| NEWS In high-pressure SEC, it's Nick Saban and a revolving door of coaches

DESTIN, Fla. — They do not take a group picture, probably because it is hard to conceive of 14 alpha males allowing themselves to be ordered and reordered by height and a photographer’s whim and then waiting until everybody’s eyes were open.

Too bad. It feels like a missed opportunity. To pose the SEC’s football coaches together at their annual meetings on the beach would be terrific — not so much for the cool backdrop but the archives.

In a very few years, the roster is likely to be very different.

If you doubt it, let’s check in with a guy who also spent the last few days in Destin — just not at the SEC meetings.
“If they had left a chair open for me,” Les Miles says, “I would have come running and sat in it.”

Instead Miles was westbound Wednesday afternoon on I-10, headed back home to Baton Rouge after a long weekend with the family. The former LSU coach has a national championship on his résumé — but he’s currently unemployed. Such is life these days in — and then out of — the SEC.

Six SEC schools have changed coaches since last season. They’re not all new — Dan Mullen switched from Mississippi State to Florida and Ole Miss elevated Matt Luke from interim coach — but it’s the most turnover in a single year in league history. And if recent history means anything, there will be more changes coming, and soon.

Although the reasons for changes varied by school, there’s a consistent theme — winning, or the lack thereof — and a constant.

Nick Saban has been in these annual meetings since 2007.

As Alabama has won five national championships in 11 years, the rest of the SEC has gone through 27 coaching changes — and all but Texas A&M and Missouri, which joined the league in 2012, have done it more than once. Saban’s success and skyrocketing salaries have sent the expectations, and the pressure, ratcheting ever higher.

Saban will turn 67 on Halloween, but in a development that should frighten his peers, insists he has no plans to retire any time soon.

“Nick Saban does kind of put the bar in a high position,” Miles says, “but it’s wonderful. I always looked forward to that rivalry, period.”

Miles came as close as anyone to equaling, even besting Saban. Several years back, LSU might even have been Bama’s equal. But a loss to the Tide in the BCS national championship game after the 2011 season was the first of five consecutive losses Saban handed Miles (with Ed Orgeron in charge at LSU, the streak is now seven). A couple of those games, Miles notes, came down to the last possession. The ball bounced the wrong way. Eventually, Miles got bounced.


“A couple more wins,” Miles says, “and I don’t know if I’d be in a car right now headed back to Baton Rouge.”

Instead, like so many others, he’s no longer in the picture.

Texas A&M lured Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State for $75 million over 10 years. The difference between the ACC and SEC?

“It’s serious everywhere,” Fisher says. “But it’s a little more serious here, there’s no doubt.”

Keep in mind, A&M fired a guy who got stuck on only eight wins a year. Fisher’s charge is to take the Aggies from good to great. To varying degrees, the expectation is shared by every other school in his new league.

“Everybody knows what the stakes are,” Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork says. “They all realize this is the highest level. You get the most attention. You have the most scrutiny. We pay them the most. The assistants’ salaries are the most. … The stakes are high. The magnitude’s high. The spotlight’s big — bigger.”

Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos put it more bluntly in November when he told reporters: “That SEC, they eat their young.”

Or Saban does. Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead, who arrived at Mississippi State after overseeing Penn State’s offense for James Franklin, just laughs when asked if Franklin, who coached at Vanderbilt, had filled him in on the challenge posed by Saban.

“He didn’t need to,” Moorhead says. “It’s well-documented.”

It’s also spring. With new coaches in place, they’ve got high hopes at Texas A&M and Mississippi State. And also at Arkansas, Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee.

Reality check: Not all of them will win, or win big enough, to satisfy rabid and hungry fan bases.

“Guys, look around,” Steve Spurrier used to tell coaches when the meeting adjourned. “Not everybody’s gonna be here next year.”

“It was awesome,” recalls Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, chuckling — and Malzahn, going into his sixth season at Auburn, shares the second-longest tenure in the league with Kentucky’s Mark Stoops — and both of their seats have been warm in recent years.

Now that Spurrier has retired, who does it?

“No one,” Malzahn says.

It’s unnecessary. Luke just shakes his head and chuckles at the big, chaotic picture. “It’s the climate in college football, immediate success,” Luke says. “That’s the climate we’re in. I don’t see it changing.”

In SEC coaching, the only thing that changes is the faces.

In high-pressure SEC, it's Nick Saban and a revolving door of coaches
That article is fine but they made a mistake saying that every program has changed more than once, except the two new kids, since Saban came along. SCar and UGA have only changed once.
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