Between Thanksgiving dinner and your last turkey sandwich, the SEC went nuts
“It just means more.” That was the new motto SEC commissioner Greg Sankey unveiled at Media Days prior to the 2016 campaign.
Based on what we were all witness to Thanksgiving weekend, perhaps that slogan should be amended. “Maybe it means too much” is perhaps appropriate, although it does lack the self-importance for which fanatics of this conference are known.
On the field, not only did Auburn beating Alabama tilt the balance of power in the league, but it will reshape the eventual College Football Playoff rankings, too. While the SEC still has a chance to get two teams in the Final Four — the winner of the Auburn-Georgia rematch in the conference championship game goes — the Crimson Tide need help.
But off the field, that’s where turkey with family and friends turned into a food fight worthy of an “Animal House” remake.
Chip Kelly, the No. 1 target on the coaching carousel for a lot of schools, essentially said no to Tennessee and Florida to return to the profession with UCLA. On the proverbial food chain, the Volunteers and Gators are both above the Bruins.
However, reports have suggested that Kelly wants nothing to do with the pressure cooker that is life in this league. UT has gone full lynch mob on the three coaches — Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and Butch Jones — who followed Phillip Fulmer. UF discarded Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain quickly since neither was Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer.
Kelly also had the audacity to value things like, you know, sleep instead of being on the recruiting trail 24-7-365.
On Thanksgiving night, Ole Miss shocked Mississippi State to wrap up a lost season at .500. While the Rebels won’t be going to a bowl due to a self-imposed ban, the Bulldogs will now be playing in a less prestigious postseason game.
With the NCAA circling above and waiting to announce further sanctions — we could receive that news very soon — Matt Luke had the “interim” tag removed and is now the full-time coach in Oxford. Needless to say, the program was in no position to nab a big name with more experience, not with all the uncertainty on campus.
We knew that this was Luke’s first Egg Bowl as a head coach. What we didn’t know was that this would also be Dan Mullen’s last.
Not only did Florida swing and miss on Kelly, but UCF’s Scott Frost refused to even be interviewed. Again, reports have surfaced that the non-stop meat grinder associated with coaching in the SEC wasn’t attractive to the Nebraska alumnus.
Fortunately, the Gators ended up convincing Mullen to depart Starkville for Gainesville. In the end, he’s a home-run hire for athletic director Scott Stricklin — the two of them used to work together at MSU — even if he might have been his third choice. If he can turn the ‘Dogs into contenders in the West, then he can certainly get UF back on top in the East.
Neither Muschamp nor McElwain developed a quarterback. Mullen has Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald on his résumé.
Mullen (above) made a historically insignificant Mississippi State team dangerous in the toughest division in college football, but Bret Bielema wasn’t able to do that at Arkansas. The Razorbacks have more at their disposal, too.
After a close loss to Missouri — the trumped-up Battle Line Rivalry has actually produced some entertaining contests — Bielema was basically relieved of his duties in Fayetteville on the walk back to the locker room. A Hogs team that went from three to seven to eight victories in his first three seasons had dipped to 4-8 in Year 5.
Rumors swirled that Gus Malzahn could ditch Auburn for Arkansas, but that seems unlikely now with the Tigers in the title hunt.
Coming into 2017, Kevin Sumlin was sitting on the hottest seat in the conference at Texas A&M. Athletic director Scott Woodward made it known publicly that another 8-5 wouldn’t be good enough, so it was apparently nine wins or bust.
Following a 45-21 blowout at the hands of LSU, the Aggies wrapped up the schedule 7-5 — at one point they were 4-1, by the way — and now obviously can’t get to nine wins. Sumlin wasn’t able to remove himself from the chopping block and, as expected, got axed. He simply had too much success early and couldn’t repeat his 11-2 debut from 2012.
The money men in College Station are pursuing Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, although LSU came up empty on him twice.
All of that pales in comparison to what went down at Tennessee, though. With the Volunteers falling once again to Vanderbilt, they went winless in league play to finish dead last in the East and lost eight games for the first time.
Jones had already been pink-slipped two weeks ago, so UT put its hopes and dreams on a decade-long dance with Jon Gruden. Predictably — to people outside Knoxville, at least — he’s staying in the broadcast booth. Kelly and Frost weren’t interested. While the Vols and Mullen got close, the Gators came calling. He chose Florida instead.
In a seemingly panicked move with candidates disappearing fast, AD John Currie cut a deal with Greg Schiano.
What ensued on Rocky Top was nothing short of insanity. Schiano was once on Penn State’s staff with convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky, and while there’s no evidence proving Schiano was privy to Sandusky’s crimes, guilt by association ran amok.
Influential politicians got involved. Prominent members of the media got involved. In a matter of hours, the offer was yanked off the table — he might still be in line for compensation — thanks to social media and mob mentality. Were Tennessee fans really making a stand against evil? Or did they just go crazy because Schiano wasn’t Gruden?
The SEC has changed dramatically since you helped yourself to seconds of pumpkin pie. I’m not so sure it was for the better.