Twelve is such a small number to try to fit every shocking moment from the past decade in the SEC but why not try. These are the twelve moments from the last ten years that made my mouth drop open and nearly hit the floor. Some are games, some are coaching hires or dismissals and some are just moments that stuck out in my mind. But no matter what you think of them they are the moments that shocked me and keep in mind they are not ranked or numbered in any way.
Steve Spurrier stepping down from Florida to go to the NFL
One of my favorite SEC coaches was Steve Spurrier. I speak about him in the past tense because even though he is still in the SEC, the Spurrier in Columbia is not the Spurrier we had in Gainesville. January 4th, 2002 after a BCS bowl win over the University of Maryland he stepped down shocking the University of Florida and the rest of the country. He has not been the same since stepping down as the Gators head ball coach while taking over the Redskins in the league and replacing Lou Holtz at South Carolina. Maybe it was the talent in the state of Florida, maybe it was coaching in a place he loved, but he isn’t the same HBC and the College Football world was shocked when he decided to move on from his alma mater.
Auburn left out of the 2004 National Championship Game
The odd trait with this moment is that at the time it really wasn’t shocking at all, but after five seasons and four SEC BCS Championships in a row it seems pretty ridiculous that any SEC Champion, nevermind an undefeated one, be left out of the BCS Championship game. At the time there were two better teams ahead of Auburn, Oklahoma and USC, and if you ignore the upcoming sanctions for USC and forget how bad Oklahoma was blow out, those two teams deserved that game as much as Auburn. Looking back it seems odd or shocking that the best team in the best conference that has never lost a BCS Championship game was left out and not given the opportunity to play for it. Back in 2004 it didn’t shock anyone, now it would be unthinkable.
David Cutcliffe Fired at Ole Miss
The only people that may have understood this are Ole Miss fans because the rest of the SEC was caught off guard with the dismissal of David Cutcliffe and the subsequent hiring of Ed Orgeron. Cutcliffe was let go after his first losing season for the Rebels which came after five straight bowl games and a 10-win season the year before. Cutcliffe did not have a huge personality or recruit particularly well but he won games. The entire situation was handled poorly and the hiring of Ed Orgeron was equally as shocking as the firing of Cutcliffe. That move set back the Ole Miss program and the hiring of Houston Nutt seems to have put them on the same path they had with Cutcliffe five years ago.
The Mike and Mike Situation at Alabama
Mike Price coached roughly six months at Alabama, one spring practice, one National Signing day and zero games. He was unceremoniously fired for an alleged indiscretion in Pensacola, Florida with a stripper. It was an odd hire from the start with Price being a west coast guy with no real connections to the Southeast or Alabama but being forced to hire a head coach in May was an even worse situation for the Crimson Tide. Former Alabama quarterback Mike Shula was surprisingly hired as the next head coach at Alabama which was almost as shocking as the firing of Mike Price earlier in the month.
The Palmetto Brawl
Two words come to mind with regards to the Clemson/South Carolina brawl in 2004…the first is shocking and the second is embarrassing. When watching this melee ensue between two rivals my mouth had to be picked up off the floor. It was so sad watching Lou Holtz run around the field trying to reign in his players as they fought with Clemson players. It was hard to watch and hard to believe that Lou Hotlz’s last game as a coach will be remembered for a brawl against Clemson. Even more shocking is that his mentor, Woody Hayes, went out the same way…losing a game to Clemson that ended in a fight. The only difference is that Holtz didn’t throw the first punch.
The 2001 SEC Championship Game
One of the most shocking upsets of the last decade was this Championship game between LSU and Tennessee. The Volunteers came in ranked number two in the AP poll, Coaches Poll and the BCS rankings while the Fighting Tigers were only ranked 21 in the AP. A Tennessee win meant a trip to the National Championship game, Phil Fulmer’s second in 4 years, but the 31-20 loss to LSU could be thought of as the start of Fulmer’s downfall. He did last another 7 seasons in Knoxville, but his team never again made it into the BCS discussion even though Tennessee did play in 2 more SEC Championship games after 2001. It was a devastating loss for Tennessee, an incredible win for LSU and one of the most shocking upsets of the last decade.
LSU’s 2007 National Championship
Undefeated in regulation but two losses in games that went to three overtimes make the 2007 LSU team the most controversial and shocking BCS Champion. I would agree that LSU was the best team in the country that year, but unless we have a playoff there is no reason any championship team should have two losses. Not to mention two losses to teams that both finished the year with five losses, but there has to be a champion each year. The only one loss team that was an option that year was Kansas, but they were not really a BCS Championship caliber team. Never would I have thought that a two loss team would win the BCS Championship and hopefully it never happens again.
The Mitch Mustain Situation
The story of Mitch Mustain is probably one of the most disappointing and shocking from the last decade. A young man that grew up in Arkansas, starting as a true freshmen for his home state’s school with his high school coach calling the offensive plays as the newly hired Offensive Coordinator and it didn’t even last a year. OC Gus Malzahn left to go to Tulsa, the family drama between the Mustain family and Houston Nutt began, Mitch transferred with high school teammate Damian Williams to Southern Cal and has yet to start another college football game. The situation probably cost Houston Nutt his job, cost Mustain his future playing college football and cost Arkansas a SEC Championship. The way the whole thing played out was more and more shocking with each detail and none of it was good for anyone.
Urban Meyer Resigning/Stepping Down/Leave of Absence
This one is still fresh in my mind since it was only three months ago but I was sitting in a bar in Orlando with my wife on vacation when we heard the news. My phone immediately blew up with text messages and calls from co-workers and friends. Each one of them was shocked at what they were watching and were trying to get answers out of me and I had none. I was just as surprised as the next guy and sadly immediately thought the worst for Meyer. Luckily it was not a worst case scenario and his health issue was not anything life-threatening. Even though he is now back and looks to be coaching this spring and probably this fall…that one moment in December shocked us all.
Vanderbilt’s first bowl game in 25 years
Twenty five years without a bowl game, let me repeat that…Vanderbilt went 25 years without playing in a bowl game. There is not a tougher coaching job in the country than Vanderbilt because of the academic requirements and the fact they get beat up by the SEC for eight games a year. But since Bobby Johnson took over the program they have started to really hold their own, develop players that are desired by the NFL and they got their first bowl victory since 1955. It was shocking that Vanderbilt made it to a bowl game after 25 seasons and even more shocking that they won their first bowl game in over 60 years against Boston College in the Music City Bowl.
The Bluegrass Miracle
How many crazy games was LSU involved in the first decade of the 21st century? Not everyone is going to agree with me on this one, but to me this game had the most memorable play from the past decade. There are so many moments that stand out in just seconds of football, the premature gatoradation of Guy Morris, Marcus Randall putting all of his strength into the hail mary pass, the ball being tipped in the air by Michael Clayton, Devery Henderson catching the tipped pass and running through the endzone, the Jefferson Pilot crew flashing the final score Kentucky 30 – LSU 27, the look on Jared Lorenzen’s face and the celebration that ensued. No moment can top the drama, heartbreak and excitement that came with that one play. It wasn’t for a championship, it wasn’t for a division title, it was just the most shocking moment in any game I have ever seen.
The Cocktail Party End-zone Celebration
Georgia’s Mark Richt can be described in many positive ways…loyal, reserved, hard-working, level-headed, etc and that is why the stomping incident in October of 2007 was so shocking. There are only two coaches that I would not have expected to pull a stunt like this allowing the entire team to celebrate in the opponents’ end-zone after a touchdown, Mark Richt or Bobby Johnson. That celebration helped UGA win the game over their rival Florida, but they have not come close to beating the Gators the last two seasons. The Cocktail Party was always a game that Florida and Georgia players, coaches and fans point to each year, but it is obvious that Urban Meyer has not gotten over that stunt and won’t any time soon.
I know there were more than 12 Shocking Moments from the last decade in the SEC, which moment do you remember more than these? E-mail
me Brian Harbach