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What coaches are on the hot seat in the SEC?

The coaches with the most uncertain futures are all out West in 2017.

NCAA Football: Southwest Classic-Arkansas vs Texas A&M 2016
Bret Bielema and Kevin Summon are on two of the conferences hottest seats.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The college football season kicks off later this month. Wal-Mart commercials haven’t even changed from backyard cookout settings to big game watching parties, but there is already buzz in the SEC about who won’t be in the SEC next year.

Mike Bianchi recently wrote in the Orlando Sentinel that Nick Saban has turned the conference into a parody of itself. The reality may not be that the conference is in full on “if the league were Simpsons characters” mode quite yet, but Baa’s dominance has turned a lot of fan bases into a Paul Finebaum caller Voltron made up of multiple outraged factions.

So what are the realities of the coaching hot seat in the SEC? There has been so much turnover in the last few years that logic would tell you this season’s coaching carousel may be rather quiet down south.

Cue what is sure to be a very useful meme come football season.

Feel free to copy and use this in your tweets during the season.

So with that in mind, I have analyzed the safety and the realities of every job in the SEC and put the coaches occupying those jobs into tiers from least vulnerable to most. Here we go.


  • Nick Saban - A video of Nick Saban punching babies and spitting on the American flag could hit the internet the week after he went 0-12 and Bama would still see fit to give him a chance to turn it around next season. And let’s be fair to this hypothetical America-hatin’-baby-puncher. He has probably earned that chance.


  • Kirby Smart - There is a tepid love for Smart in Georgia. He didn’t set the world on fire last season, but his team is the preseason favorite in the East and more importantly, recruiting is strong. Smart is even beating out his old boss for some of the Southeast’s most highly touted recruits. The powers-that-be see a bright enough future in Athens that no one is itching to pull the plug on Smart.
  • Jim McElwain - I had a conversation last season with a reporter friend in Florida that swore that boosters in Gainesville wanted Oregon to offer Jim McElwain its head coaching job. I don’t know if that is true, but for the sake of this column, let’s assume it is. McElwain has been on the job in the Sunshine State for two years. He has two division championships and 19 wins in that time. Even if boosters find the Gators boring to watch under McElwain, it will take more than one losing season and one off recruiting cycle before anyone can justify firing Jim McElwain.


  • Will Muschamp - Even the most diehard Gamecocks fan will tell you that the team overachieved a bit in year one, especially considering that it took until October 22 before the team managed to score three touchdowns in a single game. The defense is strong. The skill positions are filled with guys that will have high expectations for a long time. Most importantly, the QB of the future is the QB of the present. Confidence in Muschamp is high and short of going 0-12 this season, I don’t know what is going to change that.
  • Derek Mason - Vandy just gave the guy an extension and a raise. Besides, this is Vanderbilt. Yes, Mason was probably on the hot seat if he didn’t take the Commodores to a bowl last season, but he did. Now the hot seat clock is reset.
  • Barry Odom - As our friends at SB Nation have so wonderfully celebrated, this is the 10 year anniversary of the year everyone outside the Show Me State realized the potential of Missouri football. Of course these fans want to win more than they did last year, but there is also a level of connection to the real world in the other Columbia that doesn’t exist in most SEC fan bases. What Gary Pinkel was able to do with this team was rare and it will take time for another coach to build something like that.
  • Dan Mullen - This one was a tough call. Mississippi State has the league’s second-longest tenured head coach after Nick Saban, so without Saban-like levels of success there are certainly at least a few fans that are ready to make a move. But for the most part, Mullen has delivered for the folks of Starkville both on the field and in recruiting. The only way I can see him getting bounced at the end of 2017 is if the Bulldogs are somehow worse than a battered Ole Miss.
  • Mark Stoops - Stoops nearly lost his job last season after starting 0-2 and then giving up 42 points to New Mexico State, but some unexpected wins over the likes of Carolina, Mississippi State and most importantly Louisville got the Wildcats to 7 wins and bowl eligibility. They finished with the highest seed in program history since the SEC went to divisional play in 1992, and Barrett Sallee of CBS is among those that thinks the Cats are going to build on that success in 2017.
  • Butch Jones - I know you don’t believe me, but the guy is safe. Yes, his team underachieved last year. Yes, Jalen Hurd split. Yes, he said some dumb things.

But as has been pointed out a lot this off-season, he is one of the few coaches in the conference with 9 wins each of the last two years. Fans in Knoxville may be screaming that that isn’t good enough, but the powers that be on campus are happy with the way the program has rebounded from the Derek Dooley era.


  • Gus Malzahn - Let’s be clear about two things. First, Auburn is going to be very good in 2017. Second, if they aren’t, Malzahn is toast. All of the pieces seem to be in place for a top 10 finish for the Tigers this season, but remember, if LSU had gotten that play off in time last season, it’s Malzahn who is out of a job right now. The addition of Jarrett Stidham to this offense makes Auburn so formidable, that anything short of a 9 win season may mean it’s time for the Gus Bus to depart the plains.
  • Ed Orgeron - I hope I am wrong and the LSU brass give Ed Orgeron time to get something going in Baton Rouge. He grew up dreaming of coaching at LSU. His parents are named Bebe and Coco. You can’t understand a word he says. The man is a Cajun fairytale come to life. And best of all, he looks like a Cabbage Patch Kid grew up and became human.
I mean come on!

None of that will save him though if the Tigers disappoint. Remember, he got this job because AD Joe Alleva didn’t want the headache of having to sell another guy on moving to Louisiana and LSU fans really aren’t happy about it. This is as likely a one-and-done situation as we have ever seen for a top 10 job in the sport’s history.


  • Bret Bielema - Was there a more embarrassing finish to the season in the conference as Arkansas’ collapse against Virginia Teach in the Belk Bowl? It led Bielema to “evaluate everything” this offseason. Robb Smith was encouraged to head north. Paul Rhoads was elevated to DC and Hogs fans are hoping brighter days are ahead. But hope doesn’t make up for the talent gap. Arkansas is at best the #5 team in the West this season, which is Bielema’s fifth in Fayetteville. He has won eight games only once and finished about fifth in the division only once. If Arkansas doesn’t want its football program to slip into obscurity, 2017 may be the year to make a change.
  • Kevin Sumlin - When you’re fan base has become so accustomed to going 8-4 that they name August 4th a holiday in your honor, you’re on the hot seat. When your boss says you’re on the hot seat, you’re on the hot seat. Kevin Sumlin is on the hot seat and it is hard to say what will get him off of it. In the preseason, A&M looks good enough to challenge Auburn for the number 2 spot in the West. That should mean an 8 or 9 win season. That’s probably not good enough to keep Sumlin in College Station unless two of those wins are Alabama and either LSU or Auburn.
  • Matt Luke - He will have to win the SEC in order to be the head coach at Ole Miss in 2018...or the NCAA would have to come down so hard on Rebel football that they can’t find any other takers.