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Time To Add Saban’s Face To The SEC’s Mt. Rushmore

sec-mt-rushmore-bryant-spurrier-neyland-sabanWhen you talk about The Greatest anything in sports, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.  Everyone has an opinion on who or what The Greatest is.  That’s because everyone uses different criteria to determine what The Greatest even means.

Example: Who’s the NFL’s best quarterback?  The guy with the most Super Bowl trophies?  The guy with the most MVP awards?  The guy with the most passing yards on the back of his trading card?

As for college football, we can use the Heisman Trophy as another example.  Some people believe “most outstanding player” means the best offensive player on the best team.  Some people believe it means the most valuable player on a team, regardless of highlights and hype.  Still others cast their votes based on hard and fast stats.

So when we ask who should go on an imaginary Mt. Rushmore of SEC football coaches, we know we’re opening the door and inviting debate to come on in and sit a spell.

Fair enough.

As usual, we wanted to inject a little data, a bit of math into our study of the SEC’s greatest all-time coaches.  We also wanted to weed the competition for those four slots — we said Mt. Rushmore after all — down to a manageable number.

Our first step was to figure out who should be left out.  We set our start date at 1935.  The SEC was founded in 1932 and ’35 made for a nice round number.  If a man didn’t coach the majority of his career after that year he was excluded from our exercise.  So if you’re wondering why someone like Vanderbilt’s Dan McGugin isn’t on the list, now you know.

Next, we decided to include only coaches who have toiled in the Southeastern Conference for at least a decade.  Regardless of a coach’s success, if he hasn’t spent at least 10 years in the SEC how much historical impact could he really have?  Florida’s Urban Meyer — despite two BCS titles in six years — failed to pass this portion of our test.

One-year wonders were out, too.  Only coaches with multiple SEC championships were considered deserving of placement on our monument.  That eliminated coaches like Auburn’s Shug Jordan.

We decided that a coach also had to have won at least one consensus — that’s consensus — national championship during his tenure as an SEC head coach.  That eliminated Tennessee’s Johnny Majors, for example.  Majors won a national title at Pittsburgh, but he didn’t win one in the SEC.  So he’s out.

Finally, we eliminated any coaches who had their success at a program no longer in the SEC.  There are three ex-SEC schools out there: Sewanee, Tulane, and Georgia Tech.  One of them had a coach who fit all of the above criteria.  But it felt a little silly to consider Bobby Dodd for a spot on the SEC’s Mt. Rushmore when it was Dodd who famously yanked Tech from the Southeastern Conference.  So coaches like Dodd are out.

Those criteria — post-1935 career, 10 seasons in the SEC, multiple SEC titles, one consensus national title, and employment at a current SEC institution — helped narrow our choices down to just seven men.

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Switzer Reportedly A-OK With Hogs’ Hire Of Bielema (And His 27-Year-Old Wife)

Barry Switzer is best known as the former national championship-winning coach of Oklahoma and the Super Bowl-winning coach of Dallas.  (How ’bout them Cowboys!)  But he’s also an Arkansas grad and he’s just fine with his alma mater’s hire of Bret Bielema.  For a number of reasons:

 

“The first thing I heard today was that he grew up on a pig farm.  That’s quite a start in my book.  And my last memory was watching him hang 70 on Nebraska.  Just those two facts are enough.  Then, I hear that he’s out of the Hayden Fry-Bill Snyder-Barry Alvarez coaching tree.  Oh, that’s enough for me to like a lot.  Then, I hear he’s got a 27-year-old wife.  Okay, we can stop. I like him.”

 

Now, that quote comes from a messageboard, so it could be bogus.  But it sure sounds like something Switzer would say.  And even if he didn’t, it’s funny.

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Cowher Or Ryan To Cats? Gruden To Vols Or Hogs? Lombardi To Tigers? Making Sense Of The Nonsense

Each and every day this website gets ‘em.  Emails from folks who want so badly to believe that a big name NFL coach is coming in as their football program’s savior that they fall hook, line and sinker for every rumor they read on a messageboard.  And, heck, one day one of these “out there” stories might just come to fruition.  But when we see one of the following nuggets in an email, we immediately raise a cynical eyebrow:

 

* Coach X was seen in town eating with a prominent booster.  (Meetings with candidates are done outside of college towns to avoid both the media and every Tom, Dick and Harry with a cell phone camera.)

* Coach X was seen in town playing golf with a prominent booster.  (See explanation above.)

* Coach X’s wife was in town to look at houses.  (Any coach’s wife interested in a house can have a surrogate go to said town and scout out houses if necessary, but they do have these newfangled virtual tours of houses, too, you know?)

* Coach X has a clause in his TV contract that states he can’t coach in the NFL next year.  (Ex-coaches leave the broadcast booth every year to return to the sidelines despite having spent the previous season holding production meetings with coaches and players from other teams.  If ex-NFL coaches had binding deals with networks, you’d think NFL insiders like Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter, etc, would know about them.)

 

All that said, the rumors are swirling in the Bluegrass State that Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Cowher is considering the Kentucky job.  First, there’s the obvious question that must be thrown out regarding any NFL coach: “Why would he take less money in the college game and have to recruit when he could take more money in the pro game and not have to recruit?”  Second, if Cowher did decide to coach in the college ranks for the first time ever, do you think he’d pick Kentucky of the Southeastern Conference over — potentially — NC State of the ACC?  You see, Cowher played football at NC State.  Seems the Wolfpack would have a bit of leg up on the Wildcats if NCSU drops the hammer on Tom O’Brien.

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Saban Blasts Those Who Push For Champs Only In Playoffs

We know that the new college football playoff won’t be a champions-only affair.  We know that conference championships will, however, be a part of the criteria selection committee members will look at.

We also know that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is pushing for more weight to be given to conference winners, though he says he was never in favor of a champs-only model.

Well, here’s what Nick Saban had to say about the idea of a champs-only playoff structure… and those people pushing for a heavy emphasis on conference titles:

 

“(In basketball) Kentucky and North Carolina play a basketball game and one of them loses, but everybody wants to see Kentucky and North Carolina play in the championship game.  You know in the NFL you lose, you might not even win your division, you might be a wild card team, you still get in the playoffs and you still have a chance to win the Super Bowl.  So you still have to play your way to win…

I think, to be quite honest with you, whoever’s making the statement about conference champions is really making a statement against the SEC and against any league who has more than one good team who would qualify… trying to enhance the opportunity for someone from their league to get in.”

 

Ya think Saban liked Delany’s quote from earlier this year that he wouldn’t have much “regard” for a team that didn’t win its own division?

The trouble is — and we’ve been saying this for a while — if the selection committee has representatives from every league on an equal basis it’s probably not a good thing for the SEC because league reps will want to spread the wealth and let in four teams from four different leagues whenever possible.

Get ready for it.

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ESPN’s Maisel Says “SEC Media Days” Is Super Bowl Media Day Times Three

So what’s the event “SEC Media Days” become?  Basically a circus.  From the fans gathered in the lobby and at the bottom of the escalators hoping for an autograph to the throng of media and fans-turned-media, the event has ballooned in size.  So much so that one of the most-respected college football writers in the country — ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel — had this to say about its size:

 

“It’s Super Bowl Media Day times three ’cause there’s three days of this and it never gets any smaller.  It just keeps growing and growing.  We’re bulging out of this hotel.”

 

When a conference’s media event is said to be bigger than any Super Bowl-related event, you know that league has reached a new high.  The SEC is now as much spectacle as sport.  And, yes, Missouri and Texas A&M fans, this is what you can expect year-in and year-out.

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And The First College Football Title Game Goes To…

Not Nashville.

Well, no kidding.

The Tennessean — that’s a Nashville newspaper, not just some guy from the Volunteer State — reports that the head of the Nashville Sports Council would like a college football championship game to be held in Music City, but he knows the odds are slim.  According to Scott Ramsey:

 

“Common sense is going to tell you that Super Bowl facilities that have 80,000 to 100,000 seats and retractable roofs and massive amounts of revenue that can be generated from facilities are going to put us at more of a long shot.  But if there’s an opportunity for us to get into that mix, we certainly will.  Until they can define how that process will go, we’re all just kind of sitting and waiting on that next step… We’ve probably got more questions at this point than answers.”

 

Except for the fact that Ramsey is absolutely correct that college football’s power brokers will be looking to make the most money possible and have guaranteed good weather.  So “Super Bowl facilities” are likely in the forecast.  As for domes and stadiums with roofs, those don’t get much bigger than 80,000.  So in reality, it’s about weather and modern luxury suites more than simple seating capacity.  Nashville boasts 69,000-seat LP Field which is an open-air facility.  Shame, because Nashville and its downtown entertainment district around LP Field would be a tremendous place to host a title game.

So far, several cities have already publicly stated that they intend to bid for the national championship game when the playoffs begin in 2014.  For kicks, let’s look at the cities that can currently offer a seating capacity of 65,000+ as well as good weather or a dome/retractable roof stadium.  We’ll also include any city that’s hosted or is scheduled to host a Super Bowl between 2001 and 2015.

 

Atlanta — Georgia Dome (dome), 71,228

Arlington/Dallas — Cowboys Stadium (retractable roof), 80,000

Detroit — Ford Field (dome), 65,000

East Rutherford/New York — MetLife Stadium (open-air), 82,500

Glendale/Phoenix — University of Phoenix Stadium (retractable roof), 73,719

Houston — Reliant Stadium (retractable roof), 71,500

Indianapolis — Lucas Oil Stadium (retractable roof), 70,000

Jacksonville — EverBank Field (open-air), 76,867

Los Angeles — LA Memorial Coliseum (open-air), 93,607

Miami — Sun Life Stadium (open-air), 78,468

New Orleans — Superdome (dome), 72,968

Orlando — Citrus Bowl (open-air), 65,438

Pasadena — Rose Bowl (open-air), 92,542

San Antonio — Alamodome (dome) 65,000

San Diego — Qualcomm Stadium (open-air), 70,561

St. Louis — Edward Jones Dome (dome), 66,000

Tampa — Raymond James Stadium (open-air), 65,847

 

That’s 17 potential host cities.  Weed out Los Angeles until the ancient LA Memorial Coliseum is replaced by a more modern (see: luxury-suite-filled) stadium.  East Rutherford is likely out, too, as most college football administrators aren’t likely to be as gung-ho about a New York championship game as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.  Jacksonville would be a longshot as well as their Super Bowl didn’t go down as a smashing success.

Now we’re down to 14 cities and you should know that the St. Louis Rams are wanting a newer facility (with more suites) than the Edward Jones Dome.  The same can be said for the San Diego Chargers and Qualcomm Stadium.  The Alamodome — while in a touristy city — hasn’t hosted so much as a “major” bowl game, so it’s unlikely San Antonio would make the cut.  The Citrus bowl would also fall into this grouping if not for a multi-million dollar renovation project that’s just been begun in the hopes of landing a title game or one of the six biggest bowl slots.

That leaves us with just 11 cities that appear to have a realistic shot at landing the first title game in 2014: Atlanta, Arlington/Dallas, Detroit, Glendale/Phoenix, Houston, Indianapolis, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando, Pasadena, or Tampa.  Of those 11 stadia, seven are located within states in the SEC’s geographic footprint.  (Expect Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany to push hard for Detroit, Indianapolis and Minneapolis when it’s new domed NFL stadium opens.)

The best bet on the board?  Jerry Jones’ cash as well as his football showplace in Texas would be the odds-on favorite at the MrSEC.com Casino and Resort.

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Despite The Talk, Tomorrow’s Not A Must-Win For UK’s Calipari

Fans and media love to overhype things.  We enjoy making grand declarations.  We want definitive answers.  So anytime we can attach the words “once and for all” to something, we do so.

John Calipari has a chance to prove “once and for all” that he’s a great coach tomorrow in New Orleans.  If his Kentucky team defeats Rick Pitino’s Louisville squad — and then wins again on Monday — he’ll be given a key to the Mt. Olympus of college basketball coaches.

If he loses?  Then we’ll know “once and for all” he’s not worth the hype and praise he so often receives.

Folks across the SEC and that nation have been beating that drum all week:


“A loss here not only would be a loss with the best team with a national championship in sight, but a loss to Pitino, of all coaches, at Louisville, of all teams.  It wouldn’t erase what Calipari has accomplished in three years, but it would leave those accomplishments receding quickly.”

– Eric Crawford, The Louisville Courier-Journal


“Bottom line: (Calipari) can’t lose this weekend.  Not Saturday or Monday.  Especially not Saturday.  Not to Rick Pitino.  Calipari has his own aura, but it’s in need of an upgrade that only a national championship can provide…

For all the games he’s won at different program, Calipari doesn’t have any national titles.  It’s time to correct that oversight.  It’s time to win the only game he’s never won.  The one that matters most.  The last one.”

– Kevin Scarbinsky, The Birmingham News


Personally, I like both of those writers’ work.  And I obviously understand where they’re coming from.  As noted above, we as a people love “all the marbles” type games.

But win or lose, Calipari’s career won’t end on Saturday or Monday.  He’ll coach another season.  And then another.  And then another.

We want the race to be run yesterday.  But to quote “Ben Hur,” the race goes on.

Take for example the 2009 Indianapolis Colts.  As they were preparing to face the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl, the national ESPN-driven theme of the week went something like this: “If Peyton Manning wins his second Super Bowl he’ll be the best quarterback ever.” 

But what if he’d gone back to the big game five more times and lost them all to finish with a 2-5 Super Bowl mark?  Think folks would still be saying “best ever?”

Ask Tom Brady.  He was 3-0 in Super Bowls and now, having lost two — one in the final minute and one on a failed Hail Mary pass — he’s written off as just another good quarterback. 

But what if Brady reaches five more Super Bowls and wins them all to finish with an 8-2 Super Bowl record? 

Granted, it’s doubtful Manning or Brady — as great as the are — will either one reach five more Super Bowls, but you get the point.

Calipari is in the same boat with Manning, Brady and every other player and coach in the country in this day and age — his last game is the ultimate decider.  Win and he’s legitimized (until he falls short again).  Lose and he’s a joke (unless he goes right back to the Final Four next year and wins a national title).

I get the size and scope of tomorrow’s game from the standpoint of fans in the Commonwealth.  It’s huge.  We’ve said that since Monday.  Another game this is not.  It’s massive. 

But it’s not the final exam for Calipari that we in the media and on the messageboards and on talk radio want to make it out to be.  Until he hangs up his thousand-dollar suits and his coaching whistle for good, he’ll still be writing his legacy.

That means next March many of the same folks talking about his legacy now, will be doing the same thing all over again.

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Spurrier Says He’s Not Going Anywhere

Steve Spurrier may turn 67 in April, but he’s not interested in hanging up his visor just yet.  Speaking to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Carolina’s football coach said:


“I didn’t hear much about my retirement this year.  It was funny.  There were talking to Tom Coughlin.  We’re about the same age.  They asked him if he was going to hang it up after winning the Super Bowl.  He said I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in a long time, I’ve got plenty of energy and I’ve got several more years in me.  Of course, that’s what I say.  We’ve got the best group of players we’ve ever had at South Carolina since I’ve been here.  It would be hard to quit after you’ve accumulated and assembled a strong team that won 11 games last year.

If the time comes when we start going bad, oh don’t worry, I will be the first to say they need somebody else in here.  It won’t be any big deal or anything like that.  Right now, I’m doing pretty well, physically and mentally.  I feel as good as I did 20 years ago.  I still call the plays.  My mind is OK, I believe.  So I don’t know what else I would do right now except for coaching ball.”


In other words, opposing SEC coaches can stop with the “he’s not gonna be there very long” negative recruiting.  Not that that tack has worked too well in recent years anyway, as evidenced by the major upgrade in talent at Williams-Brice Stadium.

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SEC Headlines – 2/6/12

It appears most folks took Super Bowl Sunday off as there’s just not much going on around the league today.  We’ll jump into a few headlines to kick off the day…


1.  There were seven ex-SEC winners in last night’s Super Bowl (and 12 ex-SEC losers).  Congrats to Eli Manning and the G-men.

2.  Alabama’s football program has an NFL feel that appeals to recruits.

2.  Auburn’s 2012 roster will offer talent, more youth.

4.  Ole Miss isn’t taking advantage of opportunities to build its NCAA tourney resume.

5.  The Rebels face Mississippi State on Thursday and they’d better be wary of hot-shooting Jalen Steele (who’s hitting 40% from three-point range).

6.  Florida’s Mike Rosario is making an impact outside of scoring.

7.  If Kentucky’s ever going to be tested, it’s going to be this week against Florida and then at Vanderbilt.

8.  Cuonzo Martin says Tennessee has “the necessary pieces” to be successful this year (despite a 3-5 SEC record).

UPDATE #1 — These aren’t happening, but someone decided to have a little fun by Nike-ing up the SEC’s football helmets.  If you like any of them, I’ll be you’re under the age of 30. 

UPDATE #2 — The SEC has named its Player of the Week (Kentucky’s Anthony Davis) and its Freshman of the Week (Florida’s Bradley Beal).

UPDATE #3 — ESPN.com’s Andy Katz ranks the SEC’s hoops teams from 1 through 12… and that would be Kentucky through Carolina.

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UT-VU Rivalry Heating Up As Franklin Gets Hot Over Leaked UT Postgame Celebration

In more than three years of posting stories here at MrSEC.com, we’ve posted — to my knowledge — two videos from inside a school’s locker room.  In both cases, the video posted was released by the school or an alumni association as a promotion of their product.

The first involved Vanderbilt’s celebration after beating Ole Miss last September (the school posted the video).  The second involved Mississippi State’s postgame celebration after its Egg Bowl win last November (MSU’s alumni association posted the video).

Other than that, what happens in a locker room stays in a locker room, in our view.  We’ve seen leaked stuff before, but I sure can’t recall posting any of it.

Having been in college locker rooms after victories, I can tell you that what’s said there is a) said for the sake of the players, not the fans and media and b) similar no matter which locker room you’re inside.

After wins, boasting is the order of the day.  After losses, “we beat ourselves” is the mantra.

If a school releases something boastful or weepy, we find that newsworthy because that shows that the school/programs wants the information out there.  When MSU releases video of Dan Mullen saying his team will never lose to Ole Miss again, that is more a story than an exuberant Mullen saying the actual words.

However, when someone sneaks a video — one that the school isn’t pushing — then we’ve in the past backed away, not wanting to invade the private moments between a coach and his team.

Not everyone feels the way we do.  For some sites — that’ve proven time and again they would rather be the story than report the story — anything and everything is fair game.  Ask Tennessee’s Derek Dooley.

Dooley’s locker room was mighty celebratory on Saturday night after his Vols outlasted Vanderbilt 27-21 in overtime.  Someone recorded the celebration with a cell phone camera and the website OutkickTheCoverage.com posted it under the headline: “Derek Dooley Slams Vandy In Post-Game Locker Room Celebration.”

In the video below, if you listen closely, you can hear Dooley tell his team (in between wild cheers) that “The one thing that Tennessee always does is kick the s— out of Vandy.”

And that’s set off a s— storm in Nashville.  Asked about the celebration yesterday, Vandy coach James Franklin was not amused:

“That’s a wound that I’m going to leave open that’s not going to heal.  We’ve leave it open for a year and we’ll discuss it next year…

We’ll talk about it as much as you guys want to talk about it next year.  We’ll watch it as many times as we’ve got to watch it next year.

I look at it as respect.  Some people act like they won the Super Bowl, and they beat a team that the two previous years had won four games total.  Obviously, we are closing the gab and threatening some people and making some people uncomfortable.  We’ll see.  We’ll leave it at that.  We’ll move on.  But we’re have a lot of discussion about this next year when the time is right.”

Dooley was not thrilled that his postgame locker room chat was released to the public.  (Note to coaches: You might want to institute a “no cell phones in the locker room” policy.)

“I’m a little disappointed that a video is out on our locker room celebration.  But that’s kind of the world we live in.  It’s like there’s no sacred place.  I think probably all 120 (FBS) coaches out there in football have a side to them where they loosen up with the team that they don’t do in public.

You take those things for what they are.  It’s a postgame, emotional, have a little fun… and then you close the door on them when you leave.”

Well you can bet Franklin won’t be closing the door on them.  And he has every right to use Dooley’s words as a motivation for his team next year.  Just as Dooley has every right to put a foot in the rump of anyone posting video of UT’s pre- or postgame locker room talks.

That said, Tennessee does deserve a pass on part of their celebration.  The Volunteers sang the following song as noted in The Tennessean:

“We don’t give a damn about the whole school of Vanderbilt, the whole school of Vanderbilt, the whole school of Vanderbilt; we don’t give a damn about the whole school of Vanderbilt… we’re from Tennessee.”

Anyone who’s spent anytime at all around college football knows that that little ditty is a postgame tradition at about half the schools in the country.  As in: “We don’t give a damn about the whole state of Michigan, we’re from O-HI-O.”  Etc, etc.  It’s a staple of many SEC and Big Ten locker rooms and I can say that from personal experience.

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