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Comparing Sons of Anarchy Characters to Their College Football Coaching Compadres

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Sons of Anarchy Characters Compared to Their College Football Coaching Compadres


The hit FX show Sons of Anarchy has captured the attention of television viewers across the country with its no-holds-barred, honest portrayal of a Northern California bike club struggling to keep from ripping apart at the seams. SAMCRO, as the club is called, is a cast of characters full of real-life inadequacies, insecurities and certainties. The writing is brilliant and the show's fans are dreading its end. With only a few seasons left, things are reaching a peak, and each week new plot twists send things in an unexpected, new, and exciting direction.

Similarly, the college football coaching fraternity is full of characters as well, many of whom share the traits that give SOA it's drama. Jax Teller, Clay Morrow, Tig Trager, Juice Ortiz and Damon Pope all have their college football equivalents. Each of these men has a public image to maintain and a character they’ve developed to protect themselves. The public and private personas of college football’s coaching elite is certainly no different. For every assumption we have of what a man is all about, there are people who know him better than we ever will, and know the difference between assumptions and reality. Let's take a closer look at how the key players match up.

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Lane Kiffin As Jaxon "Jax" Teller


Jax TellerThe leadership of SAMCRO has fallen into the hands of Jax Teller over the course of time as much through fate as through design. The son of SAMCRO founder John Teller, Jax is a wunderkind who at his relatively young age has the respect of his brothers in the club-- for the most part-- and uses his combination of intelligence, guile, and brut force when it is called for to continue to be upwardly mobile. The future of the club is at the heart of Jax’s decisions, but he isn’t afraid to protect himself when his own safety or that of his family is called into question.

USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin, some would argue, also fell into his current position as much as by fate as by design. Lane’s dad, Monte Kiffin, is considered by most to be one of the best defensive coordinators in the modern era. Monte helped Lane get his start, and Lane has now returned the favor, adding him as an assistant on his staff at USC. Lane torched bridges with the Tennessee Volunteers in an effort to help his family and all along had intentions which were unspoken about bettering his situation.

Lane and Jax share that same quiet controversy behind steely eyes and a confidence which comes off sometimes as arrogance, when it’s really just insecurity.

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Clay Morrow As Joe Paterno


Clay MorrowAlong with John Teller, Clay Morrow helped to establish the power of SAMCRO following the Vietnam War. Along the way, Clay realized that he must ensure John’s death to allow for the direction of the club going forward in his image, instead of in the image John envisioned which would take the club away from drugs, guns, and the elements which are starting to tear it apart at the seams. Clay did a masterful job of hiding this unsavory act from his family over the course of time through clever misdirections and developing an icon-like status among his peers with whom he ruled with an iron fist and intimidation.

Joe Paterno was once the unquestioned father figure of Penn State University football in much the same way Clay Morrow once was of SAMCRO. Paterno had undeniable and unwavering devotion from his followers and peers-- the thought was he could do no wrong-- until it was discovered he indeed did nothing but wrong. In covering up the systematic, long-term child abuse by Jerry Sandusky, Paterno made his own bed and accelerated his diminished legacy. This one’s an easy parallel.

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Tig Trager As Bobby Petrino


Tig Trager

Tig is the brawn behind SAMCRO, it’s ruthless enforcer who’s hair-trigger temper is offset by obvious, troubled emotions. Tig has a weakness for fast women and hair-triggered decisions, both of which have led to trouble time and again. Tig’s decision to attack Niners leader Laroy Wayne in retaliation for the destruction of a SAMCRO weapons truck, instead leads to the death of Damon Pope’s daughter, Veronica and begins the downward spiral of the club. Tig is impulsive and his actions all too often-- whether well-intentioned or not-- lead to trouble.

Former Arkansas Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino loves the motorcycles and fast women himself, and has an undeniable impulsiveness which has led to his fall from grace. Petrino’s jump from Louisville, to the Atlanta Falcons, to his short stint at Arkansas resulted in bridges burnt and people hurt. His affair with an employee in the Arkansas athletic department hurt himself, but has begun the degradation of a program to which he, for once, finally seemed loyal. Tig, meet Bobby. Bobby, Tig.

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Juice Ortiz As Mike Leach


Juice OrtizJuice Ortiz is the brains of SAMCRO-- constantly being turned to for his ability to come up with unique solutions to the club’s more challenging issues. Juice also, however, is vulnerable and has a conscience which causes plenty of internal battles to rage on in his head between his desire to be independent and “live off the grid” with his concern for what it will take to get there. Juice has the law hanging over his head as he was once an informant to the San Joaquin County sheriff and seems to be searching for an out.

Washington State Cougars coach Mike Leach has always been the brains of the operation. A lawyer by trade, and a football coach by circumstance, Leach’s ability to constantly adapt to defenses with his wide-open offensive style has brought success, but has also pigeonholed him somewhat. Leach’s struggles with the Adam James situation at Texas Tech forced him into temporary exile in Key West, an exile from the coaching profession which some believed could end up being permanent. Leach decided to return under his own terms in Pullman, but the past will still always loom.

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Damon Pope As Nick Saban

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Damon Pope

Damon Pope calls the shots, but he also respects folks willing to make him take a step back. In spite of his brutal nature and thirst for power, Pope seems to have a softer side that respects balance. Although his murder of Tig’s daughter and the setup for Opie’s murder were both intentional and brutal, they were done to regain a balance lost when Tig ran down his daughter. This bloodlust is offset in a recent episode when we see Pope handing candy out to kids and playing with his family at a public park. Every man is a dichotomy.

There’s no question that Nick Saban is the shot called for the Alabama Crimson Tide and he demands unequivocal respect. This respect, however, comes with a genuine good-natured personality according to folks behind the scenes who spend more time around him than any member of the press has who is so willing to dismiss him as gruff or ill-natured. Pope and Saban are both proof that a demeanor that demands respect may in fact be only a cover for what lies within.