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The Sporting News Ranks The SEC’s Football Coaches (And Suddenly The List Doesn’t Look Too Impressive)

When you think of SEC football, you think of millionaire coaches with championship rings on every finger.  But when you survey the league’s actual coaching roster these days, in reality there are more guys with business left to prove than men with proven resumes.

Matt Hayes of The Sporting News has ranked the league’s coaches #1 through #14 today and while we’ll show you his list, we won’t steal his thunder and give you the reasons behind his selections.  You can find those here.

What we will say, however, is that after about five coaches — and we disagree with Hayes’ top five — there are some serious question marks.  More question marks than the ever-rich, ever-successful SEC has had in a long, long while.

Hayes’ rankings:


1.  Nick Saban, Alabama

2.  Les Miles, LSU

3.  Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

4.  Mark Richt, Georgia

5.  James Franklin, Vanderbilt

6.  Gary Pinkel, Missouri

7.  Gene Chizik, Auburn

8.  Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

9.  Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

10.  Will Muschamp, Florida

11.  John L. Smith, Arkansas

12.  Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

13.  Joker Phillips, Kentucky

14.  Derek Dooley, Tennessee


Saban, Miles, Spurrier and Richt have proven themselves over time to be at or near the top of their profession.  They should all be untouchable at this point.  That’s right, Georgia fans: should… be… untouchable.

Pinkel has done for Missouri what Spurrier has done for Carolina.  He’s upgraded the school’s talent and he’s put his program on the national map for the first time.  Sure, he hasn’t done it in the SEC yet, but Pinkel would be #5 on this writer’s list for having accomplished what he’s accomplished in a BCS conference.

After those five coaches?  Question marks, question marks, question marks.

Franklin had a surprising first year and his recruiting has been stunning by Vandy’s standards, but he’s been in Nashville for just one season.

Chizik has a national title on his resume but if Cam Newton hadn’t signed with Auburn would the Tigers’ coach be entering this season on a hot seat?  Probably.

Mullen was Franklin three years ago and he’s the reason we’re reserving judgement on Franklin now.  At some point MSU’s coach will have to have a breakthrough season and beat someone other than Ole Miss in the SEC West.

Smith did well at Louisville but he was sacked at Michigan State.  Sumlin has had non-BCS-level success.  Muschamp’s resume is short.  Freeze has a short resume and his success came at the non-BCS-level.

Phillips has done nothing to make anyone think he was the brains of Rich Brooks’ outfit and Dooley inherited such a mess at Tennessee that he really shouldn’t be judged before this season is over (though the returns on his first two seasons have been poor).

Overall, the league’s coaching roster is surprisingly average.  Of course, the SEC’s list of coaches would look a lot more impressive if Bobby Petrino hadn’t blown his career to smithereens last month.  But as it stands, there are four guys who’ve proven themselves, one who’s proven himself in another BCS league, and nine others who the jury is still very much out on.



I love the Cam argument agaisnt Chizik. What if Miles didn't walk into a talented roster that Saban left? What if Danny Wonderful didn't play at UF? What if Colt McCoy doesn't get hurt? Chizik won a NC surviving the biggest media storm ever to hit a NC contender. How about a lil bit of credit.


Must have been fun trying to figure out where to put Sumlin on the list. With an all new staff at a university new to most of them, he is going to have one "Come to (insert you favorite diety here) experience."


It is interesting that the top 4 coaches have been at their programs the longest.  Does continuity beget winning or winning leads to continuity?  I don't think that you can judge coaches that have been at programs less than 3 years, when they took over rebuilding situations, be it good or bad.  For example what would folks have said about Spurrier or Petrinio after 2 years?  How about the job Nutt did at Missisiisppi in the begininnig.  Folks would have ranked him higher in the beginning.     BTW based on where his program has come  and their lack of tradition, I would rank the "Ole Ball Coach" number 1.


OK, John, in your opinion, will Dooley keep his job after this season?


Thanks for the recognition of coach Pinkel. I am suprised you ranked him above Gene Chizik (since he won a title). I have high hopes MIzzou will prove itself in the SEC right off the bat with a winning record in Conference this year.


John, they rank Dooley 14 of 14, dead last. What have you seen from him to suggest he'll have a successful season and keep his job? Because I've seen nothing whatsoever.


I'm over the Mullen has beaten no one in the SECW but Ole Miss crap. Who has beaten any of those teams. Those teams own the last 4 or 5 national titles. It's not like he's losing to the West Tallahassee Tech. Cut the useless commentary. He's fine and MsState and we are not chasing him off because some people think he needs to go undefeated in the toughest division in college football.


Coach Richt is definitely not untouchable although I differ greatly with the nuts that think he should’ve been fired over one losing season. Without his turnaround in 2011, he would’ve at the very least deserved to be on the hot seat in 2012. He lost some key components in his program over the last few years, whether it be intensity, passion for the game, or accountability with his staff but he’s been tinkering for a while trying to get it back on par with his earlier successes. Hiring Grantham and revamping the S&C program look like homerun moves thus far so he’s on the right track. I’m rooting for him and think if we can just hold on to a few more highly rated Georgia grown prospects that Saban and others have been poaching, we can get back to elite status quickly.


Oh, and it could just be the photograph, but he looks taller than Nick Saban......

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



Where on here did I say he would keep his job?


For the record, I do think he'll eek out 7 or 8 wins this year simply by virtue of the fact that he has about 20 starters back and he's traded Arkansas for Mississippi State in the West.  Experience made a difference at Vandy last year.  It made a difference at Arkansas the last two years.  Returning starters in the SEC -- when others in the league are younger and less experienced -- tends to mean something.


But I've seen nothing of Dooley as a coach to suggest he's anything better than average at best.



John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



Uh, yes, I'll cut the useless commentary from a site that is all about my commentary.


For the record, where did I suggest he needs to go undefeated in the toughest division in college football?  Good tactic... take what I say, exaggerate it to the hilt, and then argue against that exaggeration.


If Mullen goes 2-6 in the SEC this year (again) with a win over Ole Miss from the West and no one else, you'll be hearing a lot more about his SEC West record... and it'll be from people in Starkville.



As far as who has beaten any of those teams... since Mullen's arrival in Starkville three season ago...



* Alabama has lost to South Carolina, LSU (2 times), and Auburn.


* Arkansas has lost to Georgia, Alabama (3 times), Florida, Ole Miss, LSU (2 times), Auburn, and Ohio State.


* Auburn has lost to Arkansas (2 times), Kentucky, LSU (2 times), Georgia (2 times), Alabama (2 times), and Clemson.


* And LSU has lost to Florida, Alabama (2 times), Ole Miss, Auburn, Arkansas, and Penn State.




John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



I've said Richt's in trouble since he became the "dean of SEC coaches."  Once you've been at a place 10 years, you're one bad year from being fired.  That's just a fact.  And it's true for Richt.


Which is why I singled him out in the post above and said he "SHOULD" be untouchable.  Didn't say he was untouchable.  If UGA wins 6 or 7 games this year by some weird set of circumstances, he'll be right back on the bubble.  But his record suggests to me that he SHOULD be untouchable.


Thanks for reading the site,



  1. [...] Earlier this week, Matt Hayes of The Sporting News posted his rankings of the SEC’s 14 football coaches.  Nick Saban was on top, Derek Dooley was on the bottom and second-year coach James Franklin was ranked all the way up at #5.  You can find that list here. [...]

  2. [...] writers aren’t doing their due diligence when they “research” the SEC. They see Joker Phillips’ 11-14 record at Kentucky, compare it to Dooley’s 11-14 at Tennessee and [...]

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