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Wonder Why SEC Basketball Ain’t All That? Blame Football

gfx-honest-opinionThe Southeastern Conference used to be solid basketball league.  From 1997 through 2008 the league consistently earned a large number of NCAA Tournament bids.  Each year of that streak the conference received either five or six bids.  Only the ACC and Big East did better on a regular basis.

But something changed in the late-2000s.  Suddenly the league started dropping in the conference RPI ratings.  This past season computer formulas ranked the SEC as just the seventh-best league in America.  NCAA Tournament bids began to drop as well — three in 2009, four in 2010, five in 2011, four in 2012, three in 2013 and again this year.

Those who don’t want to admit a problem need look only as far as the league office where Mark Whitworth was placed in the freshly created role of associate commissioner for basketball last July.  (That move came just two weeks after we suggested the SEC hire a “hoops czar,” by the way.)  Athletic directors and presidents across the conference recognized that they needed a person to aid in basketball scheduling and marketing.  At the time, Mike Slive said Whitworth would “effectively manage our efforts to promote and enhance SEC basketball.”

So what was it that happened in the late-2000s that led to a downturn in SEC hoops and the need for a new basketball “fixer?”

We believe five things are at play.  And all five can in some way be tied back to the sport that SEC schools do best — football.

The SEC has always been a dominant football conference.  But not until an unprecedented run of national championships in the mid- to late-2000s did the crown of “King Football” go unchallenged to the SEC each year.  Florida won the BCS title game in January of 2007.  LSU followed in 2008, then it was Florida again in January 2009.  Three titles in a row.  An enormous wave of media attention on SEC football.

At the very same time that the SEC was kicking off its seven-year run of championships, there was an explosion in television coverage for the sport.  Which conference cut the best deals in terms of exposure?  Take a guess.  Mike Slive’s twin contracts with CBS and ESPN ensured that darn near every SEC football game would be seen by a national audience.  The Big Ten was making money with its own network, but the Southeastern Conference was passing right by Jim Delany’s league in terms of national exposure.  And when did those new contracts pushing SEC football into every American living room kick in to place?  In 2009.

That’s the background.  Since those two things (championship run, increased television exposure) took place, five other changes have come to pass as a result…

 

1.  Salaries for SEC football coaches have boomed.  Alabama’s 2007 hire of Nick Saban for eight years and $32 million raised the bar inside the league and across the nation.  Other SEC schools have since followed suit — Florida, LSU, etc.  Seven years after Saban’s hire there isn’t a single football coach in the SEC making less than $2.2 million per season.  Eleven of the 14 coaches in the league make $2.9 million or more.  South Carolina — long a doormat in the college football world — now boasts a national championship-winning coach who makes $3.5 million per season.  No league pays more money for football coaches than the SEC.  In contrast, the SEC most certainly does not lead the nation when it comes to basketball salaries.  The by-product, of course, is that SEC football jobs are “destination” jobs.  The same can’t be said for basketball.  How many top name basketball coaches have been hired into the SEC as proven stars?  John Calipari.  Mike Anderson.  Anthony Grant if you consider “hot” up-and-comers.  Now turn it around.  How many SEC football coaches are coveted by other leagues?  Saban, Miles, Mark Richt, Steve Spurrier, Kevin Sumlin, etc, etc.  How many hoops coaches are coveted?  Calipari, Billy Donovan, and who?  The bottom line is this: The SEC has a better group of expensive, proven football coaches than it does expensive, proven basketball coaches.  Better coaches make for a better product.

2.  SEC schools spend more money on football facilities.  Texas A&M is increasing the size of Kyle Field to make it the largest venue in the conference.  Tennessee recently opened a new $45 million football training facility that is state of the art.  Alabama has expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium and boasts a world-class football facility of its own.  Name any other SEC school and you’re likely to find that either its stadium is being upgraded or a new training facility is being built — Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and so on.  Now compare those football digs to the league’s basketball venues.  Auburn just opened a new arena… that seats all of 9,000 fans.  Ole Miss is finally replacing decrepit Tad Smith Coliseum with a new arena… that will seat 9,500 fans.  There are exceptions to the rule, of course.  Tennessee built its own basketball practice facility and upgraded Thompson-Boling Arena in recent years.  Kentucky has been making plans to renovate Rupp Arena.  Arkansas has made improvements to Bud-Walton Arena.  Mizzou Arena went up in 2004, but that was before the Tigers joined the SEC.  Outside of that handful of schools — schools that traditionally have supported hoops better than any others in the SEC — where do basketball venues outshine football venues in the SEC?  Not at LSU.  Or Florida.  Or Alabama.  Or Auburn, Georgia, and so on.  Better facilities equal better recruiting.

3.  The SEC has a reputation for being a football conference.  Put yourself in the size 18 Nikes of a top basketball prospect.  You can sign to play ball for one of America’s highest-paid coaches in a conference that puts basketball first and earns seven or eight NCAA tournament bids per season or you can sign with an SEC team and probably play for an up-and-coming coach in a so-so arena in front of a fanbase that’s more interested in football recruiting than basketball results.  Perhaps that’s an exaggeration.  Perhaps.  But at most SEC schools we do believe it’s a reality that there are as many eyes on spring football as there are on college hoops.  This issue also feeds itself, unfortunately.  The more people refer to the SEC as a “football conference” the more people believe it to be a football conference.  And don’t think recruits aren’t told that when they’re considering SEC scholarship offers.  ”You don’t want to go there, that’s a football school.”

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Coaches Can’t Cut Their Teeth At Auburn Anymore

gfx-they-said-it4Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs is riding high these days.  He hired Gene Chizik who in turn brought in Cam Newton who in turn led Auburn to a BCS championship.  After firing Chizik he hired his former offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, who immediately led AU back to the BCS title game last season.  And after firing Tony Barbee two weeks ago, he immediately coughed up a hefty sum for new basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

From a fan’s point of view that’s exactly what an athletic director should do — bring in coaches who win and be willing to pay for them.

This week, Jacobs made it clear he’s done trying to find bargains:

 

“The university is committed to winning and the administrators have given me the latitude to go out and do what we need to from a financial resource.  This is no longer a place you come in and cut your teeth.  You come in with proven track records, particularly in our major sports, and proven success…

People know we’re committed to winning championships because of what’s happened to football the last few years and these guys sit and talk to me about, ‘Are you as committed to do this in basketball as you are in football?’  Absolutely, yeah, and I’ve demonstrated it.  And we’re going to continue to demonstrate it because we’re going to win championships.  That’s what I’m committed to.”

 

Sounds good, but there are two things to keep in mind.  First, Jacobs has just backed himself into a corner if he has to hire another football or basketball coach down the road.  There will be no up-and-comers, only guys with “proven track records” and “proven success.”

Second, there’s another AD in the SEC who’s made splashy hires that were initially met with thunderous applause from his school’s fanbase — Jeff Long of Arkansas.  But Bobby Petrino blew himself up and took the UA football program with him.  Bret Bielema has gone from a “wow” hire to an “ow” hire in just over a year.  And his big-money swoop for Missouri’s Mike Anderson has resulted in one NIT berth in three years.

The lesson?  Just because you hire someone with a proven track record, it doesn’t guarantee success.  But for Jacobs, fresh off an SEC title in football and the splashy hire of a new hoops coach, it’s easy to understand his big smile and big talk.

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SEC Commitment Comparator – 3/25/14

blue_poker_chipsIt’s roughly 10 months until National Signing Day; do you know how your favorite football program stacks up?

Below is our much too early commitment comparator for the class of 2015.  Only, it really isn’t much too early.  As the recruiting process speeds up and prospects commit earlier and earlier, those schools that get out to an early jump on the competition typically gain momentum throughout the process.  Using social media, committed players often work as recruiting agents for their schools of choice, luring in friends and contacts from camps and all-star teams.

As always, we’ve used the star ratings provided by Rivals.com to put together our own quickie update.  For now, we’ll look only at quantity (total points) and quality (average points per commit).  For each star Rivals has assigned, we’ve awarded a point.  Where Rivals hasn’t provided a star grade (because they haven’t viewed tape of a prospect yet), we have awarded a lone point anyway because we’re softies.

So where does your team rank in comparison with its SEC foes?  Here’s your answer…

 

  School   Commits   5-stars   4-stars   3-stars   2-stars   1- & 0-stars   Total Points   Avg. Pts/Commit
  Texas A&M   9   0   8   1   0   0   35   3.88
  Alabama   8   0   7   1   0   0   31   3.88
  LSU   9   2   1   5   1   0   31   3.44
  Tennessee   9   0   4   4   1   0   30   3.33
  Miss. State   9   0   2   5   0   2   25   2.77
  S. Carolina   7   1   3   2   0   1   24   3.42
  Arkansas   7   0   4   2   0   1   23   3.28
  Georgia   5   0   4   0   0   1   17   3.40
  Ole Miss   4   0   1   3   0   0   13   3.25
  Auburn   5   0   1   2   0   2   12   2.40
  Florida   5   0   0   3   0   2   11   2.20
  Kentucky   2   0   0   2   0   0   6   3.00
  Vanderbilt   2   0   1   0   0   1   5   2.50
  Missouri   2   0   0   1   0   1   4   2.00

 

As a reminder, Alabama and Tennessee finished among the top four in the SEC in total points last signing day.  Alabama, LSU, Tennessee and Texas A&M also finished among the top five in the league in average points per commit.  The takeaway?  The top schools in the 2013/14 recruiting field are off to hot starts for 2014/15 as well.

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Alabama Shifting To A Hurry-Up Offense? Not Likely

gfx-they-said-it4One of the nation’s most vocal critics of the no-huddle, hurry-up offense trend that’s taken over college football has been Nick Saban.  His new offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, hasn’t run that type of offense at Tennessee or Southern Cal, either.  Put two and two together and four would seem to point to a pro-style offense being run once again at Alabama this fall.

But that hasn’t stopped reporters from asking about the potential for a change.  Last week, Saban said he didn’t want to switch to a spread offense because his team may not have enough mobile quarterbacks who “can go in there and play at the same level” as a starter who might hurt.

Now, tight end Brian Vogler has shed a bit more light on the subject and he also makes it sound as though the roster would preclude a switch to a spread, hurry-up attack:

 

“It’s hard for me to say right now if that would work for us.  I think we’re a team that’s made to be maulers.  Guys are just going to be really physical with you, hit you from every aspect of the game and hit you in every direction.  I just don’t know if that’s really our style of being speedy and trying to be elusive around everybody and dodge people like other schools do.”

 

Since 2008, Alabama has gone 72-9 and won three national titles.  If it ain’t broke, right?  Now, Bama might not always be the yardage kings of the SEC, that’s true.  But they do put points on the board.  Aside from finishing fifth in the league in scoring offense in 2008, the Crimson Tide has ranked among the four highest-scoring squads in the SEC from 2009 right on through last season.

In other words, don’t expect to see a hurry-up style from the home team at Bryant-Denny Stadium this fall.

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SEC Hoops Roundup: Arkansas, LSU & Texas A&M All Bounced From Postseason Play

gfx-hoops-round-up2Cal 75 – Arkansas 64

1. Razorbacks end their season at 22-12 after missing 14 straight during a stretch that lasted more than eight minutes.

SMU 80 – LSU 67

2. Tigers end their season at 20-14.  Has junior forward Johnny O’Bryant played his last game for LSU?

Illinois State 62 – Texas A&M 55

3. Aggies finish at 18-16 - won one road game all season.

With last night’s losses, only three SEC teams left in postseason play and all are in the NCAA Tournament – Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee.

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3 SEC Teams Still Alive In The NCAAs? Sweet, But The League Still Stunk

pondering-300x199Kudos to the Southeastern Conference teams still alive in the NCAA Tournament.  Three teams in the tourney, all three still dancing their way into the Sweet Sixteen.  Hard to complain about that showing.  In fact, it’s tempting to say that the SEC was underrated this season.

But it wasn’t.  The league as a whole was still pretty darn bad.

In 2013-14 the SEC had one great team (Florida) and two pretty good teams that have gotten hot at the right time (Kentucky and Tennessee).  Five teams (Alabama, Vanderbilt, Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State) finished the season with losing records overall.  That’s eight teams, so how did the other six SEC squads out of the NCAA Tournament but boasting winning records do against Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee?

 

Arkansas 2-2

Texas A&M 2-2

LSU 1-4

Missouri 1-4

Georgia 0-4

Ole Miss 0-4

 

That’s a combined 6-20 versus the three squads that received NCAA bids.  Mix that in with the five squads that finished with losing records, toss in several ugly non-conference losses across the league, and it’s easy to see why NCAA selection panelists frowned upon the SEC this season.

Having said that, it is certainly possible that the NCAA selection committee underseeded Kentucky and Tennessee due to their bad home league.  The Wildcats should have probably been a five or six seed based on their record and RPI.  And teams with Tennessee’s selection Sunday RPI have been seeded as high as seven and nine in recent years.  So we’ll give you that that much was botched.

But we were referring to the SEC as a three-bid league as far back as December.  We see no need for revision now.  No other SEC teams can legitimately claim that they did enough to earn an NCAA bid.

Now a few other random notes…

 

*  The SEC will get a fatter chunk of cash for this tourney because three teams have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen round.  Repeatedly getting three teams into the tourney has cut down on the earning power of the league.  But with every game won, the SEC receives a bigger slice of the tournament revenue pie.  Mike Slive’s league is wealthy to begin with, but the more money the better.  Obviously.

*  Might the SEC’s performance this year help during the tournament selection process next year?  Well, it certainly can’t hurt.  The league has developed a reputation over the past few years for being a bad basketball league.  It was ranked 7th among conferences in RPI this year.  The SEC went so far as to put a new czar in charge of hoops prior to the season in the hopes of gradually building the league back into a five- and six-bid conference.  That will take time.  Having national pundits point to the fact that three SEC teams are still playing in the NCAA tourney will help on the national perception front.  But as far as invitations in 2015?  The selection committee has a history of looking only at the current year’s numbers, not past years’ successes.  Ask Kentucky fans.  Last season the defending national champs had their bubble popped and were shipped to the NIT.  So national perception — yes, this helps.  Tournament selection in the future — it might not make a bit of difference.

*  I can think of two SEC coaches who might like to tell a few of their teams’ fans to stick it right about now.  John Calipari’s first four years in Lexington resulted in three Elite Eights, two Final Fours, a national title and — uh-oh — an NIT bid.  This year his kindergarten Cats “stumbled” to a 26-10 record.  Talk shows and messageboards and social media heated up.  Coach Cal was taking plenty of guff.  ”How can a guy with so much talent not win?”  But basketball seasons are long and winding roads, to paraphrase The Beatles.  UK has won five of its last seven with the only losses coming to top-ranked Florida.  After knocking off previously unbeaten Wichita State yesterday, UK has a date with Louisville this week for the right to play in yet another Elite Eight.  It’s interesting that the Calipari-to-the-NBA rumors started floating earlier than normal this season.  One wonders if UK’s coach has grown tired of the “#1 or bust” attitude of many spoiled Kentucky fans.  Or if he or someone close to him leaked such information just to remind Big Blue fans that they’d better appreciate him and his program’s current run of success.

*  Cuonzo Martin has had it worse than Calipari.  Three years ago he took over a Tennessee program that no one else wanted.  NCAA clouds left overhead by the Bruce Pearl administration were ominous and spooky.  In his first season he managed to coach a UT team picked near the bottom of the SEC into a second-place league finish.  His second team wound up on the wrong side of the bubble, but the Vols were still in the mix despite losing preseason All-SEC big man Jeronne Maymon for the year.  This year, UT was picked for third place in the SEC.  They finished fourth by one game.  Fans barked for Martin’s head.  More than 30,000 signed a petition to bring Pearl back.  AD Dave Hart was so torn that had Martin not gotten an NCAA bid eight days ago he might have been fired.  But Tennessee has now won eight of its last nine games with the only loss coming to Florida.  Most of those wins have been of the blowout variety.  UT is now 3-0 in the NCAAs and suddenly Martin has leverage.  While Calipari might be able to jump to the NBA, Martin might be looking around at other college jobs in case he wants to get while the getting is good and re-start his coaching clock somewhere else.  (Somewhere else where tens of thousands of fans don’t sign petitions to bring back ex-coaches.)

*  It might be time for the NCAA to ditch its RPI formula and just use Ken Pomeroy’s numbers.  The hoops fan/math geek has done some nice work over at KenPom.com this year, as usual.  Of the 16 teams still alive in the NCAA tourney, Pomeroy has 14 of them ranked in his top 21.  Only Stanford (34) and Dayton (43) are distant from the main pack.  For the record, Pomeroy has Florida #1, Tennessee #6 and Kentucky #11 in his current national rankings.  If nothing else, the NCAA selection committee might steal a glance at his rankings next March before they start handing out seeds.

 

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: A Roundup of Commitments

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxStephen Griffin couldn’t wait any longer to choose a school.

The defensive back from South Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, N.C., committed to Tennessee on Thursday. He made the decision more quickly than he anticipated.

“I had talked about it earlier and I knew I was going to commit there,” Griffin told Volquest.com. “I planned on waiting until after the spring game but I guess I just couldn’t wait.”

Griffin, who once lived in Knoxville, is already looking forward to joining 2014 defensive back signees Todd Kelly Jr. and Emmanuel Moseley, who enrolled at Tennessee in January.

The Vols coaching staff convinced Griffin he will be able to fit in with Tennessee’s young secondary.

“They treated me like a priority and that they really wanted me there and I could see myself playing there because my friend Todd Kelly and I used to go to preschool together and I used to live in Knoxville,” Griffin said. “Then, I made a connection with Emmanuel Moseley, too. It just felt like home there and that it was the place for me. They seemed the most interested, too.”

Clemson’s another school that has shown interest in Griffin, whose father, Steve Griffin, played running back for the Tigers from 1982-86. But Griffin said he had limited contact with Clemson until word traveled that he had committed to Tennessee.

“I got a message from one of (Clemson’s) coaches (Thursday) and they said to call them,” Griffin told Volquest. “But, over the last several months I haven’t really been receiving much interest from them.

“I feel like I’m pretty solid as of now because if they heat up it would feel weird because I don’t understand why they weren’t doing it earlier.”

Griffin is the ninth prospect and first defensive back to commit to Tennessee’s class of 2015.

 

South Carolina gets one Bowman brother, loses another

Wide receiver Michael Bowman from Havelock (N.C.) High School gave South Carolina good news when he committed to the Gamecocks’ 2015 class on Thursday.

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Georgia’s Richt Catches Heat For Recent Arrests; “Perception” Issues Remain

On Monday, four Georgia football players were arrested for cashing UGA-issued scholarship checks twice.  Folks from ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit to legendary UGA kick Kevin Butler weighed in on Mark Richt’s discipline.  Here’s what Herbstreit said via Twitter:

 

herbie tweet

 

 

Butler then responded to Herbstreit by tweeting “your dead on Kirk ….. No consequences, no fear… just plain stupidity every year.  Embarrassing for University.”

What neither pointed out is that you could put together a pretty good squad from the players Richt has tossed from his squad: Zach Mettenberger, Nick Marshall, Isaiah Crowell, etc.  All those guys landed elsewhere, including two inside the SEC who Richt had to coach against last year.

Also not mentioned is the fact that perception is worse than reality when it comes to Georgia’s “outlaw” reputation.

Georgia — as we’ve pointed out a few hundred times on this site — has the toughest drugs and behavior policies in the Southeastern Conference.  A footballer busted for an alcohol-related crime elsewhere might be forced to run stadium steps and sit for a quarter.  At Georgia, that’s typically an automatic suspension for two full games.  South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier has poked fun at the Bulldogs by saying he likes playing them early because they’re always missing a few guys.  That kind of comment gets kicked around until outsiders who don’t know any better — and apparently a supposed insider like Butler who should — start believing that UGA has more disciplinary problems than other schools when in fact, Georgia simply disciplines more than other schools.

Kids get in trouble at all schools.  And if your favorite school is on a clean streak right now, consider your football program overdue.  With 100 kids on a roster, there will be alcohol, marijuana and behavioral issues to deal with each and every year.  Georgia deals with them harshly and openly… and the school, the football program and Richt pay a price for that.

Kudos to Georgia and other SEC schools who have implemented strict policies (Kentucky being another), but in a world where Twitter perception is reality, it might be time to stop sweating the small stuff, just as most other schools do.  That will help make the big stuff — like the actions of the four dullards arrested Monday — seem less like the norm and more like the exception that it really is.

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No SEC Schools Pull The Double: Bowl Game And NCAA Bid

either_orThe SEC has reputation for being a football-first conference.  A quick check of the numbers shows by: 10 of 14 schools reached gridiron bowl games last season.  Just three of 14 SEC basketball squads made the NCAA Tournament.  And now check out the following list of schools and conferences (courtesy of CollegeFootballTalk.com):

 

Arizona (Pac-12)

Kansas State (Big 12)

UL-Lafayette (Sun Belt)

Louisville (AAC)

Michigan State (Big Ten)

Nebraska (Big Ten)

North Carolina (ACC)

Oklahoma (Big 12)

Pittsburgh (ACC)

San Diego State (Mountain West)

Syracuse (ACC)

UCLA (Pac-12)

 

That’s a listing of the 13 schools who did reach a bowl in football and the NCAA tourney in basketball.  You’ll notice that the other four power conferences — ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 — all had at least one team with multi-sport success.

The SEC’s three Big Dance participants this year all failed to make hey during the fall.  Florida was a disappointment, Tennessee and Kentucky are rebuilding (still).

The year before, two SEC members succeeded on the court and on the field: Florida and Ole Miss.  Missouri missed out on a bowl though the Tigers did land a tourney bid.  The league put nine teams into bowl games.

Now, as Andy Kennedy correctly suggested last week, a bowl game at 6-6 shouldn’t be viewed that much differently than an NIT bid and vice versa.  But for a league with a football-first rep, there hasn’t been much proof the last two years that SEC schools can succeed in the two major sports at once.  Nineteen bowl bids.  Six NCAA bids.  Only two of those six going to teams who also went bowling.

It hasn’t always been this way in the SEC, of course.  But there sure appears to be a gap between football and basketball now.

Sidenote — With Auburn’s hire of Bruce Pearl, how long before he and Gus Malzahn lead “Up-Tempo U” to a bowl and the NCAAs in the same year?

 

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Ole Miss’ Kennedy Plays Down Rumors Of Interest In South Florida; Rebel Fans Should Be Careful What They Wish For

andy-kennedy-hands-upJudging from the reaction on Twitter and messageboards, many, many Ole Miss fans would love to see coach Andy Kennedy depart Oxford for the open job at South Florida.  ”Don’t let the door hit you,” seems to be the most common refrain.

This view ignores one rather large question that a Kennedy defection would raise — Just who is UM gonna get that’s better?  Wait, we know.  Bruce Pearl.  Of course.  The man will have his choice between the traditional hoops hotbeds of Ole Miss and Auburn.  Color us skeptical.

Now back to reality — Just who could the Rebels lure to Oxford?  State law prevents the school from giving out contracts of longer than four years (disadvantage).  The school typically sits at the bottom of the SEC with Mississippi State when it comes to the US Department of Education’s annual breakdown of athletic departments’ finances (disadvantage).  No matter how you cook the books, the Rebs just aren’t on the same financial footing as some of their SEC rivals.  The Tad Pad is finally set to be replaced, but the new venue will seat just 9,500 (disadvantage).  You can donate to the cause here, by the way (apparently Fox’s Shepard Smith is “Fired Up!”).  There’s also the issue of racism that must be dealt with on the recruiting trail every time a few morons hang a noose on a statue and pick the scab off old self-inflicted wounds (disadvantage).

But let’s say AD Ross Bjork can turn all those issues into positives.  There’s still one other thing that might deter someone like a Jim Boeheim from leaving Syracuse for Ole Miss (sarcasm).  That’s the fact that Kennedy has done a pretty good job.  In the eyes of any coach on solid-footing the following records look pretty good all things considered: 21-13, 24-11, 16-15, 24-11, 20-14, 20-13, 27-9, 19-14.  That’s a .630 winning percentage and six seasons with 20 wins or more.  Granted there’s only one NCAA bid in that eight-year stretch, but most coaches realize that the tournament bubble can be pretty unpredictable and Kennedy has lived on the tournament bubble.  Plus, it’s not like the NCAA selection committee is doling out bids by the bushel to the SEC right now.

Many a coach will likely look at Kennedy’s record — if he leaves — and wonder if they could do any better.  And if seven seasons of 19 or more wins didn’t please the UM masses before, what the heck would those fans expect of a new guy?

Look, we’re not saying Ole Miss can’t reach for the stars.  Go for it.  But the old line from a Clint Eastwood “Dirty Harry” flick is worth remembering: “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

Someone can win in basketball at Ole Miss.  Hell, Kennedy has won at Ole Miss.  But replacing Kennedy with a big name — even Bruce Pearl — is going to be tall order for Bjork.

Perhaps Mississippi fans should just look down US 278 a piece if they’re not happy with the words we’ve written here.  Mississippi State forced Rick Stansbury to fall on his sword.  Stansbury had won 293 games for the Bulldogs and taken them to six NCAA tourneys.  He’d rolled up 10 20-win seasons, too.  But the Bulldogs barked, Stansbury got the message, and the school was left to hire… Rick Ray.  Now, he seems a fine fellow and he might win some games eventually, but Rick Ray was not a name MSU fans were dreaming of when Stansbury was put to sleep.  And while State fans blame the last two years — 24-40 overall, 7-29 in the SEC — on Stansbury, there’s no one outside of Starkville who thinks things would have been that bad had Stansbury simply been retained.

For that matter, maybe the Rebels should look to their old rival if indeed Kennedy has interest in the South Florida job, as The Tampa Tribune has reported.  We suggest, however, that Ole Miss fans start being a bit more appreciative of 19- and 20-win seasons.  Look around the SEC.  There aren’t many guys who are doing much better than what Kennedy has done.

Just sayin’.

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