10 coaching moves SEC programs would like to forget
Will Muschamp was formally introduced as South Carolina’s head coach Monday, ending the coaching carousel that has gripped the SEC for the past few weeks.
The Gamecocks joined Missouri and Georgia as SEC East programs hiring fresh faces as they begin looking ahead to 2016. Will they work out? It remains to be seen.
Not every SEC hire does. There have been some that the programs and their fans bases would just as soon forget.
Here’s a look at 10 of the SEC’s worst coaching moves, a dubious distinction that sometimes extends well beyond wins and losses.
10. Will Muschamp (Florida, 2011-2014): Muschamp was the “it” assistant coach on everybody’s radar when he was the defensive coordinator at Texas who grew tired of waiting for Mack Brown to retire. He succeeded the fired Ron Zook at Florida and got off to a strong start in Gainesville, leading the Gators to 11 wins and a Sugar Bowl berth in 2012 despite a lackluster offense.
Things quickly went south from there as a horrid offense just got worse, leading to seven consecutive losses in 2013, including one to FBS foe Georgia Southern for the most embarrassing setback in program history.
Muschamp went 11-13 in his two final seasons at Florida while burning through three offensive coordinators in his four years in Gainesville, including Kurt Roper, who will rejoin him at South Carolina.
Here’s to better luck this time around the SEC.
9. Ed Orgeron (Ole Miss, 2005-07): Scoring was the major problem during the three years Orgeron oversaw things in Oxford. The team won just three SEC games in three years despite the presence of future NFL players like Patrick Willis, Mike Wallace, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Dexter McCluster, Michael Oher, Jamarca Sanford and Greg Hardy.
8. Joker Phillips (Kentucky 2010-12): Promoted from within following the Rich Brooks era at Kentucky, Brooks inherited a team that had played in four consecutive bowl games and included talents such as quarterbacks Jared Lorenzen and Andre Woodson and the do-it-all Randall Cobb. Phillips went to a bowl game in his first year but couldn’t sustain that success and a 2-10 record in 2012 ended his tenure.
7. Brad Scott (South Carolina, 1994-98): Scott was a sought-after commodity after serving as the offensive coordinator for the 1993 Florida State team that won the national championship with the likes of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Charlie Ward, tailback Warrick Dunn, fullback William Floyd, future NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks among others. That success, however, never really translated at South Carolina after leading the Gamecocks to their first bowl win in his first year.
The program endured three consecutive seasons hovering close to .500 before losing its final 10 games of 1998 to start a dubious 21-game losing skid in Columbia.
6. Mike Shula (Alabama, 2003-06): Apparently coaching genius is not hereditary. Sure the Crimson Tide program was feeling the weight of NCAA infractions when Shula arrived, but there was always the feeling that the son of NFL coaching legend Don Shula was in way over his head. Alabama went a combined 1-7 against Tennessee and Auburn under Shula. Just consider that Nick Saban is 13-3 since then. Shula led his team to 10 wins in 2005, but Alabama later vacated wins in 2005 and 2006 due to additional NCAA infractions under Shula’s watch.
5. Curley Hallman (LSU, 1991-94): Hallman owns the distinction of being the only LSU coach to never record a winning record or coach in a bowl game. He was at the helm in 1992, when the Bayou Bengals went a disastrous 2-9 to account for the worst season in program history. A 58-3 beatdown at Tiger Stadium at the hands of Florida in 1993 may have been the lowest point in program annals.
4. Lane Kiffin (Tennessee, 2009): It’s hard to fathom any coach less suited to living and coaching in Knoxville any more than Lane Kiffin. He was a never a good fit from the outset and quickly wore out his welcome with his tendency to speak before thinking. He accused then-Florida coach Urban Meyer of cheating, along the way violating an SEC rule that prohibits coaches from mentioning specific recruits by name. Naturally, Kiffin was wrong, earning him a public reprimand from SEC commissioner Mike Slive. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley also demanded, and received, a public apology from Kiffin. And, yes, it was somewhat amusing to the rest of us when Kiffin told an eventual South Carolina signee he would end up pumping gas for the rest of his life if he played for the Gamecocks, but the lack of class didn’t exactly endear him to anybody. Kiffin bolted back to Southern Cal after one year, setting the stage for the Derek Dooley disaster at Tennessee.
3. Derek Dooley (Tennessee, 2010-12): The son of Georgia coaching icon Vince Dooley proved completely overmatched during a disastrous tenure as the Vols head coach. Dooley failed to sign a single offensive lineman in 2012 and left Knoxville with a 5-19 SEC record over his three seasons, listing a Music City Bowl loss to North Carolina in 2010 as his only trip to the postseason.
2. Mike Price (Alabama, 2003): This hiring decision ended up in disaster before Price ever took the field for the Crimson Tide. Price had several drunken incidents near campus — including a few times he allegedly propositioned college-age students at a bar and at his condo — before a trip to Pensacola, Fla., that ended his brief coaching tenure in Tuscaloosa.
A Sports Illustrated story in May 2003 alleged that Price allegedly visited a strip club multiple times, spending hundreds in tips, taking dancers to semi-private rooms, breaking the rules about touching the performers and propositioning several to have sex in his hotel later that night. One of the women alleged that she engaged in a threesome with Price at his hotel: “We started screaming ‘Roll Tide!’ and he was yelling back, ‘It’s rolling, baby, it’s rolling.’”
Later, one of the women reportedly tried to charge nearly $1,000 in room service to one of Price’s cards. The Tide fired Price after he went through one spring practice. The timing was awful for the program, which already was going through an NCAA punishment.
1. Bobby Petrino (Arkansas, 2008-11): It’s hard to feel sorry for any program that willingly chooses to hire someone as morally-challenged as Petrino.
Yes, he wins, but cast your lot with the devil at your own peril as the Razorbacks found out the hard way in 2011 when the married father of four children was found to have not only hired his mistress, but to have lied about it.
But it was par for the course for Petrino, who had first made national news back while the head coach at Louisville a few years earlier when he secretly flew to Auburn to interview for the Tigers coaching job while Tommy Tuberville was still there.
Petrino had become a sought-after national name by summer 2006 when he promised he wouldn’t look elsewhere and signed a 10-year deal to stay with Louisville, only to jump ship to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons a few months later. His disastrous stint with the Falcons in 2007 lasted less than a full season, with Petrino meekly skipping out of town after leaving a note in every player’s locker after 13 games.
He has a clear track record of dubious moral character, but the win-starved Razorbacks took him anyway. And became a national joke as a result.