The Iron Bowl

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This rivalry goes by the title of “The Iron Bowl.” The name conjures images of gritty blue-collar men working in blazing hot steel foundries. In fact, the name comes from the iron and steel industry located in Birmingham, the home of the rivalry for 44 straight games, and the intensity and heat associated with the rivalry make the name even more appropriate. The University of Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn University Tigers battle one another to the death each season in the Iron Bowl game. Auburn College Football Hall of Fame coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan came up with the moniker before the 1980 contest. The venom and disdain that the fans from one side have for the other do not just commence during the days leading up to the game, as in most rivalries, but rage on every day of the year. Alabama fans refer to Auburn people as “Barners,” in reference to Auburn’s early years as an agricultural school, while Auburn fans claim that Alabama’s most famous graduate is Forest Gump.

Justin Hokanson, in a 2008 article for “bleacherreport.com,” breaks down the rivalry within families.

Brothers and sisters watch the game in separate rooms, maybe even separate houses,

because they don’t want to kill each other in the process. Parents and children don’t

talk to each other. There are even parents that don’t allow their children to go to one

school or the other simply because they graduated from the rival school.

Alabama leads the series 44-35-1. Auburn won the first two games in 1893 in Birmingham, then Montgomery. Alabama picked up its first win in 1894 in Montgomery while Auburn took the next two in Tuscaloosa and Montgomery. The series took a brief hiatus from 1896 through 1899 before resuming in 1900. The schools then met every year through the 1907 game, after which the series ended for almost 40 years. At that time, Auburn led the series 7-4-1 and the games had been played in Birmingham the last four years. Tuscaloosa is much closer to Birmingham than Auburn and Auburn officials demanded more per diem for the players. Auburn also wanted to allow more players to travel for the game and a different process for choosing the officials for the game. Alabama officials would not agree to any of Auburn’s demands and the series ended.

After pressure from the state legislature, the two school presidents agreed to re-start the series in 1948 in Birmingham because 44,000-seat Legion Field was the largest stadium in the state. Before the game, the presidents of the respective student government associations buried a hatchet in Woodrow Wilson Park to represent the end of the argument. Alabama proceeded to win the game 55-0, the most lopsided victory in the series.

The game remained in Birmingham through the 1988 contest, after which Auburn moved its home games to Auburn. Alabama continued to hold its home game in the series at Legion Field through 1998 but began hosting Auburn in Tuscaloosa in 2000 after the expansion of Bryant-Denny stadium to over 80,000 seats. The games have rotated between the two campuses since then. Alabama owns a 32-15 record in games played at Legion Field, while Auburn is 5-3 in Tuscaloosa and 8-5 in Auburn.

The winner of each game receives the Foy-ODK Sportsmanship trophy, named after James E. Foy, a former dean at both schools and the Faculty Secretary of  Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society at both schools. The trophy is presented at halftime of the winner’s home basketball game against the loser. After the presentation, the Student Government Association president from the losing school sings the winning school’s fight song. Granted, the singing sessions may have had many memorable moments over the years but probably will not top any of the memories from the gridiron battles.

The 1967 game at Legion Field became known as the “Run in the Mud.” With Auburn leading Alabama 3-0 in a torrential downpour in the fourth quarter, Tide quarterback Ken Stabler broke loose for a 53-yard touchdown that gave the Tide the lead and an eventual 7-3 victory.

The 1981 game, also at Legion Field, became the 315th career victory for Alabama Hall of Fame coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Bryant passed Amos Alonzo Stagg for career wins for a Division IA coach.

Freshman Bo Jackson broke Auburn’s nine-game losing streak in the series in 1982. With the Tigers trailing 22-17 late in the fourth quarter, Jackson, on fourth-and-goal, took a handoff from quarterback Randy Campbell, then leaped on top of the Tide defense before stretching the ball over the goal line. Auburn broke the streak with a 23-22 victory.

For Auburn fans, the second most memorable game in the series may have occurred in 1989. With the addition of the west upper deck in 1980 and the east upper deck in 1987, Jordan-Hare Stadium reached a capacity of over 85,000 seats, the largest stadium in Alabama at that time. Auburn fans always felt Legion Field was a home-field advantage for the Tide. Now that the school had a stadium bigger than Legion Field, the time was right to move their home games in the series to Auburn. After the 1987 game, Auburn athletics director and coach Pat Dye requested that all future Auburn home games in the series be moved to Jordan-Hare. The first game in Auburn took place on December 2, 1989. With over 85,000 rabid Tiger fans in attendance, Auburn beat Alabama, 30-20. After the game, a member of the media asked Dye what it felt like leading the team on to the field. Dye responded, “I’m sure that (the scene) must have resembled what went on the night the wall came down in Berlin. I mean, it was like (Auburn fans) had been freed, and let out of bondage, just having this game at Auburn.”

The 2009 game in Auburn was a different story. Undefeated Alabama trailed a 7-4 Auburn team into the fourth quarter, but the Tide went on a seven minute, 15-play, 80-yard drive to take the lead, 26-21. Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy hit receiver Julio Jones four times during the drive and finished it with a four yard pass to running back Roy Upchurch for the go ahead touchdown with 1:24 on the clock. The Tide defense turned away a last minute Auburn drive to secure the victory. Alabama then beat Florida in the Southeastern Conference Championship (SEC) game before besting Texas for the national title.

Finally, the most memorable game for Auburn fans and arguably the most memorable game in series history is the game known as the “Kick Six.” With the 2013 contest tied 28 all at Jordan-Hare, Alabama lined up for a 57-yard field goal with one second on the clock. A Tide victory would send Alabama to the SEC Championship game and a possible chance for a fourth national title in five years. Alabama kicker Adam Griffith’s attempt fell short and Auburn corner back Chris Davis caught it. As Davis began to run up the field, Alabama’s defenders seemed to be caught off guard, unsure if the play was still live. Indeed it was. Davis outran the few defenders trying to stop him for a 109-yard touchdown with no time on the clock. Auburn won the game 34-28, shocking the Tide and the rest of the college football world.

Intensity, heat, bitterness, and pride are some of the words that describe the emotions of the Iron Bowl. This rivalry is more than just a game. It is a way of life for people in the state of Alabama. For the victors, a certain satisfaction and euphoria permeate their souls for the next 365 days. For the vanquished–bitterness, rancor, and a sense of doom live with them until the possibility of redemption associated with the next game. Of all the great Deep South rivalries, the Iron Bowl may be the greatest of all.

 

 

Alabama-LSU Football History

 

 

 

Courtesy Gamezero05

                        Courtesy Gamezero05

When one thinks of University of Alabama Crimson Tide  and Louisiana State University Tigers football, his thoughts must certainly conjure up images of big, fast teams with strong defenses, power running games, and lots of future professional players (LSU has had 93 players drafted by National Football League teams since 2000 and Alabama has had 86). These two programs have arguably been the most powerful in the nation since the turn of the century. Alabama has won three Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles and three national championships since 2009 while LSU has four SEC titles and two national championships since 2001. Generally, the winner of the Alabama-LSU game positions itself for the SEC championship and the national crown on an annual basis, so the importance of the game has been well documented among the regional and national media. However, that has not always been the case. Alabama dominated the rivalry through the Paul “Bear’ Bryant era. Although the Tigers won the first game in 1895, 12-6, Alabama leads the overall series, 50-25-5.

The games have been played over the years in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa. The schools began playing on an annual basis in 1964, alternating between Legion Field in Birmingham and Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. Alabama shifted its home games to Tuscaloosa in 1988. The visiting team has won an inordinate amount of the games in the series. The Tide is 25-9-2 in Louisiana while keeping the Tigers winless in Baton Rouge from 1971-1998. LSU has won 11 of 16 games in the state of Alabama since 1982. Four overtime games have been played with the road team winning each one. College Football Hall of Fame coach Bryant lost to the Tigers only three times from 1964-1982. After Bryant retired, the series became a true rivalry. Since then Alabama has won 19, including the 2011 national championship game, lost 14, and tied one. Future Hall of Fame coach Nick Saban has played a prodigious role in the recent series. Saban coached LSU from 2000-2004 and beat Alabama four out of five tries. Since taking over the Tide in 2007, he is 7-3 against the Tigers. The rivalry has produced some memorable stories and games.

Bear Bryant seemed to own the Tigers and was not the least bit intimidated by Tiger Stadium.  He had a pre-game ritual that would enrage Tiger fans and calm his players. Bryant would slowly walk towards the northwest corner of the field where the LSU students sat. His players dressed in suit and ties would then walk around the field while Bryant ambled on over to the left hash mark around the 10-yard line. The Bear, completely composed, would have a nonchalant conversation with a security guard or a member of his staff while the LSU fans were screaming and yelling all sorts of things at him. After about 10 minutes, Bryant would wave to the LSU students which prompted further abusive language and a chorus of loud boos. When leaving the field amidst the yelling and screaming, Bryant would walk right by Mike’s cage, the live tiger mascot. The purpose of this ritual was to show the team that playing at Tiger Stadium in front of 80,000 plus screaming, rabid fans was really not an issue. Bryant’s record against LSU in Baton Rouge proves the point.

When former LSU coach Les Miles and Alabama coach Nick Saban battled, their teams played to their respective strengths–aggressive, physical, smash mouth football. So it was unusual that a trick play helped to decide one of these games. Such was the case in 2010 when Number 6 Alabama met Number 10 LSU in Baton Rouge. With Alabama leading 14-13 with 9:26 left in the game, LSU had fourth and one at the Tide 26. Instead of trying a 43-yard field goal to take the lead,  Miles reached into his bag of tricks. He called for an inside reverse to a tight end who had never had a rushing attempt in his college career. DeAngelo Peterson took the hand off and ran all the way to the Alabama 3-yard line. The Tigers took the lead for good moments later and eventually upset the Tide 24-21.

The regular season game in 2011 in Tuscaloosa is a classic example of the smash mouth football so typical when the two teams get together. LSU came in undefeated and ranked Number 1 while Alabama was undefeated and ranked Number 2. This marked the first time in SEC history that two undefeated teams were meeting in the regular season ranked one and two in the country.  Before 101,821 rabid fans, LSU won the game 9-6 in overtime. LSU kicker Drew Alleman made all three of his attempts, including a 30-yarder with 1:53 to go in regulation. His 25 yard field goal won the game in overtime. Alabama’s kickers made only two of six of their attempts, but the real story were the defenses. Alabama gained only 295 yards while LSU gained a paltry 239. Alabama would gain a large measure of revenge and the national title with a 21-0 victory over the Tigers in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on January, 9, 2012.

Alabama gained the rematch with LSU but not without controversy. Many writers and fans believed Oklahoma State, the number two team in the computer rankings, deserved a shot at undefeated LSU since the Tide and Tigers had already met. However, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) decision makers believed a one-loss Alabama team a better foe than anyone else in the nation. The game marked the first and only time in the BCS era that two teams from the same conference met for the national title.

The defenses once again dominated the game. Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley made three of four field goals to give the Tide a 9-0 lead at the half. LSU could muster only one first down and never crossed the 50-yard line in the first half. The second half was much the same. LSU compiled four first downs and crossed the 50 only once. Shelley kicked two more field goals and running back Trent Richardson added a 34-yard touchdown run with only 1:39 left to account for the final score. While LSU won the SEC championship, Alabama won the national title.

The Alabama-LSU rivalry ranks as one of the Deep South’s best. Conference and national title aspirations normally accompany the battle. Two southern behemoths line up facing the other with muscles flexed, helmets strapped on tight, and a collective iron-sharpened will and determination to vanquish its foe. This is Alabama-LSU football. This is college football at its best!

Third Saturday in October: Alabama-Tennessee Rivalry

 

 

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The Third Saturday in October can only mean one thing: the University of Alabama Crimson Tide (Tide) and the University of Tennessee Volunteers (Vols) are about to strap on the helmets extra tight in anticipation of another physical, blood-letting battle on the football field. One of the fiercest rivalries in the Deep South used to take place on the third Saturday in October but when the Southeastern Conference split the league into two divisions in 1992, the game began to gravitate among dates somewhere between the middle to late October. For decades Alabama and Tennessee fans have had a saying: Don’t get married on the third Saturday in October. Sports journalist Beano Cook added, “Don’t die on the third Saturday in October, since the preacher may not show up.”

Alabama officially leads the series 52-38-7. The National Collegiate Athletic Association NCAA) forced Alabama to forfeit the 1993 game, a 17-17 tie, and vacate the 2005 game, a 6-3 Alabama win, because of rules violations. The series has been marked by winning streaks on both sides, and generally, those were directly correlated to the side that had the College Football Hall of Fame coach at the time.  The first game in 1901 between the two schools ended in a 6-6 tie in Birmingham. From 1903 through 1913, Alabama forged an 8-1 record against Tennessee while holding the Vols scoreless. The series took a hiatus until 1928.

Alabama Hall of Fame coach Wallace Wade led the Tide to three national championships from 1925-1930 while Hall of Fame coach Robert Neyland, known as the General, began his tenure at Tennessee in 1926. The coaches became friends and agreed to re-start the series in 1928, a 15-13 University of Tennessee (UT) win. Neyland’s Vols won a tight 6-0 victory over Wade’s Tide in 1929 but Wade gained a measure of revenge with an 18-6 triumph on the way to the 1930 national championship. Wade left for Duke University after that memorable 1930 season and the series pendulum swung in Neyland’s and Tennessee’s favor. Neyland coached at Tennessee from 1926-1952, with the exceptions of 1935 and 1941-1945. His record against Alabama was 12-5-2.

Alabama won the 1935 game, 25-0. In that game, senior end Paul “Bear” Bryant played the entire contest with a broken leg. After the game, Bryant shrugged it off stating, “It was one little bone.”

Such toughness inspired the University of Kentucky to hire Bryant as its head coach in 1946. Kentucky played Neyland’s Volunteers seven times during Bryant’s period as coach, but the General outflanked the Bear winning five times, with no losses, and two ties. In his book Third Saturday in October, Al Browning stated that those losses to Neyland fueled Bryant’s intense desire to defeat Tennessee while serving as Alabama’s head coach.

Bryant took over the reins at Alabama in 1958 and coached there until his retirement after the 1982 season. The Hall of Fame coach swung the series pendulum back to Alabama. Bryant’s teams struggled against Tennessee from 1958-1960 as the Volunteers tallied a 2-0-1 record against the Bear. However, the Tide broke through in 1961 with a resounding 34-3 victory. After that game, Alabama trainer Jim Goostree, a UT graduate, started a tradition that continues today. Goostree dispensed cigars to the players and coaches to celebrate the victory. After every game since then, the winning team has broken out the cigars. The NCAA considers this practice a violation of its rules, so the winning team immediately reports itself afterwards.

Under Bryant, Alabama dominated the series with 16 wins, seven losses, and two ties and won 11 in a row from 1971 to 1981. The Bear used the games against Tennessee as a barometer for his teams. According to Browning, the Bear once declared, “You found out what kind of person you were when you played against Tennessee.”

From 1983 through 1991, Alabama won six of the nine games. Tennessee coach Johnny Majors beat the Bear in 1982 but proceeded to lose six out of the next eight, which directly led to his termination. The pendulum swung back to Tennessee when Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer took over as coach in 1992.

Fulmer compiled an 11-5 record against the Tide, including the forfeited 1993 tie and the 2005 vacated Alabama win. During Fulmer’s tenure, the Vols won nine of 10 versus Alabama from 1995-2004. Arguably, his most memorable game facing the Tide came in 2003 when the Vols beat the Tide in five overtimes, 51-43. Fulmer had great respect for the rivalry, “It’s important for our players to realize that the guys on both sides that have worn the orange and white or the crimson and white forever look at this third Saturday of October as being special.”

When future Hall of Fame coach Nick Saban took over at Alabama in 2007, the pendulum swung hard back to the Tide. Saban has led the Tide to nine consecutive victories over the Volunteers by an average score of 34-12.

The games played on or close to the Third Saturday of October have seen Hall of Fame coaches strolling both sidelines, gutty performances on the field, and an intensity only a few rivalries in any sport can claim. This rivalry symbolizes everything that people love about college football. So whether you are a fan of Alabama or Tennessee or some other school, light up a victory cigar to celebrate all those people who have given their all or who will give their all on the Third Saturday of October or any date during the college football season.

 

 

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.

SEC Coach Comparisons: Part 2

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Today we take a look at Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, LSU’s Les Miles, Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss, Dan Mullen of Mississippi State and Will Muschamp of South Carolina.

 

  1. Mark Stoops of Kentucky

Stoops is entering his fourth year as coach of the Wildcats.  His record is 12-24 at this point, a win percentage of .333.  Not only does he have no titles at Kentucky, but none of his teams have been to a bowl game.

Out of 17 coaches that coached at least three years at Kentucky, Stoops has a better win percentage than only one.

Let’s compare Brooks to some of Kentucky’s most successful coaches:

Paul “Bear” Bryant—The Bear coached at UK from 1946-53 and compiled an overall record of 60-23-5.  He won the school’s first SEC title in 1950 and beat Number 1 Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.  After three years, Bryant had a record of 20-9-2.

Blanton Collier—Collier followed Bryant and coached the Cats from 1954-61.  He compiled a 41-36-3 overall record and was 19-10-1 after his first three years.  Collier won no titles at Kentucky.

Fran Curci—Curci held the reigns at UK from 1973-1981.  His overall record was 47-51-2 with one SEC title.  After three years, Curci had a 13-19-1 ledger.

Jerry Claiborne—This Hall of Fame coach and Kentucky grad amassed an overall record of 41-46-3 from 1982-1989.  He won no titles while at UK and had a record of 15-18-2 after three years in Lexington.

Joker Phillips—The coach Brooks succeeded compiled a record of 13-24 in his three years at UK, 2010-2012.  His win percentage was better than Stoops’ after  three years and Kentucky fired Phillips.

Stoops has done very little to inspire faith from the Big Blue Nation.  If Stoops does not lead UK to a bowl game this season, Kentucky may have a new coach to start the 2017 season.

 

  1. Les Miles of LSU

Miles is on the hot seat and was almost terminated after the last game of the regular season last year.  However, his record is stellar.  Miles has coached at LSU since 2005 and owns a 112-32 record, a win percentage of .778.  He has won two SEC titles and one National Championship.  He also lost in the BCS title game in 2011 to Nick Saban and Alabama.  Miles has the best win percentage of any LSU coach who coached more than two years and has the second most wins behind Charlie McClendon’s 203.  LSU fans are unhappy that he has won no SEC titles since 2011 and hasn’t beaten Saban and Alabama since 2011.  In a-what-have-you-done-lately-SEC, Miles may be terminated if he doesn’t at least get into the College Football Playoffs after this season.  Here is how he compares to some of LSU’s most successful coaches.

Bernie Moore—Hall of Famer Moore coached at LSU from 1935-1947 and compiled an overall record of 83-39-6.  After 11years, Moore’s record was 69-35-4, a .639 win percentage.  He won two SEC titles—1935 and 1936—with the Tigers.

Paul Dietzel—Though he only coached at LSU from 1955-1961, Dietzel won two SEC titles and one national championship.  His win percentage with the Tigers was .630.

Charlie McClendon—Hall of Famer McClendon coached in Baton Rouge from 1962-1979 and amassed a record of 137-59-7.  After 11 years at LSU he had a record of 88-29-5, a win percentage of .721.  He won one SEC title in 1970.

Nick Saban—Future Hall of Famer Saban only coached in Baton Rouge from 2000-2004, but he had a win percentage of .750, including 2 SEC titles, one second place in the SEC and LSU’s second national championship.

Saban set the bar very high at LSU and the Tiger fans want someone who can compete with him on a yearly basis.  Miles’ LSU teams won three out of the first five encounters with Saban’s Crimson Tide but as previously noted, Alabama has won the last 5, including the BCS national championship game in 2012.  A victory for Miles against the Tide in November would most likely propel LSU into the College Football Playoffs.  Another loss to Saban may cost Miles his job.

 

  1. Hugh Freeze of Mississippi

Freeze has tallied a four-year record at Ole Miss of 34-18, a win percentage of .650.  As of yet his teams have won no titles of any kind.  Of the eight Rebel coaches who stayed at the school at least four years, Freeze has a better win percentage than all but two, including Steve Sloan, Billy Brewer, Tommy Tuberville, David Cutcliffe and Houston Nutt.  Let’s compare Freeze with the two most successful coaches in Ole Miss’ history.

Harry Mehre—He left the University of Georgia to coach at Ole Miss.  He guided the Rebels from 1938-1942 and from 1944-1945.  After four years, Mehre’s teams compiled a win percentage of.780 but with no titles of any kind.

Johnny Vaught–He led the Rebels from 1947-1970 and for eight games in 1973.  The Hall of Fame coach is the gold standard at Ole Miss, where he won six SEC titles and three national championships.  His overall win percentage at Ole Miss stands at .720 but after four years it stood at .650, the same as Freeze’s percentage.

Freeze appears to have a bright future at Ole Miss. He will probably never come close to Vaught’s record as long as Saban remains at Alabama but is clearly the best Rebel coach since Vaught.  An impending NCAA investigation into alleged rules violations could have a major impact on the Ole Miss program if the allegations prove true.  How that would affect Freeze’s tenure at the school remains to be seen.

 

  1. Dan Mullen of Mississippi State

Mullen, entering his eighth season in Starkville, has compiled a record of 55-35, a win percentage of .610.  Only three other coaches in Mississippi State’s 121 year history of football have stayed as long as Mullen.  That right there speaks volumes.  As of yet, Mullen has no titles at MSU.

Hall of Fame coach Allyn McKeen coached in Starkville from 1939-1942 and from 1944-1948.  He had a win percentage of .764 and the school’s lone SEC title.

Emory Bellard coached the Bulldogs from 1979-1985.  He compiled a win percentage of .468 with no titles.

Jackie Sherrill held the reigns at MSU from 1991-2003.  After seven seasons, Sherrill had a win percentage of .510.  He won no titles at Mississippi State.

If Mullen decides to remain in Starkville, he may well be the Bulldogs’ all-time winningest coach—he is 19 victories shy of Sherrill. History has shown that winning championships at Mississippi State is a herculean task.  My guess is that Mullen will leave to pursue championships at a school that has a better recruiting base, a larger stadium and a larger football budget than State.

 

  1. Will Muschamp of South Carolina

Muschamp begins his first season as head coach of the Gamecocks.  His only other head coaching experience came at the University of Florida where he recorded a 17-15 record from 2011-2014, after which the Florida administration terminated him.

The South Carolina situation is different from that of Florida.  In the history of the football program that dates back to 1896, South Carolina has won only one title, the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 1969.  Florida, on the other hand, has won six SEC titles and three national championships since 1991.  Florida expects to win championships on a regular basis.  While South Carolina would love to have such expectations the reality is that the program has no history of such.  So the Gamecock Nation may be a bit more patient with Muschamp as he tries to win titles and establish title expectations from both the administration and the fan base.

Since 1896, South Carolina has had 12 coaches who stayed at the school for at least 5 years.  Only six left with a win percentage of .500 or better.  Sol Metzger coached from 1920-1924 and left with a win percentage of .587.  Billy Laval guided South Carolina from 1928-1934 and left with a win percentage of .590.  It wasn’t until Warren Giese’s tenure of 1956-1960 that the program would see another coach with a win percentage over .500.  Giese left with a .570 win percentage.

Interestingly, Paul Dietzel won South Carolina’s only title in 1969 but left win a win percentage of .443 after  coaching at the school from 1966-1974.  Jim Carlen guided the Gamecocks from 1975-1981 and left with a win percentage of .555. Joe Morrison coached from 1983-1988 and compiled an impressive win percentage of .580 but died of a heart attack while exercising in Columbia.  Even Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz couldn’t amass a winning overall record during his time at the school from 1999-2004.  His win percentage is .471.  Finally, future Hall of Famer Steve Spurrier found the most success in Columbia with an overall win percentage of .637, but he could not secure an SEC title or national championship for the program from 2005 into the 2015 season.

South Carolina fans are starved for championships and Muschamp will likely be given time to attain one.  We’ll just have to see if Muschamp can make the Gamecock fans crow.

 

Next time we’ll analyze Butch Jones of Tennessee, Derek Mason of Vanderbilt, Missouri’s Barry Odom and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.

 

SEC Coach Comparisons

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How do the current SEC coaches match up with some of the prior coaches at their respective schools?  Let’s start the comparisons with Nick Saban, Bret Bielema, Gus Malzahn, Jim McElwain and Kirby Smart.  We’ll examine the rest in the near future.

 

  1. Nick Saban of Alabama

Saban begins his 10th season in Tuscaloosa.  His official record at Alabama is 100-18, a .847 win percentage His teams have won six SEC titles and four national championships.  Here are the statistics from two of the more famous Alabama coaches after their ninth seasons in Tuscaloosa:

Frank Thomas—From 1931-1939 Thomas had a record of 69-9-4, an .840 win percentage.  During this time he won four SEC titles and two national championships.

Paul “Bear’ Bryant—From 1958-1966 Bryant compiled a record of 80-12-6, an .820 win percentage.  Bryant, during this time, won four SEC titles and three national championships.

No other Crimson Tide coaches managed to stay in Tuscaloosa for at least nine seasons.  Arguably, Saban is the most successful football coach in Alabama history.  Unless something unforeseeable takes place, Saban will remain at Alabama as long as he wants.

 

  1. Bret Bielema of Arkansas

Bielema is entering his fourth season as coach of the Razorbacks.  His record after three seasons in Fayetteville is 10-15, a .400 win percentage.  He has won zero SEC titles and zero national championships.

Arkansas has had 13 coaches who lasted at least three years.  Of those 13, Bielema’s win percentage is better than just two.  His win percentage does not come close to Arkansas legends Hugo Bezdek, Frank Broyles, Lou Holtz, Ken Hatfield and Houston Nutt.  That does not bode well.  If Bielema doesn’t win more games over the next couple of seasons, you may see a different coach in 2018 at Arkansas.

 

  1. Gus Malzahn of Auburn

Malzahn enters his fourth season on the Plains with a 27-17 record, a win percentage of .610.  He has won one SEC title and lost to Florida State in the BCS national championship game after his first season in 2013.  Since then, Auburn has been very mediocre.

Thirteen Auburn coaches lasted at least three seasons.  Of those 13, Malzahn has a better win percentage than nine.  This includes Hall of Fame coaches Mike Donahue and Shug Jordan.  A better comparison may be Gene Chizik, the man Malzahn succeeded.  Chizek lasted four years.  With Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton, Chizik won the national championship in his second season, 2010.  Two years later, Auburn fired Chizik and hired Malzahn.  If Auburn struggles again this season, Malzahn will probably be looking for work elsewhere.

 

  1. Jim McElwain of Florida

McElwain enters his second season at Florida after a 10-3 first year and second place finish in the conference.  Not a bad start.   His win percentage is .770.

The University of Florida has had 24 coaches before McElwain, but let’s compare him with three Hall of Fame coaches, two future Hall of Fame coaches and two coaches who replaced those two future Hall of Fame coaches.

Hall of Famer Charlie Bachman coached Florida from 1928-1932.  He was 8-1 his first year and finished with an overall record of 27-18-3. He won no titles of any kind.

Hall of Famer Ray Graves coached Florida from 1960-69 and tallied a 9-2 record his first year.  He went on to compile a 70-31-4 overall record with no titles.

Hall of Famer Doug Dickey coached the Gators from 1971-78.  He went 7-4 his first year and amassed an overall record of 58-43-2, with no titles.

Future Hall of Famer Steve Spurrier coached Florida from 1990-2001.  He accumulated a record of 9-2 his first year.  His overall record at Florida was 122-27-1, with six SEC titles and one national championship.

Ron Zook took over the Florida reigns from 2002-2004. Zook finished 8-5 his first year, 23-14 overall, with no titles. He could not match Spurrier’s success.

Future Hall of Famer Urban Meyer took over in 2005 and went 9-3 his first year.  He coached through the 2010 season amassing a record of 65-15, with two SEC titles and two national championships.

Will Muschamp replaced Meyers and went 7-6 his first season in 2011.  After four years and an overall record of 28-21, with no titles, Florida terminated him.

Florida’s most successful coaches have had very good first seasons, something that McElwain achieved in his first campaign.  This bodes well for him, although it is too early to make a prediction of success along the lines of Spurrier and Meyer.

 

  1. Kirby Smart of Georgia

Smart starts his first year at Georgia after spending 11 years as an assistant coach under Nick Saban, the last eight as defensive coordinator.  Smart has the pedigree to be very successful.  Time will tell. Below are first year comparisons to prior Georgia coaches who had success at the school.

Harry Mehre coached the Bulldogs from 1928-1937.  His record was only 4-5 his first year, but he ended his Georgia career with a record of 59-34-6, a win percentage of .600.  He won no titles at Georgia.

Wally Butts had the helm at Georgia from 1939-1960.  In his first year, Butts finished with a losing record of 5-6. However, he ended his UGA career at 140-86-9, a win percentage of .600.  Butts won four SEC titles and one national championship while coaching the Bulldogs.

Vince Dooley is the winningest coach at UGA.  He coached the Bulldogs from 1964-1988. Dooley finished his first year with a 7-3-1 record and compiled an overall tally of 201-77-10, a win percentage of .700.  Dooley’s teams won six SEC titles and one national championship.

Jim Donnan coached at UGA from 1996-2000.  He finished 5-6 his first season but amassed an overall record of 40-19, a win percentage of .680.  Donnan won no titles while at UGA.

Mark Richt coached at Georgia from 2001-2015 and finished with a record of 8-4 after his first season.  His overall record at UGA was 145-51, a.740 win percentage.  Richt won two SEC titles but no national championships.

Again, only time will tell as to the overall success of Kirby Smart.  Even if for someone reason UGA struggles in 2016, the past has shown that Smart could still have a very successful career at Georgia.  However, Smart will always be compared with Richt.  While Richt has a terrific win percentage, he could not bring the Georgia fans a national title.   Will Smart?

 

Next time we’ll take a look at Mark Stoops of Kentucky, LSU’s Les Miles, Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss, Dan Mullen of Mississippi State and South Carolina’s Will Muschamp.