I’m really not a “hot-seat list” guy. I promise.

To me, those conversations often lack nuance. Too many people who consume the sport assume that every coach who doesn’t meet preseason expectations should be punished by being fired when, in reality, there’s much more that goes into it.

Is the athletic director who hired the coach still there? Is the buyout through the roof? Has recruiting fallen off?

Those are just a few of the factors that go into whether a coach’s job is on the line. I argued last year that there wasn’t any SEC head coach who was on the hot seat, and then what happened? Mississippi State and Texas A&M fired their head coach, one of whom got 10 games, and the other got $76 million to not work.

So what does that mean for 2024? Well, it means we have some situations that don’t appear particularly promising.

These are the 4 SEC coaches who will show up on a whole bunch of hot-seat lists entering the new SEC:

Sam Pittman, Arkansas

For my money, there’s not a more likable coach in America than Pittman. That could be why he got a Year 5 instead of getting the boot after a wildly disappointing Year 4. Pittman’s main area of expertise, the offensive line, was a major liability and his offensive coordinator hire, Dan Enos, was a total flop. Arkansas played 4 home games against Power 5 competition and got outscored 141-58. Mind you, that was against the likes of BYU, Mississippi State, Auburn and Mizzou. Not exactly murderer’s row.

Hunter Yurachek made the somewhat surprising move of giving his hire another year. The buyout could vary depending on what kind of year Pittman has. His performance-based buyout means that if his overall 2021-present record is .500 or above, he’ll get 75% of his remaining contract. His 2021-present record is currently 20-18, which could put his buyout in the $12-13 million range. If Pittman’s 2021-present record is below .500, he’d only get somewhere between $8-9 million of that remaining deal.

The good news for Pittman? The true road games on that schedule aren’t nearly as bad as they could be (at Oklahoma State, at Auburn, at Mississippi State, at Mizzou). The bad news for Pittman? Three-year starting QB KJ Jefferson is still making up his mind about the transfer portal. Star tailback Rocket Sanders already entered the portal, as did standout linebacker Chris Paul Jr.

The most interesting news for Pittman? He got Bobby Petrino to come back to Fayetteville to run the Arkansas offense, a decade after Petrino was part of one of the wilder exits in the history of the sport. Petrino might be tasked to work wonders if the Hogs struggle to reel in some big fish from the portal.

Billy Napier, Florida

Man. Where do we begin? How about this:

Yikes. That’s a bad look for anyone, much less for a coach who is coming off a 5-7 Year 2 with what’s being called the most difficult schedule in America on deck. You can get away with that stuff at a place like Kansas or Vanderbilt. You can’t get away with that at Florida. That we know based on the fact that no coach in the post-Urban Meyer era has lasted more than 4 seasons.

Napier’s $31 million buyout probably saved him, as did the fact that the athletic director who hired him (Scott Stricklin) is still the one pulling the strings on that decision. But in Year 3, it’s fair to wonder what the path to Year 4 looks like. We know that the 2024 class is loaded, despite some November de-commitments. We also know that if you’re relying on a freshman class to save your job, you probably won’t have a job to save.

That’s the issue. Napier’s track record with portal guys was impressive with the likes of Ricky Pearsall, Montrell Johnson and 2022’s offensive line anchor, O’Cyrus Torrence, were all hits. Even Graham Mertz was better than I expected this season. To navigate that schedule, though, Napier looks like he’ll need half a dozen major portal hits coupled with Mertz taking a significant step forward as a downfield passer.

Oh, and there’s another elephant in the room. Napier still hasn’t fired himself as Florida’s offensive play-caller. If that doesn’t change after 2 years of frustratingly inconsistent offense, Napier is digging his own grave. And even if it does change, go look at A&M. Jimbo Fisher brought in the aforementioned Petrino as his first offensive play-caller, he improved the offense by 12 points per game … and Fisher was still fired.

Napier’s only hope is that expectations for Year 3 are so low that he quiets some doubters with an 8-4 season. Easier said than done.

Clark Lea, Vanderbilt

This is going to sound harsh, but I don’t know that anybody has a path to success at Vandy in this era of the sport. I know, I know. The stadium renovation that’s been 4 decades in the making is off and running, and Lea is a Vandy guy who understands that program. That’s important.

You know what else is important? Acquiring and keeping talent. In this era of the transfer portal, that’s never been more daunting for a program like Vandy, which can’t exactly open its doors in the way that many others do in the SEC. As of this writing, Vandy has 17 players in the portal, including promising freshman receiver London Humphreys, starting running back Patrick Smith, the versatile Jayden McGowan, opening day starting QB AJ Swann and most notably, leading receiver Will Sheppard. Including defensive starters like Ethan Barr, De’Rickey Wright and Nate Clifton, Vandy had 12 of its 22 starters from the regular-season finale either enter the transfer portal, run out of eligibility, retire or declare for the NFL Draft (via The Tennesseean).

Lea got a vote of confidence from AD Candice Storey Lee, who said that he’s the coach “until I say otherwise.” That’s never good. Neither is going winless in conference play in Year 3, even at a place like Vandy. Even though Lea’s extension through 2029 was reported at SEC Media Days in Nashville, punting on a coach who has struggled to develop and keep talent could be in the works if it’s another depressing season in conference play.

Shane Beamer, South Carolina

This one is tricky because while Beamer has certainly checked a lot of the “right man for the job” boxes, there’s still concern that South Carolina was that thin in Year 3. How much of that is NIL budget vs. developmental issues? That depends. It could be both.

Going 5-7 is one thing. But going 5-7 when Spencer Rattler was the best version of himself and the OC hire, Dowell Loggains, worked out is even more frustrating. South Carolina didn’t have an SEC offensive line or backfield. It lacked the cover guys that it needed in the secondary, too. Things got worse when preseason All-SEC selection Juice Wells entered the portal, as did featured back Mario Anderson. All of those things come back to the head coach.

Beamer’s future could come down to deciding to go all in with LaNorris Sellers at quarterback. If he had been 7-5 in Year 3, that’s probably an easier decision. Instead, the Gamecocks missed a bowl game and now have questions galore. Then again, Beamer’s QB situation was one of the best in the SEC and it still ended up being a disappointing season.

If he doesn’t get some major hits in the portal, AD Ray Tanner could decide that a potential $13-14 million buyout is worth forking over to start fresh. Beamer is usually at his best when his back is against the wall — he won 8 games as an underdog in his first 3 seasons — and now would be as good a time as ever to continue that.