Critics are still ascending on the SEC’s “bottom eight” like wolves on a lame calf. With the question of how to solve the problem in naming the best conference answered, there is little left to do but explain away the points critics are attacking.
The main ammunition is the fact that five SEC coaches have fired in the last two seasons (three after 2012). However, it appears that many do not understand why coaches are fired.
Coaches are not fired for losing records, bad teams or embarrassing performances. Coaches are fired for failing to meet expectations. Teams with solid recruits, great facilities and plenty of talent expect to see results in the standings. When these are missing, a change must be made.
Eastern Michigan, for example, is 10-38 since 2009, yet Ron English remains the head coach. Before English, Jeff Genyk coached the team for five seasons. Genyk’s record was just 16-42. Conversely, SEC coaches have much shorter leashes as the programs are all expected to perform well.
Evidence of this rests in the most recent firings. Ole Miss fired Houston Nutt after a 24-26 record in Oxford. Ole Miss even paid more than $4 million in order to remove Nutt. Tennessee fired Derek Dooley after just three seasons and a 15-21 record. Joker Phillips was fired from Kentucky after the same amount of time and a 13-24 record. Auburn also fired Gene Chizik just two seasons after his National Championship victory. Chizik was 33-19 at Auburn, and 2012 was his only losing season, as he posted at least eight victories in each of his other three seasons with the program.
Other conferences have lower expectations of their “bottom teams”, which causes fewer coaches to lose their jobs. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State’s head coach, is entering his fifth season at the school. Rhoads has posted just one winning season at Iowa State, and that was in 2009. Rhoads’ 24-27 record would have gotten him fired from any SEC program, but not in the Big 12. David Cutcliffe, Duke’s head coach, was fired from Ole Miss in 2004 after his only losing season in seven years with the Rebels. Cutcliffe is currently 21-40 at Duke, while his predecessor, Ted Roof, was 6-45 before being fired.
The easy statistic to pull for this ridiculous argument is the number of SEC coaches that are fired. However, SEC coaches are fired faster than coaches in any other conference because of the higher expectations. College football will never see a coach on an SEC sideline if his record is below .500 after three seasons. Meanwhile, Big 12 coaches receive praise for the job they are doing while continuing to post losing records.
The only response to this can be that Iowa State is simply not the same type of program as Tennessee or Kentucky. This is exactly why the SEC is the strongest conference in football, top to bottom. The “bottom” of the SEC is on a different level than the “bottoms” of any other conference.