Column: SEC coaching carousel sees major changes across the board

Posted on Nov 30 2017 - 7:59am by Billy Schuerman

After four months of coaching with an interim tag, Ole Miss introduced Matt Luke as the school’s next head coach Monday morning. Ending athletics director Ross Bjork’s long, exhausting search, the speculation finally came to a close and the Rebel fanbase is no longer left with uncertainty. However, throughout the SEC, head coaching positions remain open and chaos amongst the carousel has ensued.

Hours after the University of Tennessee named Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano head coach Sunday, backlash broke out across the internet and on campus regarding his ties to Jerry Sandusky and the scandal at Penn State in 2011. The university and its new head coach was slammed with negative press, even Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison weighed in.

“The head football coach at the University of Tennessee is the highest-paid state employee,” he said. “They’re the face of our state. We don’t need a man who has that type of potential reproach in their life as the highest-paid state employee.”

Seeing the adverse response from around the nation, athletics director John Currie backed out of the contract with the Buckeye coordinator before he even stepped foot in Knoxville. Schiano will remain as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State for now and will prepare for the Big Ten conference title game against Wisconsin.

Moving south, Dan Mullen completed his ninth season as the head coach at Mississippi State with a 31-28 loss to Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. With a record of 69-46, he was the second-winningest coach with the Bulldogs. On Sunday evening, it was announced that Mullen was jumping ship and will be the head coach at the University of Florida. Mullen will make his second stint as a part of the Gator coaching staff after being the offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer and part of two national championship teams in 2006 and 2008.

Replacing Mullen in Starkville will be Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. Named the 2016 offensive coordinator of the year, Moorhead took the offensive reins for the Nittany Lions and led them to a 21-5 record. He averaged almost 40 points a game at Penn State and will look to carry toward the future the offensive firepower Mullen left. With elite quarterback Nick Fitzgerald at the helm and promise all around the Bulldogs’ offense, Moorhead should have no problem in transition.

To the west, Texas A&M has fired Kevin Sumlin after not beating an SEC West team at Kyle Field since 2015 and finishing 51-26 in six seasons. Sumlin was was originally hired by the Aggies in 2011 and finished his first season at 11-2 but has since failed to find any of that success he had initially. While Sumlin is rumored to be headed for the open job at Arizona State, the Aggies will have a hole in the system that needs to be filled.

A&M has yet to announce any hirings but should the contract be enticing enough, Jimbo Fisher looks to be in the cards. Fisher has been pleading for new and updated facilities at Florida State since he was promoted to head coach in Tallahassee in 2010. Fisher gave the university an ultimatum to either build a new $60 million facility or he was out. Years later, no ground has yet to break, and the contract is up. On his resume is a 83-23 record and a 2013 national title, and A&M is willing to dish out some serious money to someone who owns a ring.

Though it is not an official opening, if Auburn falls anywhere short of national champions, Gus Malzahn is probably as good as gone. Malzahn coached high school football in Arkansas for 15 years before he became the offensive coordinator at Auburn. He then left to “go home” and became the head coach at Arkansas State before inevitably returning to Auburn after Gene Chizik’s firing. The pressure to win at Arkansas is nonexistent compared to that at Auburn.

If Malzahn can pull off a nine-win season at Arkansas and win the bowl game, he gets an immediate contract extension and an extra million dollars. However, he will always live in Nick Saban’s shadow in the state of Alabama, and if he doesn’t get the ring this year, he’s out of there.

The college football coaching carousel has been a wild ride for the last few days, with headlines seemingly breaking every 10 minutes, but there is still plenty of time left for things to go madder than a March hare. For now, Tennessee still doesn’t have a coach, options are opening up for Kevin Sumlin and the future is shaky for the Tigers’ coaching scene. And that is just in the SEC.