This is the Southeastern Conference when it sizzles, otherwise known as the new normal.
Sunday, Tennessee fired coach Butch Jones six days before the Volunteers host LSU. Jones became the third SEC coach to be fired this season, joining Florida’s Jim McElwain and Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze.
They could soon have company. Saturday’s 33-10 loss to LSU did nothing to improve Bret Bielema’s job security at Arkansas. Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M and Derek Mason at Vanderbilt are on similarly shaky ground.
As LSU showed last year, jettisoning Les Miles after a 2-2 September start, schools are firing coaches earlier than ever. With SEC coaches making from $6.9 million for Nick Saban at Alabama to $2.35 million a year for Missouri’s Barry Odom, schools are becoming more impatient about getting a return on their investment.
“I do understand this: Having a head job, a coaching position like this, in the SEC, is very valuable,” Orgeron said recently. “You get paid to win. If you don't win, they'll get somebody else to do it. That's just the way it is. You understand this taking the job.
“I don't like to see anybody get fired. But I know it's part of the business.”
It’s an increasingly crazy business. Try this scenario on for size:
If Sumlin and Bielema get fired, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen moves on to another job and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn decides he’s fed up with the pressure he’s under, Orgeron could be the second-most tenured coach in the SEC West behind Saban after less than two full seasons on the job.
With Jones being ousted at Tennessee, it seemed like a good time to rate how hot SEC coaches’ seats are at this point in the season:
On Sunday morning, LSU tight end Foster Moreau scrolled through the Twitter application on his iPhone and learned the news that Tennessee had …
Nick Saban: 10-0 this season, 129-19 in 11 seasons
How hot is it in Tuscaloosa? Are you kidding? Saban’s seat is like Ice Station Zebra. So is he.
Bret Bielema: 4-6 this season, 29-32 in five seasons
How hot is it in Fayetteville? Bielema looked like a boiled lobster in Tiger Stadium on Saturday in the midday sun in his red outfit. His seat is equally hot.
Gus Malzahn: 8-2 this season, 43-20 in five seasons
How hot is it in Auburn? Malzahn is riding high now. But it wouldn’t shock if he bolts for Arkansas if Bielema gets fired.
Randy Shannon: 0-2 this season (interim)
How hot is it in Gainesville? After A.D. Scott Stricklin hit the ejector seat button on McElwain, the Gators have looked lifeless under Shannon. No shot to remain.
Kirby Smart: 9-1 this season, 17-6 in two seasons
How hot is it in Athens? Smart is cool with SEC East locked up, but you’re only as good as your last game. Someone’s grumbling after that 40-17 rout at Auburn.
Mike Stoops: 7-3 this season, 26-33 in five seasons
How hot is it in Lexington? Tepid. Stoops was in trouble, but back-to-back 7-win campaigns cured that. You don’t have to win much at basketball-mad UK.
Ed Orgeron: 7-3 this season, 13-5 in two seasons
How hot is it in Baton Rouge? If you’d checked the Coach O gumbo in September it would have been boiling, but going 4-1 since then has him on low simmer at worst.
Matt Luke: 5-5 this season (interim)
How hot is it in Oxford? Luke has done a commendable job since replacing Freeze. As an Ole Miss man, maybe he stays if NCAA sanctions scare off bigger fish.
Dan Mullen: 7-3 this season, 68-45 in nine seasons
How hot is it in Starkville? Mullen could stay forever at this rate, but if he ever wants to parlay his work in Stark Vegas into a higher-wattage program, this is the time.
Barry Odom: 5-5 this season, 9-13 in two seasons
How hot is it in Columbia West? Odom was in trouble after a 1-5 start but could finish 7-5 with Vandy and Arkansas remaining. A bowl trip and he’s golden.
Will Muschamp: 7-3 this season, 13-10 in two seasons
How hot is it in Columbia East? No one has done more with less than Muschamp, who was left little talent by Steve Spurrier. No worries.
Three defensive starters were missing from LSU's practice Monday, including edge rusher Arden Key.
Brady Hoke: 0-0 this season (interim)
How hot is it in Knoxville? Jones was reduced to ashes after Saturday’s 50-17 loss at Mizzou. Hoke, the ex-Michigan coach, looks like a mere placeholder.
Kevin Sumlin: 6-4 this season, 50-25 in six seasons
How hot is it in College Station? A.D. Scott Woodward drew a line in the Destin sand for Sumlin. He’s not crossing it unless he beats Ole Miss, LSU, if then.
Derek Mason: 4-6 this season, 17-30 in four seasons
How hot is it in Nashville? Expectations are low, but 5-25 in SEC play stinks. Mason may be OK for another year, but he can thank James Franklin for raising the bar.