Hearing that a football coach has an opinion about presidential politics is a little like when a young child sees his school teacher at the supermarket. It can be shocking to discover they have a life beyond the thing for which we know them.
Surely that must have been the reaction for some when earlier this week, when Ohio State coach Urban Meyer endorsed Republican presidential candidate and Ohio governor John Kasich in the state’s upcoming primary. The SEC has also seen one of its coaching families get involved in politics as Dan Mullen’s wife, Megan, also publicly backed Kasich.
The question this leads to is whether or not SEC fans want to hear their favorite football coaches — or those coaches’ wives — speak out about their voting preferences. And the answer would seem rather obvious: It depends on those coaches’ opinions. A coach that’s outspoken in favor of my chosen candidate is simply driven by his conscious desire to share his thoughts about what’s best for America. Of course, a coach that likes a different candidate than I do should stick to football. At least that’s what fans would probably say if they were honest about it.
Either way, it’s hard to imagine too many coaches deciding to freely share their thoughts about the election given that it’s becoming so hard to get them to talk openly about anything these days. Any SEC beat writer will tell you that there’s a better chance of unearthing the nuclear launch codes from the person that does become President than there is of getting an SEC football coach to discuss a player’s injury — or even worse, why a player is suspended.
Another reason why coaches aren’t too likely to get involved in the political process is because they’re fixated on recruiting. The most important constituency — to use a political word — for SEC coaches is the one made up of 17 and 18-year-old elite athletes. Not only do those young men probably not care much about what SEC coaches do at the ballot box, some of them are not even old enough to vote anyway.
However, it is somewhat entertaining to imagine who SEC coaches would support for President if they were going to publicly declare. For instance, the Obama administration has been good for Alabama coach Nick Saban. Four different Crimson Tide teams have met President Obama in the White House to celebrate national championships. Knowing that, maybe Saban would want to stay the course with the eventual Democratic nominee — whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders — because maybe having a Democrat in the Oval Office has become something like Alabama’s good luck charm.
Also, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn recently got a lot of attention for purchasing a BMW i8. Doesn’t it seem pretty clear that any coach who spends maybe as much as $140,000 on a German-made automobile is almost certainly going to support one of the presidential candidates that advocates free trade between the U.S. and foreign countries?
Plus, when UGA coach Kirby Smart speaks of his desire to keep Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh out of the South and away from the region’s top recruiting prospects, he sounds an awful lot like Donald Trump discussing that famous wall he wants to build. Maybe Smart is tempted to show up at UGA’s spring practice with a “Make America great again” hat.
These are only guesses as to whom the coaches would support — and probably not very good guesses at that. The point though is that it’s probably best to leave the connection between football coaches and politicians to guesswork as opposed to hearing the coaches talk openly about their views.
After all, SEC coaches have enough to deal with already. Many of them could be looking for work again four years from now, too.