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Ex-SEC Coaches From One Era Defend A Pair SEC Coaches From This Era

times-are-a-changinWant a quickie take on what’s on the minds of folks in Alabama and Tennessee these days?  Check out these recent headlines from The Birmingham News and The Tennessean:

 

“Alabama shouldn’t decide Anthony Grant’s future on his buyout.”

“For Tennessee Vols, buyout Cuonzo Martin should be about more than just dollars.”

 

For the record, Grant’s buyout would cost the Crimson Tide $5 million bucks.  Martin’s buyout is a mere $1.56 million, but when you factor in all of UT’s recent buyouts (Phillip Fulmer, Mike Hamilton, Derek Dooley and even Bruce Pearl who received a buyout despite being fired for cause), that $1.56 begins to look a lot bigger.

More talk radio, the advent of social media, and bigger salaries for coaches have shortened the career lifespans of the guys on the sideline.  Just check out this list of the SEC’s all-time regular-season win leaders and when they last coached…

 

  SEC Reg. Season Wins   Coach   Final Season   Overall Win %
  397   Adolph Rupp (UK)   1972   .822
  238   Dale Brown (LSU)   1997   .598
  195   CM Newton (ALA, VU)   1989   .588
  182   Ray Mears (UT)   1977   .713
  178   Billy Donovan (UF)   Current   .724
  178   Harry Rabenhorst (LSU)   1942   .563
  172   Joe B. Hall (UK)   1985   .748
  171   Roy Skinner (VU)   1976   .673
  141   Hugh Durham (UGA)   1995   .580
  139   Tubby Smith (UGA, UK)   2007   .751
  132   Wimp Sanderson (ALA)   1992   .692
  126   Norm Sloan (UF)   1989   .547
  124   Joel Eaves (AUB)   1963   .684
  122   Rick Stansbury (MSU)   2012   .638
  118   Kevin Stallings (VU)   Current   .610
  112   Hank Crisp (ALA)   1946   .658
  110   Don DeVoe (UT, UF)   1990   .572
  109   Nolan Richardson (ARK)   2002   .684
  107   Bob Polk (VU)   1961   .650
  104   Rick Pitino (UK)   1997   .814
  103   John Mauer (UT, UF)   1960   .628

 

Billy Donovan and Kevin Stallings are the only coaches on that list who are still active in the SEC today.  Only five others from that list coached after 1995, when the internet and messageboards had just started to become a new venting spot for upset fans.

Look at the winning percentages for some of those long-tenured coaches.  Dale Brown, Don DeVoe, Hugh Durham, CM Newton, Harry Rabenhorst and Norm Sloan all lasted for years in the SEC with winning marks of less than .600.

Of the hot-seated coaches above, Grant has a winning percentage of .578 at Bama.  Martin has a winning clip of .580 at UT.  A strong argument can be made that 20 years ago, those coaches’ seats would be considerably cooler.

The man who ranks third in all-time SEC regular-season wins believes coaches are getting the hook to soon these days.  Speaking to the Birmingham Tip-Off Club on Monday, Newton said:

 

“We’re all instant gratification, we all want the hurry-up fix.  If we leave this guy alone, Anthony Grant, leave him along for a couple of years, he’ll get it right.  He’s a damn good coach.  He knows what it takes to win.  If I were his AD, I would leave him alone simply because I can put my head on my pillow each night and go to sleep knowing he isn’t going to cheat and he’ll have good discipline in his program.”

 

Not surprisingly another coach on that list recently took up for the guy filling his old shoes.  Speaking on a Knoxville television show last weekend, DeVoe said of Martin:

 

“Cuonzo Martin is a great mentor for this young basketball team… Coach Martin came into a very difficult situation (with the NCAA)… Nobody thought they would do very well and what happened?  They finished (second) in the SEC (in 2011-12).  You can say what you want to.  They’re not winning that big this year, but this team still is in the hunt.  I’ll bet money right now that Tennessee will win a lot more games than they lose in the next week and a half.”

 

Mentoring.  Not cheating.  Good discipline.  In the age of Newton and DeVoe who were contemporaries those notions might have carried more weight.  They should still carry more weight.  But the reality is any fanbase would prefer to have a coach who cheats and wins with bad apples than a coach who mentors, maintains discipline and loses.

Toss in talk radio, the internet, social media and the aforementioned mondo coaching salaries and it’s not hard to figure out why most of the men listed in that chart above are long removed from the SEC.  Just ask an SEC columnist.  If money shouldn’t factor into a decision to keep or fire a coach, you better believe that being a nice guy with a tightly-run ship ranks much further down the list of criteria.

Fair or not.

(CORRECTION — An earlier version of this story did not mention Vanderbilt’ Kevin Stallings among the SEC’s all-time leaders in the wins.  Our apologies.)

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The SEC Loses A Legend In Ex-Everything Dean

joe_dean_1Sunday morning the Southeastern Conference lost a legend.  A tremendous basketball player, a promoter via television, and an influential athletic director, Joe Dean was an SEC fixture for more than half a century.

Fans of a certain age will remember Dean as an All-SEC hoopster at LSU from 1949 through 1952.  Younger fans across the SEC footprint will remember him as the color analyst for televised SEC basketball games from 1969 through 1987.  The words “String music” and “stufferino” — Dean’s signature calls — still resonate with those of us in the late-30s, over-40 crowd.

In ’87, Dean became the athletic director at his alma mater and served in that position through 2001.  Dean was AD in Baton Rouge when the Tigers hired some fella from Michigan State named Nick Saban to rebuild their football program.

Dean was instrumental in the SEC expansion that welcomed Arkansas and South Carolina into the conference in 1992.  A visionary, he also worked in the 1980s to bring Texas A&M into the league.

Dean’s impact on the SEC would require a book, not a blurb, so instead we’ll just direct you to the headlines of the different obituaries honoring the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee today:

 

Ex LSU AD, basketball player Joe Dean dies at 83

Former LSU Athletic Director Joe Dean dies, 83

Hall-of-fame announcer Joe Dean Sr. dies at 83

 

When you’re accomplished in so many fields it becomes difficult to pick just one for a headline.  Dean was all of those things — player, AD, broadcaster — and he was more.  He was an ambassador for LSU and the Southeastern Conference for decades.  And he will be missed.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dean’s family and friends.

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Report: New Playoff Selection Committee To Include Current A.D.s

u-turnMatt Hayes of The Sporting News is reporting today that “an industry source” has told his publication that “current athletic directors will be used on the committee” that will select the four teams who will take part in college football’s new playoff system each year.  As Hayes points out, that is a complete reversal of what college football’s powerbrokers — including College Football Playoff executive Bill Hancock — have been saying for months.

The plan calls for an athletic director to leave the room when his/her own school is up for debate.  According to Hayes’ source, however, an AD can stay in the room and take part in the discussion if a team from his/her own conference is the topic of conversation.

Get ready for more controversy, folks.

As we’ve stated from the outset, the selection of the four teams for the new playoff will be even more controversial than the BCS formula that was used to match America’s top two teams.  Now you’ll have sitting athletic directors weighing in on who’s invited and who isn’t.  Unless the panel includes an AD from each of the 11 FBS conferences (and from Notre Dame, as Steve Spurrier might point out), you’ll have fans claiming that the SEC was blackballed by a Big Ten AD, the Pac-12 was blackballed by an SEC AD, and so on.

And even if you do have an AD on hand to represent each FBS conference (and Notre Dame), there will still be room for — let’s say — Georgia fans to claim that Florida’s AD didn’t push hard enough for the Dawgs while he served as the SEC’s rep on the committee.

It’s only going to get worse from here.

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UT Fires Administrator; Report Connects Administrator To Ex-Hoopster Golden

dirty-laundryTrae Golden’s decision to transfer from the University of Tennessee basketball team has taken another bizarre turn.  It was announced early last week that the senior-to-be would transfer from Cuonzo Martin’s program to another school, leaving the Vols without a proven point guard for 2013-14.

Reports at the time cited academic issues — namely repeated acts of plagiarism — as the reason for Golden’s departure.  UT’s associate AD for compliance, Todd Dooley, then revealed on radio that Golden did not have the hours necessary to graduate at Tennessee, meaning he will have a hard time finding a new home as well.

By midweek, Golden’s father called such reports “totally inaccurate.”

Now to the present.  Yesterday the University of Tennessee fired the director of its Office of Student Judicial Affairs.  The school has launched an investigation into whether or not Jenny Wright had improper relationships with student-athletes at UT.

A graduate of Tennessee, Wright has hired an attorney who said that she tried to resign rather than cooperate with the investigation.  “She didn’t think the climate at UT was such that her reputation would be preserved,” Robert Kurtz said.  “UT didn’t have any interest in protecting that.  Even if everything is proved to be completely false, the damage to your reputation can’t be undone, and you can’t un-ring that bell.  That’s why these allegations are so powerful.”

Meanwhile, Jimmy Hyams of WNML-AM/FM in Knoxville reported yesterday afternoon that — according to sources — one of the athletes Wright is alleged to have an improper relationship with is Golden.

As Wright’s attorney has stated, it’s unfortunate that this situation has come to light before anyone has found her guilty of having inappropriate relationships.  As a result, Wright will have to rehab a tarnished reputation while any male athletes involved will, most likely, get a pass in the court of public opinion.  If a man has sex, he’s a stud.  If a woman has sex, she’s easy.  That’s not fair, but it is how our society tends to view these things.

Obviously, no one employed as the director of a school’s Office of Student Judicial Affairs can go around having sex with athletes.  That kind of behavior is unacceptable.  And if it’s found that Wright did have a relationship with Golden, it will raise questions regarding his alleged repeated acts of plagiarism while still on the UT basketball team.

But this is a story of sex.  And though that’s an act that everyone takes part in, it’s still a topic that drives ratings, sells papers, and ups pageviews.  The presence of dirty laundry will ensure that this story won’t go away quickly, at least not for Wright.

Whether UT investigators find proof of wrongdoing or not.

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Bama To Hire Ex-Player, Businessman Battle As A.D.

bill-battleWell that didn’t take long.  And you can throw out all those candidate lists.  The University of Alabama has settled on a new athletic director already.  Indeed he’s an ex-Bama player and a former Tennessee employee.  But he’s not Dave Hart, he’s former Bear Bryant pupil and ex-Volunteer head football coach, Bill Battle.

The University of Alabama has put out a release this morning quoting school president Judy Bonner on Battle’s hiring:

 

“Over the past several weeks, we have had multiple conversations about who should follow Coach (Mal) Moore as AD.  Based on Mal’s strong endorsement as well as Coach Battle’s affiliation with UA as a player, partner and donor, his experience as a coach and his significant business background, I am confident that he is the right person to serve UA in this position.  I am looking forward to working with him as we continue to build on the foundation of excellence that is the hallmark of Coach Moore’s tenure.”

 

In Battle, Alabama has landed a tremendous businessman who happens to have a strong background in Crimson Tide and SEC athletics.  Battle formed Collegiate Licensing Company in 1981.  That company opened the door for colleges to begin protecting their logos and trademarks, which it turn led to the schools licensing out those marks for profit.  It was a brilliant move and Battle’s company was eventually purchased by sports giant IMG (along with another company Battle founded).

Battle said in the release that his “instinct was to say no” to the job when first approached.  After speaking with various officials at UA, however, he “couldn’t find a way to say no.”

The 71-year-old battle played at Alabama from 1960 through 1962.  He then served as an assistant at Army and Tennessee before being promoted to the Volunteers’ head coaching position in 1970.  At 28, he was the youngest coach of a major program in the country.  He had a career record of 59-22-2 at Tennessee, but the program declined on his watch and he was eventually fired in 1976.  He never coached again, but five years later, he began CLC and the rest… is history.

Given Battle’s age and his lack of experience running an athletic department, it’s expected that he will take over Moore’s duties which focused mainly on raising funds and improving facilities.  Shane Lyons will likely continue to handle the day-to-day operations of the UA athletic department.

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Ex-Hog Coaches Say A.D. Long And Players Quitting Were To Blame For Bad Season

blame_game-300x239A pair of ex-Arkansas football coaches are blaming AD Jeff Long for ruining the Razorbacks’ 2012 season with his signing of John L. Smith to a 10-month contract as interim coach.  Former offensive coordinator Paul Petrino — brother of Bobby — and former defensive coordinator Paul Haynes also told The Sporting News that some members of the team quit on the coaching staff last year.

According to Petrino, the length of Smith’s contract led players to believe that the entire staff would turn over before 2013:

 

“I don’t think an AD should ever hire somebody for 10 months.  Players know what that means; they understand that.  It hurts the power of the head coach and the assistants.  They should’ve hired (Smith) for two years or hired someone else for two years, or just (expletive)-canned all of us.”

 

Haynes agreed:

 

“Even if they had a plan to get rid of us no matter what, which I think they did, you say two years and I think the kids dig in.  When you give 10 months, everyone is on eggshells.”

 

Smith himself told The Sporting News that “a little more time would’ve been nice.  Does that give you more teeth?  Yes.”

And then there was the issue of players quitting.  According to Petrino:

 

“There were some seniors who kind of hung it up, to be honest with you.  They were going to worry about their futures more than that team.  A couple seniors said they were hurt and I don’t know if they really were.”

 

Some players quit.  The AD should’ve given Smith a two-year deal.  And it’s even admitted in the piece that more than one of Smith’s assistants wanted the Arkansas head coaching job… making things tougher on Smith.  Bad, bad, bad.

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Bielema’s Note To Hogs’ A.D. Long Hits The Web

Already months into a coaching search, Arkansas AD Jeff Long received in September a note from then-Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema.  In it the Badgers’ coach praised Long’s decision to blow up Bobby Petrino as “the right call!”

Three months later, Bielema was named the Razorbacks’ new head football coach.  And his handwritten note has hit the internet (courtesy of a Freedom of Information request):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you can’t make that out, here’s the text:

 

“Jeff,

Just wanted to say this note is long past due.  As I watched your press conference this past spring I wanted to reach out and say how much I respected your actions but more importantly your words.  As a head coach I know that my comments are looked at in every way possible.  Here at UW I have a great AD because he is a man of his word and asks the same for all of us.  Best wishes moving forward and stay strong.  I twas the right call!

Best Wishes,

Bret

P.S.  One thing I have learned through my time at UW is that today’s society wants to win them all, but as Coaches and Administrators we need to balance the Big Picture for all our student-athletes!”

 

One wonders what led Bielema to send a note to another school’s AD just as his own season was getting underway and not at the time of the actual Petrino firing.  Or at some point over the summer.

Instead, Bielema didn’t send the note until sometime in September.  Now, if the undated note was sent in early September, then it might have just been something that popped into the coach’s head after a long delay.  If it was sent later in the month, then it’s possible Bielema was genuinely trying to encourage Long as Arkansas’ football team lost to Louisiana-Monroe and then went downhill from there.

Or Bielema — wanting out of Alvarez’s shadow — might have been trying to get his name into the mix for a job that would obviously come open and not go to interim coach John L. Smith.

(You can bet that freshly hired Western Kentucky coach Bobby Petrino — who gets to open the 2013 season against the Kentucky and Tennessee programs that chose not to interview or hire him — would love to get a crack at Bielema someday.)

None of this is to suggest that Bielema did anything wrong in mailing a simple note of encouragement to Long.  We just find the timing to be… interesting.

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What’s With All The Bad Information On These Coaching Searches?

(NOTE — Some of you will read the headline to this story and skip straight to the comment boxes without stopping to read what’s actually written here.  This isn’t a knock on fans or on other media members.  It’s a knock on the current system of information delivery that we’ve all become accustomed to.  And we couldn’t possibly make it any clearer that we include ourselves as part of the problem right along with everyone else.  Please read what’s actually written, as this is an issue much bigger than sports.)

Welcome to the future of news coverage, folks.  Everyone’s now a reporter.  And most reporters — even the real ones — no longer live by the standards they once prescribed to.

With four coaching searches going on in the SEC this offseason, it’s been laughably difficult to follow much of anything that’s really going on out there.  God bless Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart for just grabbing a coordinator and moving forward… making everyone’s life at least 1/4 easier.

We have a theory here at MrSEC.com regarding the amount of bad information that’s been out there these past couple of weeks.  It’s one theory with five parts.  And here it and they are:

 

1.  Coaching searches can best be described as fluid. 

One minute a candidate might have an offer on the table from School Y, but by the time that info is leaking to the press and getting posted to the web or airing on ESPN, School X might have put forth a bigger offer.  Or the coach might have changed his mind.  Or School Y might have heard back from another candidate it liked better than the fallback option offered earlier.  What’s actually correct right now might not be correct in five minutes.

 

2.  We are addicted to information in short bursts.

As a society, we no longer want accurate reporting if it means we’ll have to wait a few hours to read up on a subject.  Information is simply a new form of entertainment, a constant feed of blurbs, posts, and tweets that kill time until some AD steps to a podium and actually introduces a coach.  Truth?  Just gimme something to read, Dude.

 

3.  Never before has it been easier for schools, coaches and agents to float bad info.

Negotiations now take place out in the open.  Fan reaction is used as leverage by ADs, coaches and their agents.  Websites that actually help coaches find new jobs have started providing “news” feeds, as if that’s not a massive conflict of interest.  Bad information — or at the very least “spin” — is rampant.

 

4.  “News” can now be delivered by wannabes, liars and trolls.

Everyone is now the media.  Got internet access?  Then you are the media if you choose to post on a messageboard or on Twitter or in some comment box.  In some ways that’s a good thing.  In many other ways that’s a very bad thing.  Wannabes — people who want to seem more in the know than they actually are — can share gossip and rumors that may or may not have a single grain of truth attached to them.  Liars are those folks who enjoy sharing misinformation simply to see the reaction of others.  Oh, they’re out there.  We’ve had pranksters admit to us that they’ve posted bad info on messageboards for kicks.  We’ve also seen that fans from one school can drop into the messageboard area of a website catering to a rival fanbase.  These trolls lob grenades of bad data towards their enemies and then chortle at the fallout.

 

5.  The traditional media will now race to be first rather than work to be correct.

Those of us with a background in the traditional media — TV, radio, newspaper, internet websites — have dropped the ball.  As consumers’ standards have fallen, our reporting standards have dropped as well.  Most try to get good information and report with accuracy, but speed is now more important than ever.  The old adage states that a news person would rather be right than first.  No more.  Now the goal is to be right and first… and in racing to be first, getting the story right sometimes takes a backseat.  Instead of finding three sources for a story, now someone might only need two before running with a story.  Instead of needing two sources, another media member might feel good to go with the info provided by one.  Hoping like hell, of course, that that one source is both informed and honest.

 

Add it all up and we’ve entered a new age when it’s difficult to know who in the media to trust.  That’s because we’re all media now, after all.  And would you trust every Tom, Dick or Harry you met on the street?

This issue isn’t limited to college football coaching searches, of course.  This problem exists in our coverage of actual news and politics, too.

And it should scare the hell out of all of us.  Consumers need to demand more, but they’re addicted to the daily info-stream.  We in the media should be just as diligent as ever, but instead we’ve always got one eye on the clock.

Sadly, it looks to us like things will only get worse in the future, not better.  To heck with being first or right about that one.  On that one, we hope we’re wrong.

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VU’s Franklin Focused On UM, Not Job Openings

Vanderbilt’s James Franklin was quick to change the topic when asked yesterday if other schools might be looking to lure him away from Nashville:

 

“We’ve been dealing with these types of things since we got here.  We don’t get into that.  Our focus is on Ole Miss and I know our kids are really excited about going down there and playing Coach (Hugh) Freeze’s ball club.”

 

The second-year head coach did say that he goes into greater detail about his job situation with recruits if they ask.

Reporters have to ask these types of questions even though I’ve yet to hear of any coach saying anything close to this: “You know, as a matter of fact I’ve got my agent talking to the AD of School X right now.”

Franklin just provided the industry standard non-denial denial that’s been doled out by countless coaches in history.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.

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Warp Speed: In 16 Months AU Has Gone From The Best To A Mess

Gene Chizik is overseeing a team that’s just an overtime win over Louisiana-Monroe away from being 0-8 at the moment.  Last week, Auburn president Jay Gogue said a thorough examination of the football program would come at season’s end.  That was followed by a longtime Alabama-based columnist suggesting it might be time for Auburn to find a new coach and a new athletic director.  This week, oddsmaker Danny Sheridan piled on by telling an Alabama booster group that Auburn’s football program was again under NCAA investigation.

Amazingly, things are getting more negative still.

Now the aforementioned columnist is flat-out calling for heads and suggesting that a search for a new AD is already in motion.  And Chizik is having to “no comment” his way past questions regarding the NCAA.

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