SEC Coach Comparisons: Part 3

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Today we will examine Butch Jones of Tennessee, Derek Mason of Vanderbilt, Missouri’s Barry Odom and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.

 

A. Butch Jones of Tennessee

Jones has performed an admirable job of replenishing the talent at Tennessee. He is entering his fourth season with a record of 21-17 and a win percentage of .553 and no titles to date.  His biggest critics point to his teams’ inability to close out games against quality opponents; for example, Florida in 2014 and 2015 and Oklahoma in 2015.  Still, football pundits believe Tennessee to be the best team in the SEC East in 2016.  If Tennessee does not meet expectations this season Vol Nation may be looking for another coach in 2017.  Here is how Jones compares with some other Tennessee coaches of notoriety after three seasons.

  1. Bob Neyland: He is the gold standard for UT coaches. Hall of Famer Neyland coached at Tennessee from 1926-1934, 1936-1940, and 1946-1952.  He left Knoxville with a record of 173-31-12, a win percentage of .801.  Neyland won eight SEC titles and four national championships.  After three years, Neyland had compiled a record of 25-1-3, a win percentage of .862 and 1 SEC title.
  2. Bowden Wyatt: He coached the Vols from 1955-1962 and compiled an overall win percentage of .622.  The Hall of Fame coach won 1 SEC title, in his second season.  After three years, his record was 24-7-1, a win percentage of .750.
  3. Doug Dickey: Dickey coached the Big Orange from 1964-1969, accruing an overall win percentage of .738.  The Hall of Famer won 2 SEC titles while with the Vols.  After three years, he compiled a win percentage of .625.
  4. Johnny Majors: Majors led UT from 1977-1992. His amassed an overall win percentage of .645 while winning three SEC titles.  After three seasons, the Hall of Fame coach amassed a win percentage of .471.
  5. Phillip Fulmer: This Hall of Fame coach compiled an overall win percentage of .745 from 1992-2008.  He won two SEC titles and one national championship.  Fulmer, after three full years, had a win percentage of .801.

Other than Majors, the other UT coaches above had a better win percentage than Jones after three seasons.  In his defense, the cupboard was pretty bare when he arrived.  However, people on Rocky Top are not very patient when it comes to their football coaches.  If Jones does not lock down a weak SEC East division this season, he may be gone before 2017.

 

 B.  Derek Mason of Vanderbilt

Mason came to Vanderbilt after serving as defensive coordinator on some outstanding Stanford University teams.  He supposedly understood what it took to be successful at a Power Five school with high academic standards.  Mason lost to Temple 37-7 in Nashville in his first game.  Vanderbilt fans had just experienced three straight years of bowl games under James Franklin and believed the program had turned a corner.  Mason finished his first year 3-9, 0-8 in the SEC.  Vanderbilt became Vandy again.  Mason compiled a 4-8 record his second year with two SEC wins.  So after two seasons, the former Stanford assistant is 7-17, a win percentage of .292.  Even by Vandy standards, Mason’s record is putrid.  Believe it or not, Vanderbilt was considered a football power from the program’s infancy into the early 1950s.  Then a losing culture took root from the 1950s to the present mainly because of poor coaching, subpar athletes and an overall lack of caring from the administration.  Certainly, the Commodores enjoyed some very competitive seasons during this time, notably under Steve Sloan in 1974, George MacIntyre in 1982, Bobby Johnson in 2008 and the aforementioned Franklin in 2011-2013. Let’s compare Mason with these former Commodore coaches.

  1. Steve Sloan: He only coached the Commodores for two seasons, 1973-1974. Sloan compiled a .520 win percentage and led Vanderbilt to its second bowl game in the program’s history after the 1974 season.  Like all VU coaches who had any success with the Commodores after the 1950s he left for greener pastures–Texas Tech.
  2. George MacIntyre: He guided the program from 1979-1985 and left with a win percentage of .390. His 1982 team went 8-4 and played in the third bowl game in the program’s history.
  3. Bobby Johnson: He led the Commodores from 2002-2009, had one winning season (2008), and a bowl game win after that season.  Johnson retired suddenly two months before the start of the 2010 campaign with a win percentage of .310.
  4. James Franklin: He arguably has been the best Vanderbilt coach since Red Sanders, who last coached a Vanderbilt team in 1948. From 2011-2013, Franklin compiled .615 win percentage and guided the team to three consecutive bowl games. He left after the 2013 season for Penn State.

Franklin proved to Vanderbilt fans and the administration that the program could be very competitive and go to a bowl game consistently.  In Mason’s short tenure, the program has reverted to it old losing ways. The guess here is that if Mason doesn’t finish with a record close to .500 in 2016, Vanderbilt will have a new coach for the 2017 season.

 

C.  Barry Odom of Missouri

Missouri has not won a conference championship since 1969, the Big Eight Conference, and has no national championships since beginning play in 1890.  Safe to say that Missouri fans do not have delusional expectations for championships that other SEC fan bases have.  Still, Missouri has had some very good teams in its history and has come close to winning more conference titles recently.  The Tigers could not win Big 12 title games in 2007 and 2008 nor win SEC title games in 2013 and 2014. Let’s compare Odom to Missouri coaches who have stayed at the school for at least five years.

  1. Don Faurot: This Hall of Famer coached the Tigers from 1935-1942 and 1946-1956. He left with a win percentage of .558 and three conference titles (Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association, precursor to the Big 8).  He has the most wins, 101, of any Missouri coach and his name adorns the stadium.
  2. Dan Devine: Another Hall of Famer, Devine coached at Missouri from 1958-1970.  He left with a .704 win percentage and two Big Eight Conference titles, including the 1969 title.
  3. Al Onofrio: He coached from 1971-1977 but had a win percentage of only.481.
  4. Warren Powers: He guided the Tigers from 1978-1984 and left with a win percentage of .579.
  5. Bob Stull: He left the Missouri program with a win percentage of .291 after leading Mizzou from 1989-1993.
  6. Larry Smith: Smith’s tenure ran from 1994-2000 and his win percentage was .419.
  7. Gary Pinkel: The second longest tenured coach in Missouri history, 2001-2015, Pinkel retired after last season with a win percentage of .622.

Odom will be given every opportunity to succeed at Missouri and if he can continue to recruit like Pinkel, Odom may have a long career with the Tigers.  If he can manage to break Missouri’s title drought and win an SEC and/or national title, he may never have to buy another meal in Columbia for the rest of his life.  Time will tell.

 

D.  Kevin Sumlin of Texas A & R M:

Sumlin begins his fifth season with a win percentage of .750 but is on the hot seat.  The last two seasons Sumlin’s teams have started 5-0 only to finish 2-5 in 2014 and 3-4 in 2015.  Quarterback controversies ensued both seasons prompting multiple quarterback transfers out of the program.  One of the transfers after last season, Kyler Murray, accused Sumlin of allowing a culture without discipline.  Murray complained that players could do anything as long as they produced on game day and that this culture started when Johnny Manziel was the quarterback.  Such allegations may be the undoing of Sumlin if the Aggies don’t improve their won-lost record immediately.

Sumlin’s win percentage is still very impressive and it rates highly with those of other A & M coaches.  The university boasts six Hall of Fame coaches who spent time running the program.  Let’s look at how Sumlin compares with those coaches.

  1. Dana X. Bible: He coached the Aggies in 1917 and 1919-1928 and compiled a win percentage .765.  Bible won three Southwest Conference (SWC) titles and one national championship.  After four seasons his win percentage was .860.
  2. Madison Bell: He guided A & M from 1929-1933 and amassed a win percentage of .531, .470 after his first four seasons.  Bell won no titles with the Aggies but won four SWC titles and one national championship with Southern Methodist University after his time at Texas A & M.
  3. Homer Norton: He led the Aggies from 1934-1947 and had a .531 win percentage, .470 after four seasons.  Norton won three SWC titles and one national championship in College Station.
  4. Paul “Bear” Bryant: The Bear coached at A&M from 1954-1957, before leaving for Alabama.  While with the Aggies, Bryant tallied a win percentage of .610 and won one SWC title.
  5. Gene Stallings: He coached the Aggies from 1965-1971, won one SWC title and had a pedestrian win percentage .377, .410 after four seasons.  He would later win one SEC title, participate in three other SEC championship games and win a national championship at Alabama.
  6. R. C. Slocum: He led the Aggie program from 1989-2002 and won three SWC titles and one Big 12 title. Slocum compiled a .721 win percentage, .780 after four seasons.

Sumlin has a greater win percentage than four of the aforementioned Hall of Fame coaches after four seasons in College Station.  Most of the Aggie faithful believe it would be even higher if not for the quarterback issues the last two seasons.  Sumlin has proven he can recruit, especially quarterbacks.  However, if the culture that Murray portrayed is true and A & M struggles in the second half of the season again, Sumlin may be looking for another job in 2017.

This concludes the examination of the current SEC coaches.  Some will continue to flourish while others will be looking for work at the end of the season.  In the ultra-competitive SEC, winning is everything.

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