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You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers: From Why Your Search Is Taking So Long To SEC Expansion

Man, is the ol’ MrSEC.com inbox filling up this week.  Questions galore are coming in — and they’re appreciated — but it’s been tough replying to everyone (something we normally try to do).

So in the interest of answering your questions and saving some time, here’s a rundown of several questions we’ve been getting over and over and over again from fans all across the league:

 

What’s taking so long with my team’s coaching search?

The only folks who can legitimately ask this question are Arkansas fans.  And even they should be a bit more patient.

Kentucky fired Joker Phillips on November 4th.  By November 27th, Mitch Barnhart had hired Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.  That’s a 23-day process and — from what an industry source told us — clearly “Barnhart wasn’t swinging for the fences.”  That doesn’t mean Stoops won’t be more akin to brother Bob than brother Mike, Cat fans, just that UK wasn’t really in on successful, proven head coaches.  If you’re looking at up-and-comers and assistants, searches can move more quickly.

Note we said, “quickly.”  Well, quickly was 23 days.

Tennessee’s search is now just 11 days old.  (For those who believe the Vols offered their job to Jon Gruden after UT’s game with Mississippi State in early-October, I’ve got some land to sell you.)  Auburn’s search is all of four days old.

How many of you have ever been in the position to make an important hire for your company?  A hire that could cost you your own neck if you got it wrong?  A hire that could either bring in or cost your company millions of dollars?

If you were in that position, would you rush the hire because people on messageboards and Twitter are tired of waiting for you to make a move?

“They should have had a plan in place,” many are thinking.  Well, most schools aren’t going to be taking said plans to prospective coaches until the current coach is axed for fear of being caught in a Jetgate-like scandal and looking awfully darn bad.  So until Athletic Director X sits down face to face with Coaching Target Y, plans don’t mean a whole heckuva lot.

Arkansas has found that out.  A month ago we reported that UA officials — who had an interim coach on his way out, by the way — had spoken with representatives for Gary Patterson.  We’ve heard nothing to change our mind regarding what we reported.  Patterson himself has said that he’ll listen whenever someone calls, but that he’s happy at TCU.  Well, Patterson’s season doesn’t end until Saturday.  He is not going to risk losing a football game by spending so much as 10 minutes on the phone with anyone from Arkansas until after Saturday’s game.

UA fans are impatient because technically their search has been going on since Bobby Petrino was rubbished in April.  We understand those feelings, even though Long — like Dave Hart at Tennessee and Jay Jacobs at Auburn — will need to meet with candidates one on one before naming a coach.

So chill out, folks.  Instead of wanting a quick hire, fans should be wanting the right hire.  And if finding the right guy takes a while, so be it.  Tennessee fans, for example, should remember what happened the last time they rushed to save a recruiting class and announced, “We’ll have a coach by the end of the week!”  The rushed nature of their search turned off a number of candidates and the school wound up hiring Derek Dooley.

In 2007, Alabama fans didn’t get their man until January 1st.  Of course, his name was Nick Saban.

Who would you rather have?  To play off a favorite Southern saying, don’t step over a slow Saban (dollar) to pick up a fast Dooley (dime).

 

 

When will this all get done?

Here’s guessing that Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee all have coaches in place by mid-December at the latest.  That’d be six weeks before signing day.

Misters Hart, Jacobs and Long will take their searches to New York this weekend for the National Football Foundation’s annual dinner and Hall of Fame banquet.  That meeting is to college football what the Final Four is to college basketball.

All the coaches and ADs get together in one or two hotels and go room to room meeting, greeting and interviewing.  That will be the first chance “name” coaches like Patterson, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, and Boise State’s Chris Peterson can actually sit down for a chat.

If someone moves before next week, we’d be surprised.  But if that were to happen, look for the quickie hire to be Petrino to Auburn.  The folks at AU already know from talking to coaches’ agents how marketable their job is.  From the increasing chatter about Petrino, it seems that a lot of coaches are passing on the Tiger job this time around (due to NCAA concerns, Jacobs’ job security status, and perhaps the crimson assembly line Saban has running at the other end of the state).  If AU were to decide that Petrino is the guy, he would and could sign on the dotted line today.

But we’d put our money on all three openings still being open after this weekend.

 

Who will Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee wind up hiring?

Based on our sources and some gut feelings, as of this moment — and these things are fluid, to say the least — we believe Long at Arkansas is throwing cash around at big names everywhere.  The Hogs have already helped Les Miles get a raise (regardless of what Tiger AD Joe Alleva says).  Fans want to believe the Boise State’s Petersen is really in play, but he’s turned down too many jobs over the years for us to believe he’ll move (anywhere other than Oregon).  Don’t be surprised if the Hogs don’t make another run at Patterson once his season ends.  From there, you get into the B-level guys like Charlie Strong, Butch Jones or — and we’re telling you not to rule this out — Tommy Tuberville.  The Arkansas native has built up a pair of SEC programs at Ole Miss and Auburn and he wants out of Lubbock and back in the SEC.

Again, we’re just guessin’ and surmisin’ here, but we bet AU’s search will come down to Malzahn and Petrino.  Malzahn makes sense and he may be willing to move up from Arkansas State to a high-paying SEC job after just one season… NCAA cloud or not.  You know the drill with Petrino.  He’d kill for the job.  (Literally, perhaps.)

Tennessee’s search is — in our view — targeting Fisher of FSU.  There are many reasons to think Fisher might jump, but typically, guys at Top 15 programs don’t leave them for rebuilding jobs in tougher conferences.  Also, we think Jimmy Sexton — Fisher’s agent — will play UT against Auburn and FSU in an attempt to make him one of the game’s five highest-paid coaches.  UT might be willing to go to $4 million for a proven recruiter from a top school, but would they go to $5 million if needed?  Would Auburn?  Could FSU even afford to match that if someone else went that high?

 

If you were running these searches, who would you hire?

Let’s make this one quick.  If we were handling the Razorback search, we’d make another strong run at Patterson.  If he balked, we’d run hard at Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy.  If that didn’t work, the most proven fallback option is Jones of Cincinnati who is a Brian Kelly protege and has had success at two programs over a six-year career as head coach.  Louisville’s Strong — an Arkansas native — might be the next best thing in college coaching, but he’s only got three years under his belt.  With the Cardinals he’s gone 7-6, 7-6, and 9-2 in a watered down conference.  If it drops to the second-level, we’d take Jones over Strong.

If we were running the Tigers’ search, we’d gauge Fisher’s interest.  The guy’s a proven recruiter and he’s recruited the same zone AU needs to dominate.  If he weren’t interested in the AU mess, we’d just hire Petrino and lock him into a contract that gave him zero outs.  The guy wins games.  All the anger over Gene Chizik’s hire faded when he was holding up that crystal football in 2010.  If Petrino won games he’d be forgiven of his past issues.  Malzahn and Bama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart would be fallback options on our board.  For those who say Petrino couldn’t beat Saban, do you really think Malzahn or Smart — who’s never been a head coach — are surer bets to do so?

If we were handling the Volunteers’ search, we’d target Fisher and go til he said no.  As one source told us the other day, “If UT fans can’t see the improvement of going from Derek Dooley to Jimbo Fisher then they wouldn’t know a football if they sat on it.”  Agreed.  If, however, Fisher and Sexton just wanted to use UT as leverage for a better pact or more power at FSU, the fallback would be North Carolina’s Larry Fedora.  Fedora wasn’t happy to learn that Carolina’s issues ran deeper than he’d been led to believe when he moved from Southern Miss and he’s already put out some feelers toward Knoxville.  The ex-Florida offensive coordinator left USM last year when they were 12-2.  Without him they finished 0-12 this year.  That’s a Petrino-esque crash and that should tell you something.

 

Who should win the Heisman Trophy?

We aren’t really big on the Heisman because the criteria for the honor changes from voter to voter and from year to year.  One year the thing will go to the best player on the best team.  The next year it will go to the guy with the best stats.  Sorry, Aggie fans, but we wouldn’t be sweating this one because it’s a crapshoot over a trophy that means exactly bupkes.

That said, we’d hand the award to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.  He’s got the stats, yes, but take him off of that Aggie team and who knows what their record would be.  How many plays has he made completely on his own this season?  Plus, the kid’s a freak to watch.  He’s not a Tim Tebow/Cam Newton bull, he’s a Doug Flutie jitterbug.  I’d rather watch the jitterbug than the bull.

A lot of TAMU fans have been emailing us about the lack of numbers put up by Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.  Fair enough.  But he’s also the heart and soul of a team that unexpectedly went undefeated.  He dealt with the deaths of his girlfriend and his grandmother on the same day back in September.  And he happens to play for the school that’s produced the only Heisman winner to ever come off a losing team (Paul Hornung back in 1956).

So it comes down to stats versus the best player off an undefeated team.  We’d vote Manziel.  But actual Heisman voters may feel they can reward Manziel in the future.

 

Is the SEC going to expand again?

Probably.  Because all hell is breaking loose across the country.  Matt Hayes of The Sporting News this week wrote that one ACC source told him that Duke and North Carolina have been “chased,” (Hayes’ word) for “the last three years,” (source’s words) by the SEC.

Everyone knows that the SEC would want into the Tarheel State for television purposes if/when the age of superconferences truly dawns.  And — as we’ve shown you on this site dating back three years — Duke and North Carolina would help the conference in terms of cash (thanks to those cable households), in terms of academic reputation (SEC presidents would love to add two more AAU institutions), and in terms of basketball reputation.

Carolina and Duke are the cream of the ACC crop in terms of having it all — great academics, nationally-known brand names, and regional drawing power.  Any league landing UNC and Duke would own North Carolina.  No offense, NC State, Wake Forest and East Carolina fans.

All that said, we still believe the SEC would prefer things stay as they are for a bit longer.  We’ve heard that from sources across the league and from one school to another.  And that wasn’t the case when the SEC added Texas A&M.  Everyone whispered that A&M made sense and that’s one reason we stated so forcefully in 2010 — when A&M re-upped with the Big XII — that the Aggies would eventually land in the SEC.  We’re not hearing that kind of chatter this time around.  Instead, we’re hearing a bit of worry.  People realize that leagues and schools are making moves now solely because everyone else is making moves.  Reacting is never as good as acting.

But as long as everyone else continues to act, we suspect the SEC will react with a full-court press to grab North Carolina and Duke.  If those two could be split up, North Carolina and Virginia would accomplish the same goals.  From there, who knows?

 

Who’s going to win the SEC Championship Game and why?

Patience, folks.  We do our SEC Game Previews on Friday around here.

 


27 comments
genericusername
genericusername

Just a thought from someone who's familiar with the 900 monkey--

 

I suspect UNC is the tx of the ACC. Why would they leave conference that revolves around them? Sure, there's money, but I think there's more to it than that. Tx had the chance to go to the Pac twice. Both sides want the other, but in the end, it was tx unwillingness to give up the big boy on the block status that kept them put.

BamaWahoo
BamaWahoo

Here's a question for John - an alternative sports history question that might shed some light on the future. In 2003, the ACC was expanding. The NC schools wanted Syracuse. UVA was pressured by VA politicians to twist the rest of the conference's arm and bring in VT so they wouldn't be left behind in the diminishing Big East.

 

If UVA had not done that and if VT had remained in the Big East - with a relatively small exit fee and without the SEC/ACC friendliness - would VT be in the SEC right now? I think so. I think if UVA hadn't saved VT and gotten it into the ACC that last year the SEC would have taken Texas A&M and its mirror image (cadet/aggie land grant school) VT. Mizzou would have been out and VT and TAMU would be crossover rivals w/ TAMU in the SEC East. Thoughts? 

ChaseTheTrainWarren
ChaseTheTrainWarren

there is a large canary in the coal mine with the SEC adding teams that no one has talked about.

SEC has always released the 2013 schedule and they commented that it was a temporary one.

last year they did the same thing with the excuse that they were just throwing one out at the time because they were trying to find out how the new schools were going to work out.

this year? same laps of a solid schedule but with no new teams to "figure out" .....yet.

 

dose in no way mean that the SEC are adding teams but it is a small tell tell sign.

historyphdguy
historyphdguy

I am holding my breath waiting to see who Hart announces as the next coach of my beloved Vols. In our modern social media age the rumors fly at the speed of light but it is hard to place any creedence in any of them. So many coaches, agents and schools use the social media to leverage themselves or their programs using other schools. Les Miles was able to use the offer (real or imagined) from Arky to force LSU to sign him to a long-term deal at a higher level of pay. I am not sure why he is promoting the Chief as a great choice for Tennessee. Is he truly championing a great coach in Chavis or is there some internal discord and he wants Chavis to leave. Such a soap opera with these coahing issues. I offer up prayers to the great god of football, Mo, to bless Tennessee with the right coach for our program. We need some stability along with success up on Rocky Top. Until Hart makes the announcement I will ignore the rumor mill. As far as SEC expansion is concerned again we have an Internet full of wild rumors. The SEC is so strong I figure they can afford to be picky and wait and see how this flurry of realignment sorts itself out. I thought that FSU & Va Tech would be the logical additions to the SEC but when you look at expanding to add new media markets and to add highly ranked academic institutions I can see how UNC & Duke make sense. UVa would also be a good addition under that metric. I would hope they would be added to the SEC East so my Vols would have a better chance of winning... maybe. I doubt the SEC will add teams this year unless there are circumstances currently not known by the public. Deadspin had an amazing article on the whole brouhaha that led to Southern Miss' coach being fired and selling their homegame with Nebraska to get the $$$ to pay off the contract. What an insane time in college football.

Nashvegas007
Nashvegas007

Two Questions for everyone. 1.  Can any Malzahn supporer for Auburn help rationalize his terrible year in 2011 (#105 in Total offense or something).  2010 the nod goes to Cam.  2009 AU offense was Top 15, but I am not sure #105 and #15 average out to what AU nation would want.  Thoughts? 2.  Why is Butch Davis not getting any attention?  He was not even around Miami when all of the wrong doing was happening, and he was absolved of any wrong doing at UNC.  I think we would be a great hire for any of the big 3 SEC schools.

jrs5227
jrs5227

Why would Missouri even consider giving up SEC money?

AGator
AGator

Do you think the Big 10 would want to add Missouri and would Missouri accept if the Big 10 invited them?

BamaWahoo
BamaWahoo

The one thing I don't get in this is IF the SEC would stop at 16 and IF it would have to take UNC/Duke as a combo, it seems likely to me that it would have known that when Mizzou was added. And I think that if the SEC had the decision it would prefer to be in VA (either UVA or VT) w/ the DC market than in Missouri. So why take Mizzou if that will limit you getting into VA? At the end of the day though, maybe the SEC just knows it won't be bullied and in the worst case scenario it can take NC St. So it can always announce 16 is its limit, it is taking VT and the first NC school to apply gets in.

jrs5227
jrs5227

Well, if we added teams from North Carolina and Virginia we would have Civil war states locked up.

Thern
Thern

I was pro-Gruden at first, but the more time that passes, it feels that UT is being leveraged. If not, and there is genuine interest, I am trying to imagine every December wondering if the Philadelphia Eagles,  Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, NY Jets, etc will come calling. If UT could get him, how are they going to keep him?

 

I really like the prospects of Fisher or Fedora over some of the other names that have been mentioned.

 

As far as conference expansion is concerned, I keep hearing 16 team super conferences. I am not opposed to 16 if we could maintain some traditional rivalries, although I realize that is probably unlikely. I don't know why 16 teams is thrown out as being the limit. I wouldn't be surprised to 20 to 24 team conferences, which I guess almost happened with CUSA and the Mountain West. If it's gonna happen soon for the SEC, count me in favor of the north carolina schools, especially UNC and Duke if for nothing else, basketball.

jrs5227
jrs5227

Auburn - Petrino

Arkansas - Tubberville

UT - Chavis.

I4Bama
I4Bama

Tuberville will not coach at Tech next year.  Petrino will run a Sherman over his own momma to get to the Plains.  He may well be their only choice.

jrs5227
jrs5227

Interesting comments coming from Les recommending Chavis for the UT job. I wonder why there has not been more discussion about the Chief, and is that possibly a sign in and of itself?

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

 @BamaWahoo 

 

Lotta ifs in all that, but I see your logic and wouldn't debate it.

 

And you're correct that Virginia Tech and Texas A&M are similar in a lot of ways.  Aside from A&M being an AAU institution, they're basically identical.  (That's meant in a positive way, for any Aggie or Hokie fan whose looking for a reason to be offended by something.)

 

Thanks for reading the site,

John

SouthernBoiSB
SouthernBoiSB

 @ChaseTheTrainWarren I noticed that the moment it came out.  It meant 1 of 3 possibilities:  A - SEC is expanding again;  B - SEC is moving to 9 conf. games in 2014;  or C - A&B.

 

The other thing I noticed was they were "supposed" to arrange it where all the cross-division rival games would be hosted by the same side each year.  That didn't happen & I found a solution that would have worked (I think it only involved flipping the home/away schools of 4 games.....which, in the end, would still leave everybody with 4H/4A conf. games).

Nashvegas007
Nashvegas007

PS - I would attribute Malzhan's success in 2009 to it being a "new" offense to the SEC and it took folks a while to catch up with him.  In 2010 he got lucky with Cam, and then reality set in 2011.  I would like to hear some explain their thoughts on the Pro side for Malzahn.

Nashvegas007
Nashvegas007

 @jrs5227 Big 10 money and SEC money are suprisingly about the same.  They bounce every year between #1 and #2.  That being said I don't think Missouri would leave that quickly  I think it would make them look like they were leaving with their tale between their legs after the year they had.

mitchs3
mitchs3

 @AGator

 I don't think the B1G would want to add Missouri - they had their chance and chose not to, choosing Nebraska instead.  Nebraska (as well as Maryland and Rutgers) received 'junior' memberships in the B1G, meaning it will be quite a few years before they get either (a) a full share of B1G Network $ or (b) CIC research $.  Different rumors have indicated that Mizzou was offered the same deal as Nebraska and said only if they were full members on Day 1, but of course that could be just over-proud bluster; who knows.  In any event, I think it is clear that the B1G is focused Eastward at this point.  StL and KC are good TV markets, but they're not east coast markets and besides - BTN is already on my cable here in StL - the B1G doesn't need Mizzou to get on StL cable.

 

I also don't think Mizzou would go if offered.  The money is about the same, and the CIC money would be a benefit, but Mizzou and its fans have fully embraced the SEC move and love where they are now.  MU loves that they were a full partner on Day 1, and have been treated fairly.  While some SEC members may have more pull than others, there is no longer a Texas-esque 900 lb. gorilla controlling most decisions.  The competition may take some time, but the commitment is there.  And its a lot warmer on the Gulf Coast in November than it is on the Great Lakes.  MU is SEC now, and has burned the ships - no looking back, and no desire to.

Thern
Thern

 @BamaWahoo

 I think in the Matt Hayes article, the feeling is that UNC and Duke will be a package deal. One won't make the move without the other.  I don't think either adds much with regard to football, but they are both big properties for college b'ball and are obviously  premier academic institutions. The DC issue is definitely relevant, which is why I don't think that 16 is some magic number.

Clarence
Clarence

 @Thern Sorry, but why would Fisher leave FSU.  Not trying to be critical, but just curious.  Seems like they are both top jobs.  Does he have some UT connection.

 

Fedora really impressed me last year.  He shut down Sumlin and UH in the CUSA conference game.  When I listened to both of them, I thought it was a toss up for who should get the A&M HC gig.  You would have one tough, salt of the earth coach with Larry Fedora. 

SevierVol
SevierVol

I just don't see Chavis being named as HC at UT at this point in time for a couple of reasons. First. if the hire fails to pan out, Hart, who is already unpopular with a lot of fans, would likely never recover. So, I think Hart will go with a proven commodity instead of a DC with no HC experience. Secondly, Chavis would not be a popular choice with a majority of UT fans. After the last two coaching debacles, UT fans also want a big name coach with a proven record. However, because he is a UT grad and an ex-assistant, I think Chief would be the only person with no head coaching experience that Hart could hire and avoid being tarred and feathered and ran out of Knoxville on a rail.  I would love to see Chief get a chance at being a HC if that is what he wants, but I just don't think now is the time at UT.

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

 @Thern  @BamaWahoo   That's been my thought as well with regard to the idea of a UNC/Duke combo bringing us to 16 and then stopping.  If that were to occur then that means UVA is headed to the Big Ten(assuming that isn't going to happen already) and VT would be headed to the Big 12.  The Big 12 is likely coming after FSU and Clemson...would the SEC really cede the entire Virginia/DC market to other leagues and at that also allow the Big 12 to create a giant footprint in the East?  Presumably NC State could be a target of the Big 12 as well in that scenario.  Miami and Louisville might go along with them. 

 

I already have reservations about Duke's ability to thrive in the marketplace long term so that move doesn't strike me as the wise route to go.

SpencerMoore
SpencerMoore

 @Thern  @BamaWahoo This notion that UNC and Duke are a package deal is pure BS, strictly from the mind of Dick Vitale and Dukie lovers.  UNC is a public school and is more than just basketball.  Duke is an elitist private school filled with students not from Carolina.  Teams are tied due to state government interference (or in the case of UT and OU, they say so).  Virginia helped get Va Tech in the ACC.  Separating UNC from NC State and Virginia Tech from Virginia might be the hardest part.  Perhaps the SEC should grab the easiest ( Va. Tech since they like to jump from conference to conference every dozen or so years) and then go for the Big XII kill by taking OU or even OSU out west.  Again OSU is thought of as tethered to OU but you never know.

Clarence
Clarence

 @AllTideUp  @Thern  @BamaWahoo  I think Duke is a good get for the SEC, but I think the real reason they are key is that Duke and UNC wanting to leave the ACC will cause the $50M buyout to crumble.  Otherwise, the ACC will just do a tit for tat replacement of anyone that leaves and say pay up the $50M.

 

If Duke and UNC want to leave, then ACC is toast, at least the ACC as we know it.  I'm sure they will carry in some form, but without a $50M exit fee.

BamaWahoo
BamaWahoo

 @SpencerMoore  @ThernUVA is only tied to VT in the sense that neither can be left homeless. But at this point, I don't think that's a problem. Either UVA or VT would be left in the ACC, a better place to be than the Big East even with defections, or - more likely - in the scenario where either team left the ACC the ACC would be collapsing and the other would be the only way for a conference to get into the Commonwealth, its large markets (and the DC market), recruiting grounds, etc. If UVA left, VT would have the SEC or B12 (prob not B1G). If VT left for SEC, UVA would have B1G (or worst case B12). I greatly prefer UVA in the SEC w/ UNC. Duke to the B1G (maybe w/ GT). And the B12 picking apart the rest and forming an Eastern Division. But as of right now, there are 2 options in the Commonwealth and multiple conferences would like to be in. So I don't think either would be held to the other.

 

Additionally, the current VA Governor is a UVA fan (unlike the former one). If UVA had an SEC offer and wanted to go, no amount of whining from Cousin Eddie would keep UVA in the ACC. But ultimately, the only way I see UVA in SEC is if the SEC wants a UNC/UVA pair. And I do think that a UVA/UNC pair is much better for the SEC than a VT/NCSt. pair.

 

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