For the fifth time in the past seven seasons, there were at least three head coaching vacancies in the SEC.
Perhaps this is the new normal. If so, then athletic directors are more important than the coaches they hire and who make vastly more money.
An athletic director should always have a plan in place in case his coach leaves for another job, retires or is fired. Oddly enough, that didn’t seem the case. All too often, schools with football coaching vacancies seemed willing to jump to the easiest solution.
The rash of job openings seemed to make administrators nervous. No one wants to be left without a chair when the music stops. However, a rash decision is rarely the best one.
Here are the grades for the four coaching moves that reshaped the SEC:
Miami: Mark Richt, A
Richt may never win a national championship at Miami. He couldn’t at Georgia. However, Richt brings stability to a school that has had little recently. Plus, Richt’s hire sends a clear message that the Hurricanes are doing their best to put past NCAA transgressions behind them. His squeaky clean image speaks volumes.
Miami should be credited for moving quickly to secure Richt before another school could come calling. Richt hasn’t always been able to keep pace with the best recruiters in the SEC. In South Florida, he doesn’t have to be. He can be choosey, pick high-character kids and still have enough talent to compete at a high level.
Georgia: Kirby Smart, C+
There are plenty of people that believe Smart could be the next coming of Alabama coach Nick Saban. Certainly, there is a slight chance of that. However, Georgia could have done much better. Football has turned into a game based on prolific offenses and the Bulldogs hired an unproven head coach with a defensive background.
Parting ways with Richt was probably the right thing to do but replacing him with Smart is far too risky for a program of Georgia’s caliber. Still, credit Georgia for targeting their man and getting him, even if it turns out to be the wrong choice.
Missouri: Barry Odom, C-
The Tigers’ brass should know more about Odom than anyone else since he was their defensive coordinator last season and worked for Pinkel from 2003-11 in various capacities. Still, hiring a coach from within seems pretty weak. Missouri is in the SEC, meaning it has the funds to hire a top-flight candidate.
Missouri should also be ashamed of itself for not acting sooner since it knew former coach Gary Pinkel was retiring. Did the Tigers even take a shot at former Memphis coach Justin Fuente, who ended up at Virginia Tech?
South Carolina: Will Muschamp, D
The Muschamp hire makes the least amount of sense of any in the country. At Florida, Muschamp was fired from a better job because he couldn’t win enough games. What makes South Carolina think the longtime defensive coordinator can have success at a lessor program?
Muschamp will have less resources, worse facilities and a weaker recruiting base. This hire reeks of desperation for South Carolina, which was likely hoping for Smart. Muschamp’s one redeeming value is that he won 11 games at Florida in 2012 before the program fell apart.