Spring 2011 - Ranking The SEC Coaches
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier
Posted Apr 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ball Coach. There's no question that Steve Spurrier is a legend, but turning 66 today and with speculation that he might not coach for too much longer, would you want him to take over your program? CFN ranks all the SEC coaches based on the future and not necessarily on how good they are right now.

2011 Spring Preview - No. 13
Ranking the SEC Coaches

Here's the drill. You have to hire a head coach right now to lead your program for the next several years; whom would you choose? Forget about what happened in the past and forget about legendary status - you wouldn't hire Joe Paterno to build the franchise - you want a guy who can be the head man for a long, long time.

2011 Spring Preview  

- No. 20 Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 1-10) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 11-20) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 21-30) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 31-40) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 41-50)  

- No. 19 - Is a smaller Big 12 better? 
- No. 18 - Who doesn't want to be Independent?  
- No. 17 - Should the SEC champ play in the BCS Champ?  

- No. 16 Top 50 Conf. Games (No. 1-10) 
- Top 50 Conference Games (No. 11-20) 
- Top 50 Conference Games (No. 21-30) 
- Top 50 Conference Games (No. 31-40) 
- Top 50 Conference Games (No. 41-50)  

- No. 15 The Preseason Polls Will Probably Be ...

Schedules and Too-Early Spring Picks
ACC | Big East
Big Ten | Big 12
C-USA | Ind | MAC   
Mountain West | Pac-12
SEC | Sun Belt | WAC 
Age is a factor, being able to recruit helps, and the ability to do big things with mediocre talent doesn't hurt. So with that in mind, this isn't a ranking of the best coaches in the SEC; this is a ranking of the coaches you'd want to take lead the program for the next five years or more.

- ACC Coaches | Big East Coaches | Big Ten Coaches
- Big 12 Coaches | C-USA Coaches | Ind Coaches
- MAC Coaches | M-West Coaches | Pac-12 Coaches
- SEC Coaches | Sun Belt Coaches | WAC Coaches

- Top 15 | No. 16 - 30 | No. 31 - 45 | No. 46 - 60
- No. 61 - 75 | No. 76 - 90 | No. 91 - 105 | Bottom 15 

  1. Nick Saban, Alabama
Career Record: 134-53-1

He's the Bill Belichick of the college football world becoming the gold standard of coaching … and the gold standard of curmudgeons. It's easy to forget that Alabama was merely okay before he came in and almost instantly turned the program into a superpower again, and it's easy to forget that his time in the NFL was merely a footnote. With two national titles at two schools, and more titles on the way in the near future, everything is rolling for the Tide and for Saban. The talent is flowing, the wins are coming, and it'll be a shock if the team is out of any preseason top five over the next several years. The only way the fun will stop is if there are sanctions of some sort, and Saban is even ahead of the game on that with complaints about the "pimp" element. No, he's not quite a legend yet - he still needs another decade of success to be able to file his application to be added to the Mount Rushmore of college football coaches -but he's on his way.
Hot Seat Status: They just unveiled a statue of the guy. While he has built up enough points to afford a few clunkers, if he's not winning big on a regular basis, and if losing to Auburn becomes an annual event, it wouldn't take too long before the pressure would tighten things up.
The Coaching Change Will Come … In 2021. Turning 60 on Halloween, he still has another decade-plus left in him. He's not going anywhere. The NFL is out, and what other college gig would he possibly be interested in?

2. Bobby Petrino, Arkansas
Career Record: 64-24

The Atlanta Falcons sure love him and the bridge to Louisville is still in ashes, but there's no denying one possible fact: Bobby Petrino might be the best college football head coach without a championship. In just seven years as a college head coach, after bouncing around from assistant job to assistant job, he has led the way to three double-digit win seasons and five seasons with nine wins or more. And it's not like he walked into a heater; he took what John L. Smith started at Louisville and made it better, and he stopped Arkansas from sliding once the Houston Nutt era fizzled out. Not only has he succeeded at both schools; he took each one to a BCS game in just a few years, and he might be just scratching the surface.
Hot Seat Status: None. He got the Hogs to the Sugar Bowl. He has a home for the next several years no matter what.
The Coaching Change Will Come … He's still at Arkansas? The Larry Brown of football coaches has a reputation of always having one eye on the next move, and while he's making close to $4 million a year and appears to be happy, he's only 50 and Hog fans will always be a little worried that a late-night-downlow-Auburn-meeting type of job interview is on the horizon.

3. Les Miles, LSU
Career Record: 90-38

The Mad Hatter, as Rece Davis has affectionately called the Tigers' head man, might seem like he has a lucky horseshoe up his, uh, sleeve, but he was successful at Oklahoma State, he has a national title at LSU, and for all the close calls and strange finishes, he wins. A phenomenal recruiter, he's doing a great job of keeping most of the top talents at home in the state's fertile recruiting ground, and while he and his staff might not be turning enough five-star prospects into NFL stars, the production is there at the collegiate level. The record is all that matters, and he's 62-17 at LSU with four seasons in six with 11 wins or more. Just as impressive, under Miles, LSU is 5-1 in bowls.
Hot Seat Status: Shockingly, the burner is on. Despite going 62-17 in Baton Rouge, and even with all the success he's having, the back-to-back rough years in 2008 and 2009 going 17-9 didn't sit all that well. And yes, despite going 11-2 last year, the poor play of the offense and the luck factor in a few games didn't help his cause.
The Coaching Change Will Come … Within five years. The Michigan job is filled, so he's not going back to his alma mater, but don't be shocked if Miles and LSU struggle a bit, at least by the way-high standards of SEC West title or bust. Five years from now the school might be looking to buy out a contract that runs out in 2017 if Miles can't get back to the SEC championship game.

4. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Career Record: 14-11

After all the success he had as Florida's offensive coordinator, and as the mentor to Alex Smith at Utah as well as Tim Tebow, the question was whether or not he'd be able to bring any success to Mississippi State, a decent program, but clearly a second-tier one in the loaded SEC West. It took a year and then everything started to click going 9-4 with a Gator Bowl win over Michigan. Now Mullen is one of the hottest young coaches in college football, and with one more big season his name will be on the short list for several bigger jobs. Considering he grew up in Pennsylvania, there will be plenty of speculation about his interest for one very, VERY big gig that'll have an opening in the near future.
Hot Seat Status: None. 39, he's young, talented, and Mississippi State would love nothing more than to keep him around for a long, long time. However, the Bulldogs mostly beat up on the mediocre last season – and that includes Florida and Georgia - so the record might not be as good over the next few seasons with a slightly tougher slate.
The Coaching Change Will Come … 2013. If he's not looking for real estate in Happy Valley within the next two years, he'll be off to another huge job where he won't have to beat his head against the Alabama/Auburn/Arkansas/LSU wall.

5. Gene Chizik, Auburn
Career Record: 27-24

Does Gus Malzahn come with? A wildly controversial hire after a disastrous two years at Iowa State, Chizik was instantly great at Auburn. No matter what anyone says, no matter what anyone thinks, all Chizik has to do is point to the 2010 scoreboard. He's only turning 50 later this year, he has a national championship, and he's been a phenomenal recruiter, so why isn't he higher on the list? There's just a little bit too much smoke around the program under his watch, and it's very, very possible that last year was a case of the planets aligning absolutely perfectly. From Cam Newton's emergence, to Nick Fairley going from being just a guy to a legend, to the disastrous season from the East, to being loaded with veterans while most of the other conference superpowers were rebuilding, everything went right. To put it another way; Chizik might be more Larry Coker than Bob Stoops.
Hot Seat Status: Absolutely none unless Real Sports has a Cam Newton interview in the works.
The Coaching Change Will Come … Within five years. Tonight, on 60 Minutes …

6. Will Muschamp, Florida
Career Record: 0-0

Call this the sky's the limit choice. Muschamp has been a hot head coaching commodity for years, and Florida was lucky enough to get him. He patiently waited his turn at Texas in a Jimbo Fisher-Bobby Bowden-like situation, but he couldn't pass up the chance to step into a heater of a hand at Florida considering Mack Brown isn't going anywhere. A high-energy, uber-talented defensive coach – it wasn't the D's fault Texas stunk last year – Muschamp is the right fit for the right job at the right time as the antidote to a burnt out Urban Meyer. A success everywhere he has been as an assistant, and doing it at the highest of levels at places like Auburn, LSU, and the Miami Dolphins, he's ready.
Hot Seat Status: Blazing. Meyer came up with what was considered to be one of the greatest recruiting classes in college football history two years ago, and it's not like the shelves weren't stocked with stars to begin with. Muschamp will get one year to get his feet wet, but the Gators as is are good enough to win the SEC East immediately.
The Coaching Change Will Come … 2021. Muschamp will turn 40 just before the season starts, and he'll be a star for the next decade. Florida is a pressure-cooker of a job, and while he'll handle it fine, there's a reason Steve Spurrier and Urban felt it was time do something else with their lives.

7. Mark Richt, Georgia
Career Record: 96-34

The guy has won 74% of his games despite playing in the toughest conference in America, he has won two SEC titles, and he's 7-3 in bowl games. His Bulldogs have finished in the top two in the East in seven of his ten years at the helm, he has been great at cranking out pro talent, and he's one of the good guys in the game. Unfortunately, after ten years, the music has stopped in the game of SEC national title musical chairs and Richt is still standing. Not winning BCS championships is one thing, but going 14-12 over the last two years is another. No one at Georgia has any real desire to see him go, but he has to come up with a whale of a bounceback season or else it might be best for all sides to get a fresh start.
Hot Seat Status: He's on the sun. Actually, he was on the hot seat three years ago when the Matthew Stafford-led team was supposed to be the star of the SEC and came up short; if Richt couldn't win it all then, when was it going to happen? Nine wins keeps him around. Eight wins probably gets the job done. Seven wins will usher in a new era.
The Coaching Change Will Come … At the end of the year. This 2011 Bulldogs aren't good enough to make the huge splash needed. Only 51, Richt will have his choice of mid-level head coaching jobs and can call his shot if he wants to be an assistant.

8. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Career Record: 186-73-2

As legendary as they come, the former Heisman winner is a Hall-of-Famer as a player, a superstar as an SEC head man, and one of the league's great personalities. Truly one of a kind, he's not showing any signs of slowing down with an SEC East title last year followed up by a loaded recruiting class that ranked among the best in the country. The only question is his commitment over the long haul considering he just turned 66 and notoriously likes his golf and his leisure time. How much longer is he going to want to do this? One thing is for certain, he has to go down as one of the greatest coaches in South Carolina's mediocre history, and he might be No. 1 on the list with one more big year.
Hot Seat Status: None. That wasn't the case last year as he failed to get the Gamecocks over the hump, but after last season's success he can ride off into the sunset wearing a USC visor.
The Coaching Change Will Come … In 2013. He has a loaded team that should be in the hunt for the SEC title this year, he'll want to see the latest recruiting class mature a bit in 2012, and then he'll be 68 and ready to kick back while spending his Saturdays as a whale of a studio analyst.

9. Houston Nutt, Ole Miss
Career Record: 132-82

Nutt might be the perfect example for this piece. What would happen if you wanted a viable, good coach from one strong program to rebuild another good program over the next five years? It's not like Nutt left Arkansas as a disaster, going 18-8 in his final two seasons, but it was simply time to go another direction for all sides. For Nutt, that meant the Ole Miss job, and while he went 9-4 in his first two seasons to show that he could get a team from Point A to Point B, he failed to make that next jump and the Rebels were a mediocre 4-8 last year. Since 1998, when he took over at Arkansas, Nutt has only had three losing seasons, but he has only coached five teams that finished in the final top 20 and has never finished higher than 14.
Hot Seat Status: More than it might seem. Remember, Ole Miss gave David Cutcliffe the boot after a rebuilding year. If Mississippi State keeps improving, and if Nutt considered unable to get the Rebels over the hump, or with another bad season, there could be a change sooner than later.
The Coaching Change Will Come … 2013. The West is so, so, SO nasty, and Nutt's Rebel teams will be fine. Considering Ole Miss will pay close to $3 million for the right coach, fine isn't going to be good enough.

10. Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Career Record: 23-27

The problem is that he hasn't actually done anything. He has a great family name and he has the right attitude, but the two biggest things going for him are 1) he's not Lane Kiffin and 2) he's a Dooley. It's not like he was a superstar assistant before getting the Louisiana Tech head coaching job - he was never an offensive or defensive coordinator – and he went 17-20 before getting the Tennessee gig. He's young - turning 43 this summer - he came up with a strong recruiting class, and things are pointed in the right direction, but now it's time to see results.
Hot Seat Status: Little. Again, not being Kiffin buys him plenty of time. He doesn't have to start rocking until 2013.
The Coaching Change Will Come … 2015. He'll do just enough to get everyone fired up, and he'll have one great season, but South Carolina is rocking, Florida is about to be Florida again, and Georgia isn't going to be so mediocre for too much longer. It'll be hard for the Vols to get through the pack in the East.

11. Joker Phillips, Kentucky
Career Record: 6-7

Rich Brooks came up with a few underappreciated miracles, but Phillips was one of the main reasons for the success as the UK offensive coordinator since 2004. Helped by a squishy-soft schedule, and a South Carolina collapse, he took the Wildcats to a bowl game in his first season and showed that the Brooks success might continue. Considering the nasty division UK is in, and the lack of talent compared to the top teams, everything will be fine as long as Phillips can get an extra game on a regular basis.
Hot Seat Status: Little. He's a bright, relatively young coach who has few expectations to deal with by SEC standards. He'll get a few years to see what he can do.
The Coaching Change Will Come … Within five years. Only 48, he'll either succeed and will go to a place he can win big on a regular basis, or the program will try to find someone who can make the basketball school more about football.

12. James Franklin, Vanderbilt
Career Record: 0-0

He's playing it straight. No more nice guy Vanderbilt for new head coach James Franklin; the offense is going to start producing under his watch. An extremely bright prospect who's one of the best recruiters in the game, he's a high riser who could make Vandy more competitive on his skills and drive alone. While he might have been a fourth or fifth choice for the vacancy, but he's what the program needed. He'll be an innovator who'll get to take a few chances that other coaches wouldn't.
Hot Seat Status: None. It's Vanderbilt. Four wins is a plus, five wins means the team is on the move, and six wins gets a contract extension.
The Coaching Change Will Come … Within five years. The wins won't be there, but his offenses will put up the numbers to get him noticed. Only 39, he has a long and productive career ahead.
- ACC Coaches | Big East Coaches | Big Ten Coaches
- Big 12 Coaches | C-USA Coaches | Ind Coaches
- MAC Coaches | M-West Coaches | Pac-12 Coaches
- SEC Coaches | Sun Belt Coaches | WAC Coaches

- Top 15 | No. 16 - 30 | No. 31 - 45 | No. 46 - 60
- No. 61 - 75 | No. 76 - 90 | No. 91 - 105 | Bottom 15