Notes on a golf scorecard as I try to keep track of the Southeastern Conference coaches and athletic directors who have a lot more time for golf these days …
… If you’re scoring at home, the SEC is up to three interim coaches: Brady Hoke at Tennessee, Randy Shannon at Florida and Matt Luke at Ole Miss, who has been there all season. We’re also up to two lame-duck athletic directors: Jay Jacobs at Auburn and Jeff Long at Arkansas. Long gets the added ignominy of continuing to serve on the College Football Playoff committee after having just been fired, but according to FootballScoop.com he recently negotiated a buyout for himself that pays him $4.6 million.
So, upon further review, we won’t be shedding too many tears for dear ol’ Jeff as he pays cash for that three-acre island in The Bahamas he’s always had his eye on.
Eyes are on all these jobs, and a few more as well, as the SEC’s silly season goes into overdrive. Will Arkansas coach Bret Bielema follow Long out the door? It sure seems like the former was done to set up the latter. Is there anything Kevin Sumlin can do against Ole Miss and LSU the next two weeks to keep his job? Doesn’t seem so.
It’s funny to think less than two months ago how much heat Ed Orgeron and LSU athletic director Joe Alleva were under. Both still need the Tigers to finish strong to keep the dogs at bay, but who would have thought in September that one of the biggest things Orgeron could sell recruits on would be … stability?
… When Gerry DiNardo became LSU’s coach in 1995, I interviewed his college coach at Notre Dame, Ara Parseghian.
I asked Ara, who died in August at 94, if he had ever heard during previous LSU coaching searches that he was rumored to have bought land along Highland Road in preparation for becoming the Tigers next coach.
“Yes, I’ve heard that,” Parseghian said with a laugh. “I wish I had some of that land.”
That was back in the 1970s and 80s. The silly seasons are even sillier now.
Look, if Florida, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and potentially Texas A&M and Arkansas, all hit home runs with their coaching hires, it will make things tough on LSU. Of course, if all those schools are making hires this offseason, some will be hits and some will be misses.
If there’s one thing that’s true from coaching searches, as proven by LSU’s recent search, it’s that candidates are not beating down the door to come to your school. Especially if they have good gigs where they are now.
I’m thinking of you, Texas A&M and Jimbo Fisher. And you, Tennessee and Jon Gruden.
Jon Gruden is not going to be coaching at Tennessee, or any other college, though the rumors are flying hot on Rocky Top. (They’re called Grumors there. Seriously.) Why not? There are 6.5 million reasons why not. Gruden makes $6.5 million a year to call Monday Night Football games for ESPN and do his little chalk-talk segments with quarterbacks. That’s $6.5 million a year without having to recruit, or deal with a spaghetti tangle of NCAA regulations, or glad hand boosters, or face Nick Saban every year.
Fisher is another matter potentially, if he’s soured on the Florida State job considerably in the last year or so after being a hot target for the LSU job (a school where he has many more ties than Texas A&M). But that’s a big if. Jimbo is having a tough year in Tallahassee, 3-6 with three games to go, but is it bad enough to make him want to bug out on a program where he’s dug in roots and has recruited well? As with Gruden, I’m skeptical.
More likely, these SEC schools will have to go with someone other than their No. 1 choices. But hey, it worked out for Alabama. Remember, the Crimson Tide offered its job to Rich Rodriguez before offering it to Nick Saban.
… For LSU, the biggest news other than the looming inaugural early signing period continues to be where the Tigers will go bowling.
If LSU wins out, you’d have to figure a 9-3 Tigers team winds up in Florida in Citrus, Outback or TaxSlayer bowls. The Citrus, though, seems the least likely, since it had LSU in Orlando last year and a 9-3 Mississippi State team that beat LSU (with winnable games left against Arkansas and Ole Miss), looks more appealing at this point.
You have to figure LSU would like the next best bowl available, which would be the Outback Bowl, Jan. 1 in Tampa. Even though LSU was there just four years ago when it beat Iowa in the rain, it would be an appealing destination because: (1) the Saints play a potentially very meaningful season-ending game New Year’s Eve there against Tampa Bay, and (2) the potential exists for LSU to play Michigan for the first time in football.
Ultimately, the SEC will decide, but LSU’s wishes, as well as those of the bowls, will be taken into consideration.