The SEC West is so competitive and successful, it’s hard to believe no coach has left or been fired by their respective schools.
Four years is the ideal time frame for any coach to establish the program the way they want it. Once that time frame goes by, the administration has to decide whether to keep them or fire them. Sometimes it’s the coaches themselves who move on to bigger and better situations. Looking at the seven coaches in the SEC West, I predict four of them will no longer be coaching their current teams this time next year. Certain coaching changes are more obvious than others, but no one man is safe in the most rigorous division in college football.
Guaranteed To See Next Year:
Bret Bielema, Arkansas: As far as program stability goes, Bielema is one of the few who has it in this division. Each season he has been at Arkansas has seen steady improvement in the win column. Considering the absolute dumpster fire the program was in when he took over (courtesy of Bobby P & John L), he has the Razorbacks turning into a solid and quality program. It’s hard to tell how good his Hogs will be this year, but you can bet that Arkansas will never be under .500 as long as Bret is head hog. He has a fantastic contract, new practice and academic facilities, support of the fans, and a $160 million stadium renovation coming this year. No number of inappropriate comments can be made by Bielema to keep him from being back next year.
Les Miles, LSU: Seems crazy doesn’t it? Towards the end of last season it looked as though Lester Miles was coaching his final games for the Bayou Bengals. Without rehashing the absolute idiocy of the administration of LSU again, he’s back and expectations have never been higher. He has serious talent returning on both sides of the ball for 2016, not to mention the best college football player in the country, Leonard Fournette. Ol’ Les will do no worse than nine wins this year. The brass at LSU will be hesitant to even discuss removing Miles to keep from repeating last year’s fiasco. He may not be around in two years, but bank on the Mad Hatter’s return in 2017.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: I have no idea what it will take for Kevin Sumlin to get fired. Ever since Johnny Manziel hoisted that Heisman Trophy it has been all downhill for Texas A&M. Quarterbacks are transferring in and out like it’s their job. The locker room has been in absolute disarray and that has translated onto the field. Assistant coaches are subtweeting about recruiting and causing a big portion of the class to decommit. You name the problem, Texas A&M has it. But Sumlin brought just enough attention to get the Aggies to go all in. A massive contract and a new Kyle Field is proof of that. But the real reason Texas A&M won’t fire Sumlin is this: he made Texas A&M cool. Sumlin is impressing high caliber recruits with the “swag-copter” and Drake is attending games. The Aggies had never been THAT school. Sumlin changed this in a short period of time and made A&M the school to attend in Texas. They lose all of that if he gets fired.
Probably Won’t Be Back (But Maybe!):
Nick Saban, Alabama: Now before anyone starts demanding to take away my air conditioning privilege, hear me out. Nick Saban is the best college football coach in the country and it’s not even close. I would even make the argument that Saban is the greatest college coach of all time. But being the greatest doesn’t mean you will never become complacent. Nick is entering his tenth season at Bama. He will win another national championship this year and that will give him five titles with the Crimson Tide alone. He may decide he has accomplished all he could and move on to a different venture. The major factor that would get him to stay is what this article is all about. Changing in the West. If he sees that no one can legitimately challenge him in this conference on a yearly basis, why leave? He barely has competition now. Giving less effort while getting the same amazing results with that fat paycheck sounds perfect to me. But we all know Nick Saban will never give less effort. That is why he is the best.
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: How’s your offseason going? Guarantee it’s going better than Hugh Freeze’s. NCAA investigations, rent money handouts, and bong rips from a paintball mask pretty much sums it up. We all knew there was foul play around the Ole Miss program as soon as they started signing top five recruiting classes. An NCAA investigation isn’t even necessary. Now that all eyes are on Ole Miss, they won’t be able to get away with anything. Expect to see a whistleblower in the near future that will make it all come crumbling down. The one thing that would keep Hugh in Oxford next year is the NCAA accepting the self-imposed sanctions and closing the investigation, but I don’t see that happening.
Gus Malzahn, Auburn: The Auburn Tigers are not known for having patience with coaches, especially ones who can’t beat Alabama consistently. That won’t change this year. Gus moved up the ranks of coaches quicker than anyone I have ever seen. Just ten years ago he won the Arkansas State Title and became the offensive coordinator for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Malzahn was always beloved and praised for his unique style of play and religious background. This is the first time in his career that he’s been under fire from fans. College football has caught up to his act, and he is in over his head. If he would have stayed at Arkansas State or taken a smaller job than Auburn after 2012 he might still be in good shape. But Malzahn got greedy and thought he could just pick up right where he left off at Auburn. The Tigers will barely make a bowl game, struggle to move the ball, get trounced by Alabama in the Iron Bowl, and Malzahn will be looking for a new job. It will be difficult for Auburn to get a high caliber coach to replace Gus, but there may be one who’s looking to change venues. Maybe someone like…
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: There is a zero percent chance that Dan Mullen returns to Starkville next year. What he has done with the Bulldogs has been nothing short of incredible. He has taken Mississippi State to heights that no one thought possible. Six straight bowl appearances, two top 25 finishes, and being the number one team in the country for a good period of time, all in a matter of seven years. That is why he will be leaving. Mullen has peaked in Starkville. He has done all he can for that program and will want to move on in his career. That was made obvious when he interviewed for the Miami and Georgia jobs this past year. He may stay in the SEC. But after this year of struggling without Dak Prescott and finishing dead last in the SEC West, he will leave Starkville for greener pastures. Any program would be lucky to hire an established and quality coach like Dan Mullen. So don’t screw it up Auburn.