10 worst SEC hires of the BCS era
10. Will Muschamp, Florida
Will Muschamp was a polarizing figure at Florida, much the same way his defenses differed from his offenses.
The coach went 28-21 in four wildly under-achieving seasons in Gainesville that saw his defense push around opponents — only to see the same done to his offense.
Outside of an 11-2 campaign in 2012, Muschamp’s Gators struggled for big wins and for some easy ones. You’re not going to last very long at Florida (or anywhere) if you lose to Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern in the same season.
Significant injuries took their toll during the Muschamp era, but the coach was always an offensive coordinator, quarterback or playmaker away from becoming a force in the SEC East. But Muschamp’s ground-and-pound offense never was a good philosophical fit in Gainesville.
Where he is now: Muschamp is the defensive coordinator at Auburn.
9. Lane Kiffin, Tennessee
The name Lane Kiffin would induce a lot more rage in Tennessee if Derek Dooley never had set foot on campus. Still, it’s not wise to mention Kiffin in Knoxville, unless it’s in regards to some form of effigy.
Kiffin was supposed to be the heir to the Tennessee throne after the departure of the legendary Phillip Fulmer. By the end of the Johnny Majors era and almost through the entirety of the Fulmer days, the Volunteers were a staple in the AP Top 25. Then Kiffin took over and slammed the brakes on that tradition with a 7-6 season, which marked the first time in 25 years that Tennessee never was ranked in the poll. The year actually represented an improvement from the previous campaign, which saw the Vols struggle down the stretch and lead to Fulmer’s departure.
Off the field, however, Kiffin was a walking soundbite which often came back to bite him in the form of an apology. He managed to wrongfully accuse Florida’s Urban Meyer of recruiting violations and allegedly once told Alshon Jeffery that he’d end up pumping gas for a living like everyone else who signs with South Carolina.
Kiffin split after one year for Southern California leaving in his wake a volatile campus that literally rioted upon his departure.
Where he is now: Kiffin is the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Alabama.
8. Ron Zook, Florida
Between Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer at Florida there was Ron Zook — the man who inspired the first-ever custom website to call for a coach’s firing after a Florida student created fireronzook.com in 2002. Zook was doomed from Day One trying to replace a legend. Florida lost more home games under Zook in three seasons than they did during the dozen years Spurrier was at the helm.
The Gators under Zook had a special knack for ripping their fans hearts out with gut-wrenching fourth-quarter collapses. Still, Zook finished his short tenure in Gainesville nine games over. 500. He technically took the Gators to bowl games every year, even if he had already departed for Illinois before Florida’s 2004 bowl game.
Where he is now: Zook is the special teams coordinator for the Green Bay Packers
7. Brad Scott, South Carolina
Brad Scott experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows during his tenure in Columbia. Scott was the first coach to win a bowl game in South Carolina history when his Gamecocks defeated West Virginia in the 1995 CarQuest Bowl. Four years later he was out of a job, courtesy of a 1-10 record — the worst mark in program history.
It was Scott who set off the Gamecocks’ 21-game losing streak, dropping the last 10 games of the 1998 season. Lou Holtz came in and he, too, lost another 11 games with Scott’s players.
Want to tank your reputation even worse among Gamecock fans? Stink as a coach and then jump ship to Clemson for 11 years as an assistant coach.
Where he is now: Scott is retired, having last served as tight ends and offense line coach at Clemson from 1999 through 2011.
6. Mike Shula, Alabama
Alabama gave Mike Shula a six-year, $1.8 million contract extension after a 10-win, Cotton Bowl championship 2005 season. A year later, they handed him his walking papers.
The son of legendary coach Don Shula, Mike always seemed to underachieve at Alabama, be it because of NCAA sanctions, injuries or just plain inexperience. Shula finished with a 26-23 mark, only to see the NCAA vacate 16 wins from the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
The coach was a steadying presence after Alabama was forced to fire Mike Price for off-the-field issues. But he just wasn’t what the program needed. The Tide went a combined 1-7 against rivals Tennessee and Auburn under Shula, which only served to ring the death knell on his time in Tuscaloosa louder.
Where he is now: Shula is the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.
5. Joker Phillips, Kentucky
Kentucky was an up-and-coming program when Joker Phillips took over for Rich Brooks. The Wildcats owned a four-year bowl streak, and even made their first appearance on the AP poll since 1984. Then the joke turned unfunny.
Phillips made a bowl game during his inaugural campaign as head of the Wildcats, but he did it with Brooks’ players and what ended up as a losing record for the year. The demise was swift from there as Kentucky won just five and then two games, respectively, in 2011 and 2012.
The Kentucky football program has yet to recover, although Mark Stoops appears to have the program pointing north.
It wasn’t all missed blocks and poor tackling in Lexington that define the Phillips era. At least under his watch the Wildcats snapped their 26-game losing streak to Tennessee, which dated back to 1984.
Where he is now: Phillips is the wide receivers coach for the Cleveland Browns.
4. Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss
Ed Orgeron found out the hard way that “California cool” doesn’t exactly fly in Mississippi. The former Ole Miss coach, who was anything but your typical laid back Californian, attempted to install USC’s offense after arriving in Oxford from the sandy shores of the Golden State.
It’s almost confounding to think that Orgeron went 10-25, won only three SEC games and beat only two teams above .500 considering the talent he had on those Rebels teams. You have to ask yourself, how did Ed Orgeron ever lose at Ole Miss with Patrick Willis, Mike Wallace, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Dexter McCluster, Michael Oher, Jamarca Sanford and Greg Hardy?
Where he is now: Orgeron is the defensive line coach at LSU.
3. Mike Price, Alabama
It was almost as if Mike Price was heading back to college in some sort of twisted Rodney Dangerfield way when he took over as head coach at Alabama in December of 2002. Actually, it was more like spring break.
Alabama canned Price after one spring practice as repeated stories of his carousing in Tuscaloosa and Pensacola, Fla., bars were brought to the school’s and public’s attention. Before Alabama hired Price, the NCAA hit the Crimson Tide hard with sanctions, including a two-year bowl ban. Bama eventually turned to Mike Shula to right the ship, but Shula only kept the program on its pre-Nick Saban path of mediocrity.
Where he is now: Price retired after the 2012 season; going 48-61 in nine seasons as head coach at Texas-El Paso.
2. Derek Dooley, Tennessee
You don’t have to scroll far on a Tennessee comments thread to find someone bemoaning former Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley. And rightfully so. The Dooley era in Tennessee was the opposite of Rocky Top … it was rock bottom for the storied program.
Dooley finished 15-21 in three seasons in Knoxville and saw his win totals drop by one each year from six in 2010 down to four in 2012 when he was mercifully stripped of his UT orange. You have to go back exactly 100 years in the annals of Tennessee football to 1912 when the Volunteers under head coaches Zora Clevenger (1912, 1911), Alex Stone (1910) and George Levene (1909) last finished .500 or below for four-straight years.
Poor recruiting doomed Dooley. His futility on the recruit trail landed him zero offensive linemen in Tennessee’s 2012 class. The cruel irony is that legendary recruiter Nick Saban, while still at LSU in 2000, hired Dooley to be the Tigers’ recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach.
Where he is now: Dooley is the wide receivers coach for the Dallas Cowboys.
If you can get past Dooley’s breakdown of World War II, you’re a better person than me:
1. John L. Smith, Arkansas
Bobby Petrino wrecked his motorcycle and subsequently lost his job as Arkansas head coach after sordid details about extramarital affairs and professional favors surfaced within the Razorbacks program. So did Arkansas play it safe with their new coach or did they hire a guy whose hobbies include paragliding in Switzerland, running with the bulls in Pamplona and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?
You know they went with the latter and subsequently crashed like an ill-fated paraglider.
Smith had the talent. The 2012 Razorbacks had a roster that ranked No. 8 in the country early in the season and featured four future NFL draft picks in QB Tyler Wilson, RBs Dennis Johnson and Knile Davis, as well as WR Cobi Hamilton.
It wasn’t like he was a novice coach. After all, Smith was 83-73 in 13 seasons at Utah State (16-18), Louisville (41-21) and Michigan State (22-26) prior to Arkansas. Smith had losing streaks of four and three games in 2012 (including a loss to Louisiana-Monroe) and by the time the news broke about him filing for bankruptcy over more than $40 million in failed real estate deals, the Razorbacks had seen enough.
Where he is now: Smith is the head coach at Fort Lewis College (Durango, Colo.).