired on a permanent basis, we all know that has zero chance of happening. Competing in the SEC with the likes of Alabama and LSU in the same division will be a sexy attraction to several big-time coaches.

Since Long will replace John L. Smith, here are five candidates who will get a phone call:

1. Charlie Strong, Louisville head coach
2. Kirby Smart, Alabama defensive coordinator
3. Gary Patterson, TCU head coach
4. Art Briles, Baylor head coach
5. Butch Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneer special assistant

Auburn (1-5, 0-4)
Many say Gene Chizik survives no matter how bad Auburn finishes. However, I disagree with that. After lying down in the second half against Ole Miss, Auburn goes on the road to Vanderbilt. Three weeks ago, several looked to the Ole Miss and Vanderbilt games to leave a lasting impression if Chizik returns for 2013. Outside of 2010’s anomaly with Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, there has been zero development of players within the program, as both Newton and Fairley were JUCO transfers. Likewise, Chizik’s record outside of ‘10 is 17-15. However, Chizik does have a $7.5 million buyout that could be a massive obstacle to cutting ties with him. But if Auburn drops two in a row to Ole Miss and Vanderbilt and he then proceeds to get demolished against Alabama in November, Auburn will make a change. The presence of a more successful in-state rival may accelerate Chizik’s firing.

Kentucky (1-6, 0-4)
It’s a shame Kentucky and Auburn doesn’t play one another, because the worst team in the SEC would be settled, but we can certainly speculate from the eye test. Last week’s 49-7 blowout against Arkansas proves it can’t get any worse for the Cats, but with Georgia coming to town, it really could. It will be a difficult decision for Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart to move on from his ‘Kentucky guy’. But let me make Barnhart’s decision a little easier here. Phillips is 12-20 overall in three years and 4-16 in the SEC. Even the win against Tennessee last season isn’t enough to buy Phillips anymore time. It was crucial for Kentucky to show progress in Phillips’ third season, but they have only showed regression. However, the loss of starting QB Max Smith to injury and the fact the Wildcats have played one of the toughest schedules – Louisville, Florida, South Carolina and Mississippi State – could be cause for buying him a little bit more time. The Wildcats just want to be competitive, and they’re nearly last in every single offensive and defensive statistic in the SEC.

Tennessee (3-3, 0-3)
This was supposed to be the year that Derek Dooley turned things around for the Vols, seeing he had future NFL players saturating the offensive side of the football. The Vols have lost all three SEC games – Florida, Georgia and Mississippi State – and are giving up an average of 43 points per game. Defensive Coordinator Sal Sunseri certainly isn’t helping Dooley. Coming off a reeling loss at Mississippi State and heading into Alabama, a win Saturday could put the firing talks to bed for the season. Dooley has a chance to upset the #1 team in the country and save his job. But the facts remain – Dooley is 0-13 against ranked opponents and 1-9 on the road in the SEC, with his only win coming against Vandy in ‘10. Tennessee will likely go ‘O for October’. So, the question becomes, will Dooley make it back to Tennessee with a 7-5 finish? A new coach costs Tennessee $9 million, with a $5 million buyout of Dooley and $4 million to make the right hire.

Which programs do you think make a change?





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Comments 27

  1. how is richt not on this list?

    • Haha. Richt going to get fired after 10-2 season?

      • 10-2 at worst…11-1 is what I would like

      • robstah
        Commented : 1 year ago

        10-2 against who? This should have been the easiest season for the Dawgs and Richt and co. did not prepare for South Carolina, which was the worst game I have ever experienced as a Dawg fan. I don’t know how so many people shrug off the two bowl games against UCF and Michigan State, the beginning of last season, and the statistics against ranked teams. At least Chizik has a NCG under his belt and here you have him on your list.

        • Im as frustrated as you are…Ill trade all his 10 win seasons for an occasional big win on a big stage. CMR was a good coach who had his run in his first 5 seasons…but his teams have dissapointed every year since 07 when we ended the year as what I felt was the best team in the nation. We all know what happened after that. Now its time to turn the page and bring in some new blood/attitude….and with the young talent in place I doubt there would be a huge transition.

      • You’re right, Won’t happen…and I doubt we’ll find him in a roadside ditch w/ a student anytime soon either, but perhaps he will decide to move on soon to do some missionary work with his wife and we can get some new ideas and attitude in Athens. The fanbase is beyond frustrated and tired of being embarrassed on the big stage.

  2. Got to love absurd fans, Lol!! I think Au, Tenn, Ark, & Ken all need a new coach! Tenn is the only one of’em, IN MY OPINION, that has a real change at keeping his job.. After Kiffin left Tenn in the shambles, he did, actually Dooley has done a pretty good job, but I will say, if he dont win at least 7 or 8 games next year, including at least 1 SEC team they shouldnt beat, then he will be gone!! As for the rest, FIRE them!!! I am a Bama Fan, I hope they keep them all, LOL!!!! RTR

  3. Realistically, all four of the programs need to make a change.
    1. Arkansas will make a change
    2. Auburn should make a change if Chizik doesn’t upset Alabama (not happening)
    3. Kentucky will make a change
    4. Tennessee should make a change. Dooley O’fer against ranked teams. HaHa

    • bmay119
      Commented : 1 year ago

      I completely agree with that. Tennessee looked promising in the preseason, but they haven’t shown up in SEC play. Kentucky and Arkansas are, obvious changes, but I think Chizik will stick around down at AU.

  4. I definitely think Chizik’s days are numbered, and John L. Smith hasn’t got a chance. Even with all the turmoil, Arkansas should be better than they are with the talent they have.

    I’m not sure that there would have been any coach that UT could have hired 3 years ago that would have fared much better. Maybe a couple of the close ones would have been won, and the KY debacle wouldn’t have happened, but, apart from that, UT’s cupboard was just too bare after several years of mismanagement by Fulmer, followed by Kiffin’s sudden departure. As a Vol, I’ve been disappointed by the SEC games this season, but I’d support giving Dooley one more year, if not two, since the athletic dept. is already in the hole. At least next year they’ve finished paying Phil off.

  5. Get dooley out and welcome kirby smart to knoxville. The money the vols are losing because of their poor performance on the field surely will total the buy out of his contract over time

  6. I think Dooley is the only one who stays after this season. He was dealt a tough hand at UT and seems to be making progress, although maybe not at the pace that some Vol fans want. Jon, I liked your list of candidates at the end of the Arkansas writeup. Who, in your opinion, should be on the other schools’ lists?

    • I agree with the list, but I was confused, is that list just for Arkansas?? Btw, Chizik will certainly be gone. The damage there has been done, Auburn people will not continue to be embarassed on and off the field like they have the last couple of years. National Championship can’t save his job at this point.

  7. I think Dooley and Chizik get one more season. The Tennessee situation was an absolute mess. Dooley is making progress from where they were in his first season. It may not be as quick as fans and boosters want, but they are a better team. If they replace Dooley this off-season then they will admit that they made a mistake and will be setting the program back at least three more years. Additionally, if they fire Dooley, it will be telling any potential coach that they will only have three years to turn it around or they too will be gone. That will turn off many top coaching candidates regardless how big a name and pocketbook Tennessee may have.

    I just don’t see Chizik booted two seasons after winning the BCS Championship.. Yes the past two teams have been really, really bad. The nearly $8 million buyout will probably make them hold on one more year.

    John L. is not being fired. He only had a contract for this season. His contract will not be renewed. As a Razorback fan, I would like to see Charlie Strong leading the Hogs next year.

    • You make many good points, and Charlie Strong would be a good choice. The $7.5M buyout for Chizik is chump change for AU if they decide he needs to go. Besides the fine print says paid over several years, and offset by any earnings he may be making…and he is contractually liable to look for work. Could actually wind up costing them very little (comparatively).

  8. AU should give Chizik a LIFETIME contract!!! Roll Tide Roll!
    John L. Smith – GONE
    Joker Phillips – GONE
    Dooley – Deserves one more year considring the MESS he inherited (much worse than originally thought)

  9. one thing is for sure…ole miss sucks

  10. Gene Chizik makes Derek Dooley look like Vince Lombardi.

  11. Kevin
    Commented : 1 year ago

    I’m not sold on Kirby Smart as a sure hire. He’s probably fine, but I think Saban makes him look good. I’m sure he’s get hired somewhere soon, and we’ll find out. I’d love to see Holgersen in the SEC. Tennessee is too conservative to hire him, but how about Arkansas?

    • Holgersen would fit well with Arkansas’s offensive style but I don’t know if he’ll leave WVU just yet… If the money’s right though, that’s a different story.

    • Holgersen is a great coach, but what we need at Arkansas is a more defensive-minded coach, IMO. If we want to keep making strides towards a SEC West Championship-caliber team, we really need a better defense. Our offense gets the job done, and our defense doesn’t. And I know our last two opponents aren’t the best yard-stick, but our D has been much improved over the last few games due to better substitution scheme for the D-line, but our Secondary still needs work, but hey, injuries happen and so do Freshmen…

      I like Jon’s list for potential coaches at Arkansas, but again, I would lose Briles and Patterson from the list since we really need defense, and obviously the Big12(thousand point conference) isn’t a defensive conference. I’m not really keen on Strong either, but for a different reason…..we seem to have a bad relationship with ex-Louisville coaches (Smith, Petrino), why would we wanna try for strike 3? But Davis and Smart are great picks, and I would love it if we could steal away Dan Mullins from Miss St, but I don’t see that happening after how well they are doing this year. But he has done wonders for that program.

  12. Arkansas of course. I think Chizik prob goes unless they just blow the second half of the season out of the water. Honestly though he hasn’t done much his whole career except the one season with Cam and that great offense they had. I don’t see why Kentucky would let Joker hang around another season. Things wouldn’t get ant better next season. It use to be that coaches had 5 years to turn a program around. Now days 3 season can be it. Dooley I think prob gets one more season to turn things around. The fan base tho is putting a lot of pressure on Tenn to making a change.