published Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

5 at 10: Coaching carousel, Urban Meyer and the SEC Championship game

Strong week so far gang. Well-played indeed all the way around. And we don't know if Urban Meyer was able to land a four-star house cat and a five-star set of siblings, but we do know where he was Tuesday night. Read on.

From the "Mama McNabb stage here at the Al Davis Studio," here we go...

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    AP Photo/Phil Sandlin Florida coach Urban Meyer points to the field as he protest a call by referees during an NCAA college football game with South Florida.

Coaching carousel

From the Boston Red Sox hiring Bobby Valentine to THE Ohio State hiring Urban Meyer to the plethora ("Would you say I have a plethora of pinatas Jefe?" — "Oh yes, El Guapo.") of college football jobs that are open or that are going to be open, the of coaching resumes is going nuts. Nuts.

We have had some fun at Urban Meyer's expense, but no one doubts he'll have THE Ohio State right in the thick of the Big Ten race next fall. The same can't be said for Bobby V., regardless of the overload of talent the Red Sox have.

With that in mind here's a quick list of five high-profile college football gigs and some names to remember:

Penn State — We told you in Wednesday's TFP that Dan Mullen would be making a push in Happy Valley. Here's saying if he's offered that gig he goes North faster than a 74-year-old Florida resident in April. Somewhere a cow bell weeps.

From there the names become fairly familiar and somewhat redundant: There's Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, Baylor coach Art Briles, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora, Louisville's Charlie Strong and everyone's favorite pirate, Mike Leach.

University of North Carolina

There have been strong rumors about Malzahn heading here, but that seems to have cooled some. Especially since if you were going to hire a coordinator with zero college head coaching experience from last week's Iron Bowl, wouldn't Smart make more sense that Malzahn. This one could be a wild card, since UNC is about to hit some serious NCAA speedbumps. We think the Tar Heels will move a little slower — AD Bubba Cunningham has been on the job for something like a month. The well-connected Cunningham came to UNC from Tulsa (where Malzahn coached before going to Auburn) and played college golf at Notre Dame (where he was a classmate of USF coach Skip Holtz).


Watch out for Cincy coach Butch Jones, who was hired by Illinois AD Mike Thomas when Thomas was at Cincy before going to Illinois.


This one could be a wild card, too. Could it be something as wild as recently fired Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio, a USC alum who is quite familiar with Southern California? Could it be someone like former Falcons and Seahawks coach Jim Mora Jr.? Leach could fit here. So could Boise State coach Chris Petersen. But UCLA has to make a splash since USC and Lane Kiffin is starting to dominate the SoCal market again. And that 50-0 whipping Lane and the Trojans dropped on UCLA only magnified that.

Ole Miss

We'd be really careful about the thoughts of a Sumlin and/or Briles here. Both have turned around programs — and the Rebels need a lot of turning around — but let's face it, those two guys turned around programs because they landed big-time quarterbacks. Were Case Keenum and/or Robert Griffin III hugely underrated during the recruiting process or did Sumlin and Briles snag diamonds in the rough? Either way, those guys look like gambles in the SEC. We think Smart or Strong — two admirable quailities — would be great fits here. Watch for Steelers OC Bruce Arians as a possibility here, too.

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    University of Georgia football coach Mark Richt talks to his team before a game in Athens this season.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

SEC championship

We told you Tuesday that our crack college football ace David Paschall is in his element right now. It's the week of the SEC title game and Paschall has three stories in today's TFP. Here (Secondary primary strength for LSU), here (Mettenberger links UGA, LSU) and here (UGA: Under-Dogs eager for 'test' with LSU).

Let's start to break down the LSU-Georgia game:

Does Georgia have a chance?

LSU has the edge in every positional category other than QB (Georgia gets the edge) and LB (we'll call that even). And while Georgia's secondary is among the best in college football, LSU's secondary will rank among the best ever when we look back on them in a few years.

But, does Georgia have a chance? Not a great one but the Bulldogs do have a shot, and here's how:

Put the game in quarterback Aaron Murray's hands. And on his feet. If Murray is able to be effective moving around — buying time, escaping pressure, turning a 5-yard loss into a 3-yard gain — and working with a healthy Isaiah Crowell, Georgia will be the most balanced offense LSU has faced.

Is the Tigers defense great? You bet they are, but great defenses can give up yards (LSU allowed more than 500 to a better-than-average West Virginia team, which featured a quarterback with mobility). And great defenses can be beat (we still think Alabama's defense is better than LSU's but we've been called far worse than crazy many, Many, MANY times).

We'll have our official pick in Thursday's Fab 4 (plus-1), but right now we think the SEC title game may be closer than a lot of folks think.

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    Duke's Austin Rivers, left, tries to dribble past Ohio State's Lenzelle Smith during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State beat Duke 85-63. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Not a promising start to a huge week of college hoops

The 5-at-10 has high hopes for this college basketball season. You know this.

With the (League that shall not be named) in a labor funk and isolated in a 52-day 5-at-10 timeout, we believed this was a golden chance for college hoops to regain some regular-season attention. You know this too.

That said, there were two major downers in Tuesday night's clash between No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Duke:

First, the game turned into a rout. This does not portend well for a college hoops season that needs there to be as many as 10 really-good-to-great teams. Plus, the one-sidedness removed the drama factor completely and forced the Mrs. 5-at-10 to ask the dreaded, "What else is on?" (Side note here: To be fair, the Mrs. 5-at-10 is beyond reproach when it comes to watching sports on TV. She's a real star. She loves all football, which is a huge plus, likes baseball and postseason basketball and will tolerate regular-season hoops. And she had every reason to ask what else is on after the Buckeyes made Duke look like a pretty good high school team.)

Second, Dick Vitale has become worse. Read that again. Let's start at the beginning: The 5-at-10 thinks Dick Vitale is a great human being who is kind and generous and loves life, his family and especially college hoops. He is giving with his time to fans and other interests, be them charities or media. He has nothing but the best interest of college basketball at heart.

He also makes our ears bleed. Holy helpings of hearing harnesses, Dickie V has become too-Dickie V even for the ultimate Dickie V fans. His schtick (great word, by the way) was ground-breaking 20 years ago, but now that we're of the age that diaper dandies are simply clean diapers and "Are you Serious?!?!" is asked about every third possession, well, thanks for the passion Dickie V, but we're going to turn the volume down and watch in silence. And when Dickie V is calling a blowout, well, it becomes really easy to wonder, "What else is on?"

But hey, at least new THE Ohio State (of chaos) football coach Urban Meyer was there to say hello to the fan base. You think when he left the game he went to be with the family or went to recruit?

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    UTC players Drazen Zlovaric (20) and Ronrico White (11) box a Savannah State player in the corner as head coach John Shulman looks on. The Mocs defeated the Tigers 65-63 Friday night at the McKenzie Arena.
    Photo by Robin Rudd /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

This and that

— Speaking of THE new coach at THE Ohio State, Urban Meyer's new contract includes a country club membership. Wait... how is he going to have time for golf with work and family... oh nevermind.

— TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer does a strong job looking at the lagging attendance at UTC hoops games and what the start to conference play could mean for the Mocs in the stands. Read it here (Wiedmer: Next two games huge for Mocs' record, reception), and know that the most damaging thing for a college sports program is apathy. Apathy is far worse than outrage or anger, because at least those emotions cause fans and followers, students and supporters to act. Apathy kills a program from the inside.

— Sweet buckets of blistering backtalk, after spending the last several seasons held hostage by an ownership group that was as calculating as the crew on the Titantic, L.A. Dodgers fans may have a new ownership group that includes Larry King for crying out loud. "Burbank, Hello." Yep, what the Dodgers need after the McCourt's divorce held the franchise hostage for a season and a half is the seven-time-wed King being part of the new ownership team. "Orange County, Hello."

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    Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley reacts during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against South Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011, in Knoxville, Tenn. South Carolina won 14-3. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Today's question(s)

There was a lot of response to our column in Tuesday's TFP. Thanks for that. And we want to be clear on this: Never did we say Derek Dooley should be canned right now. We do believe strongly that 2012 will be a make-or-break season for Dooley in Knoxville.

With that in mind, and with all the coaches openings around sports, today's question is quite simple: Who do you want coaching your favorite team and why?

Now there are some ground rules:

1) Remember, the biggest question before anyone should call for a coach's job is, "Who are you going to hire that is better?"

2) Be realistic. If you're a Mocs fan don't say Coach K or Ditka or any other super-high-profile name that is nothing more than a pipe dream. If you're a UT fan, you can't say, "I want Saban to replace Dooley." Well of course you do. Everyone would love to have Saban — well everyone except the beat reporters at that school.

3) If you're happy with who you got, let it be known. Support is important.

Bring it.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Musicman375 said...

Sometimes I like to pretend all the years between Gene Stallings and Nick Saban never really happened. Obviously, I couldn't be happier with the coach we've got now. Roll Tide!

November 30, 2011 at 10:35 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Musicman —

No doubt you speak for all Bama fans with your statement. Alabama is 47-6 over the last four years. Wow, read that again. But, you're right, it was a bumpy path between Stallings and Saban — even with an SEC title under Mike DuBose, who will rank as the worst coach ever to win an SEC title.

— 5-at-10

November 30, 2011 at 11:08 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From Friend of the Show McPell

I am perfectly happy with Auburn's head coach, even Tubbs was fine. I remember Barfield, "Shorty" Bowden, and "Brother" Oliver. For fun, can we move Saban to Penn State and have a pool on how long Urban Meyer lasts at The OSU? I give it 12 months before "health issues" crop up again, 14 months if the Mad Hatter goes to PSU. Side note: I am hearing also that Gus's head coaching dance with UNC is cooling also. Bowl game performance may change that.

— mcpell

November 30, 2011 at 11:10 a.m.
Blueoval said...

I'm giving Dooley one more year but I would take Charlie Strong or Kirby Smart and build the team around Defense. What's the saying??? Defense wins Championships! I would also take 1990's Fulmer (sorry Jay had to)

November 30, 2011 at 11:13 a.m.
jgreeson said...

McPell —

We've long believed that any coach that wins a national title gets at least a two-year cushion of high-fives and handshakes. We're don't remember the Barfield era, and rode the Buster Brown Bowden roller coaster, so yeah, we're extremely pleased with the current regime. (Would like to have had Tracy Rocker stay on staff.)

Oval —

Strong is going to be big time. BIG-TIME where ever he lands after Louisville. The job he did there with limited pieces and a freshman QB has been impressive.

Here's saying any one would like to have the success of the late 1990s Fulmer regime. No shame in that.

— 5-at-10

November 30, 2011 at 11:42 a.m.
jharvey1984 said...


November 30, 2011 at 11:52 a.m.

Well, it's about time the TFP became critical of John Shulman. Stay on top of it, Jay.

The next head basketball coach at UTC is already on a prospect list on Rick Hart's smartphone. Now I don't have a clue who all is on that list, but it's realistic.

If UT had somehow pulled out a victory over UK, regardless of how bad they were playing, are we discussing this at all? Is a shallow win always a better outcome? It sure kept Coach Fulmer employed way past his prime.

November 30, 2011 at 12:58 p.m.
memphisexile said...

I am happy with Les Miles being my coach.

I noticed earlier someone said Peyton. This brings to mind a phenomena I see with some UT fans who are very vocal about the idea of Peyton Manning being head coach. This puzzles me, because he has no experience coaching. Sometimes I think they are joking, but other times I realize some of them are not. Personally, I think it would be far more likely that Mr. Manning would go into television, or coach in the pros.

November 30, 2011 at 1:20 p.m.
jgreeson said...

jharvey —

Peyton would deliver a wealth of street cred and an 18-wheeler load of buzz among Johnny Vols Fans everywhere. While we are huge fans of Manning's skills as a QB, will he be a good coach?

He's not going to need the money and he's going to be great on TV. Plus, name one Hall of Fame level player that became a great coach. Most of the great coaches are former walk-ons or special teams guys, former minor leaguers or former guys that were on the fringe of the NBA rotation.


The 5-at-10 is bewildered at the Mocs' molasses-slow start. It's stunning really.

Great question about what pulling out a win at UK would have meant. You're 100-percent right that all this hand-wringing would be reduced by about 75 percent, if we're going to deal in hypotheticals, if UT doesn't "upset" Vandy in OT, a 4-8 season with back-to-back losses to Vandy and UK would have probably cost Dooley his job.


— 5-at-10

November 30, 2011 at 1:21 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Exile —

You edged our post at the wire, and we have some of the same concerns you voiced.

And yes, we can believe you are quite pleased with Les Miles as your coach.

— 5-at-10

November 30, 2011 at 1:24 p.m.
jharvey1984 said...

peyton is pretty much already the oc for the colts. i count that as coaching experience.

November 30, 2011 at 1:26 p.m.
patrickd said...

nickle@dime, name me a 4 year stretch under any coach in Alabama history that compares to 47-6 in today's SEC of mutant athletes and scholarship limits.

November 30, 2011 at 1:37 p.m.
jharvey1984 said...

ok..i guess i forgot the why. Oh and I am absolutely not joking. I realize that there are not too many former standouts coaching today, but I believe PM would be the exception for a couple of reasons (in no particular order): 1. he absolutely bleeds orange. passion and schoo pride go a long way. 2. he has a technical understanding of the game that i think very few players or even coaches have. 3. the "street cred" goes a long way on the practice field, in the locker room, and during recruiting.

whether he would do it or not was not the question. the question was simply who do you want coaching your team. i think if you ask any number of "johnny vols fans", you would get a significant number of PM as your reply.

November 30, 2011 at 1:41 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Jharvey —

That's a fair counter-point. Well-played indeed. (Plus we see how well the Colts are doing without Peyton the O.C. as well as Peyton the QB.)

PDavi —

This may light some old-school Bama fans' hair on fire, but this is the greatest run in Bama history, the Bear years included, considering the scholarship limitations and the overall competitiveness of the SEC.

Consider the following and consider that the SEC has won five consecutive national titles:

2008 — 12-2 (12-0 in regular season before losses to eventual national champ Florida and a bad bowl game loss to Utah)

2009 — 14-0 and the national championship

2010 — 10-3 (with losses to eventual national champ Auburn, LSU and a South Carolina team playing so far over its head the Gamecocks' noses bled for a week afterward)

2011 — 11-1 with a loss to No. 1 LSU.

That's 47-6, and considering that the Tide are almost certainly going to be in the BCS title game, the four-year mark will be either 48-6 with two national titles or 47-7 with four of those loses coming to teams that won the national title.

Sorry Bear, this is the high-water mark of Alabama football. (Although your hat was pretty awesome.)

November 30, 2011 at 1:54 p.m.
jharvey1984 said...

oh yeah...and you wanted me to name one hall of famer who became a great coach. steve spurrier.

November 30, 2011 at 2:15 p.m.
jgreeson said...

jharvey —

Your points are all valid, and Spurrier is a college Hall of Famer, so that counts.

If Peyton's motivated — and you're right he loves UT and he would be able to recruit without being able to recruit if that makes sense — he has enough football knowledge he could do it. But he may be the only one that could pull it off.

Do you think Brett Favre or Tom Brady or Drew Brees are on the short list at Southern Miss, Michigan or Purdue?

— 5-at-10

November 30, 2011 at 2:20 p.m.
chas9 said...

5er--Duke'll be fine. They were just jetlagged from their travels. But it could be that THE Ohio State will be the Wildcats' main opposition this year.

And you're right that ten solid teams makes for a great season.

November 30, 2011 at 2:29 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

With Brother Stoops, Guitar Man, Vagabond Erickson and whoever the coach at Washington State was (and can anyone name anyone of note who's been head coach at Washington State? I can, and I still can't think of his name) tossed out into the street, that means fully one-third of the Pac XII will have a new head coach in place when spring practice rolls around. And if the University of the Moon has enough money and enough of a recruiting base, maybe the slimy, shifty, scruples-less coach at the University of Spoiled Children will go after that job. (Road games there are brutal at University of the Moon, with the whole distance and gravity thing).

The SEC will be a bastion of stability by comparison this offseason.

November 30, 2011 at 3:17 p.m.
Bdub13 said...

I have supported Dooley since the moment he was hired even with the losing record at LA Tech. The fact that UT did not come out and run all over Kentucky after the huge, huge win over Vanderbilt speaks volumes about Dooley's coaching abilities. You can try to excuse it with youth, but when the team consitently doesn't show up in the second half of games that are close and are that apathetic playing a team with a WR for a QB, then that tells you there are some coaching problems.

I would bring in Sumlin from Houston (if he would even come). He has proven he can win, and the Houston offense has been rather potent the last couple years. I know a lot of people say you win with defense, but it doesn't matter if the other team scores 45 points as long as you score 46. As a side note, I would also bring back Trooper Taylor and plug him in as the OC. I think he would bring an energy to the team that has been severely lacking.

November 30, 2011 at 3:26 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Duke will be fine, but the do not appear to be athletic enough to be on the short list of teams that can win the whole thing. Other than Austin Rivers, who on that team can create his own shot against a top-20-caliber defender?

If we can have 10-14 really good-to-great teams, this could be an old-school enjoyable regular season.

Spy —

The Pac 36 coaching wheel makes the Yankes circa 1986 look stable. And welcome to Washington State Mr. Mike Leach. Everyone together, "Arrrgggg."

And Mr. Kiffin has denied any interest in the U of Moon job — although Coach O may be interested since he's the biggest space cadet out there.

Bdub —

The UK loss was inexplicable, and what BTG said had merit. If UT had found a way to win and we were sitting here waiting to learn which cruddy bowl UT would play in, the hand-wringing would be infinitely less. But, the Vols did lose to UK — for the first time since 1984, which was the year AIDS was discovered by French doctors, gas was $1.10 a gallon, you could see "Terminator" or "The Karate KId" in the theater for $2.50 and the first commercial CD player was sold to the public.

Here's saying 2012 will be a LARGE year for Mr. Dooley.

— 5-at-10

November 30, 2011 at 4:27 p.m.
fechancellor said...

5er sez...if we're going to deal in hypotheticals, if UT doesn't "upset" Vandy in OT, a 4-8 season with back-to-back losses to Vandy and UK would have probably cost Dooley his job."

Not so long ago the measure of a UT team and its coach was whether the Vols beat Alabama and Florida. Now it is suggested losing the Vandy game is a coach killer. Maybe for an 8 win Tennessee team of the future but not this year.

As for the "hand wringing" of Vol fans in the wake of the Kentucky game, this is not some "dire prophesy" come true like the commercial Porter Standsburry runs on Fox News every ten minutes.

Vol fans, losing to Kentucky will not change the way you invest, shop for food and merchandise, make your home and assets worthless, cause a collapse the US dollar, or force the US back on the "Gold Standard."

Losing to a Vandy team showing out its once in a decade best, would not have toppled Dooley this year. This is not to say that the administration will not have their slide rules out establishing some bench marks for Dooley's third season on the Hill.

November 30, 2011 at 5:34 p.m.
govolswb said...

I would prefer to keep Dooley right where he is. I like the dignity and class he brings to the program. Where are all the arrests and bar fights that we had under the last coach? That being said I would like to see Peyton come to UT as offensive coordinator to replace Jim Chaney. He hasn't really impressed me. The jury is still out on DC Justin Wilhoit. Boise always had a pretty good defense when he was there, but is he an SEC caliber DC??

November 30, 2011 at 6:15 p.m.
jgreeson said...

FE to the C —

Fair points, and a cup of perspective is always useful when discussing sports as opposed to real life.

And yes, the measure of UT's program should be Florida and Alabama (the hoops program can use Vandy and UK as a guide), but you are correct that the measure is skewed in Year 2 of Dooley. But Year 3 is Mucho Grande, agree?

Govolswb —

Welcome aboard, and feel free to stop by any time.

Whether Peyton is in the market for a helmet or a headset will be determined by neck doctors way more intelligent than the 5-at-10. That said, Chaney has some questions to answers.

As for DC Justin Wilcox, here's saying the defense got better throughout the season, and in some ways overachieved considering your starting linebackers were a converted fullback and two guys who attended the prom last May. Wilcox is the real deal in our view.

As for the O-line coach, well, hope you enjoyed the perks of working in Knoxville.

— 5-at-10

November 30, 2011 at 7:35 p.m.
govolswb said...

I had a senior moment in my previous comment when I called Justin Wilcox Justin Wilhoit. I'll learn to proofread my comments more carefully before posting from now on. You make good points about the linebackers and losing Jackson at safety hurt on the field even if it might have been best for the program off the field in the long run. My only point was that the Mountain West conference isn't exactly the SEC even with wins against teams like Oklahoma.

November 30, 2011 at 9:13 p.m.
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