Fans across the Southeastern Conference are smiling this morning. Some have good reason. Some are just doing what fans do.
Here’s a list of who’s grinning today:
* Arkansas fans — Bobby Petrino is putting down roots in Fayetteville. Fresh off a BCS bowl berth, Arkansas inked its coach to a seven-year extension that will pay him $3.56 million per season. That makes Petrino the nation’s seventh-highest paid coach and the conference’s third-highest paid.
Toss in a $25-$34 million football facility being built at Petrino’s request and a mutual buyout that will stand at a whopping $18 million the next two seasons and it’s clear that the coach and the school are committed to building Arkansas long-term. (Petrino’s SEC West non-compete clause has also been extended to the entire SEC.)
* Mississippi State fans — Dan Mullen was high on Miami’s list of potential hires. His name then surfaced as a possibility at Florida, too. That’s a lot to worry about.
But in the end, the worrying was for nothing.
Did Mullen turn down Miami’s advances or did UM drop him from its list of candidates assuming Florida would chase him? Either way, Al Golden is the new coach in Coral Gables. And Mullen was apparently never a candidate at all for the Florida job.
* Florida fans — If you’d asked Florida fans which coach they wanted last week:
a) Bob Stoops
b) Chris Peterson
c) Dan Mullen
d) Will Muschamp
… you’d have heard a lot of pro-Stoops and pro-Peterson talk. However, now that Muschamp is the man, Muschamp is The Man. We’ve discussed the risk factors involved in hiring a first-time head coach, but let’s look at the positives. Florida just stole Texas’ coach-in-waiting. Florida just landed a guy with the kind of personality that fans and recruits love. And they got one of the brightest defensive minds in the country to boot.
Two schools’ fanbases are still waiting to learn whether to grin or grimmace:
* Vanderbilt fans — Commodore fans wanted a proven head coach. Golden, Troy Calhoun, Ken Niumatalolo were names that popped up early and often. None were interested. But landing a hot name in Gus Malzahn would be pretty darn good, too. In fact, most Vandy fans are now wishing, hoping, praying for Malzahn.
Think of the exposure for Vanderbilt if their new coach is running Auburn’s offense in the BCS Championship Game — which he would likely do. That’s publicity on a national stage that can’t be bought. And it would show the world that Vandy is finally getting serious about football.
* Auburn fans — Tiger fans are just as nervous as Commodore-backers today. First, they don’t want to lose the coordinator who — along with a lot of help from Cam Newton — has the Tigers playing for a national title. And they sure don’t want to lose him before the BCS title game.
Even if Malzahn accepts the Vanderbilt gig, it’s unlikely that he would leave AU before the game. There is no player-caller-to-be waiting in the wings for Auburn. And VU would likely want Malzahn to coach in Glendale for the free exposure we mentioned above.
Obviously, the best outcome for Tiger fans is for Malzahn to stick around The Plains for another year. Better to rebuild that offense with its original architect than to start from scratch with someone else.