The votes are in, and your voice was heard in SEC Country’s inaugural coach approval rating poll.
Some coaches earned a round of applause from fans. Others? A roundhouse kick to the backside as a call to shape up in a hurry.
Results were collected in February, when the most recent season becomes a speck in the rearview mirror, the recruiting rush teases the imagination and dreams of spring football dance in the mind. (Note for Ole Miss: Figures were gained before the latest NCAA allegations, which were kind of a big deal.)
Below are the approval ratings for each SEC coach, listed in order from best to worst.
1. Nick Saban, Alabama: 97.4%
Saban’s steamroller keeps doing its thing. Yes, Alabama came up short in its bid for consecutive national titles. But witnessing the Crimson Tide’s most recent recruiting haul was like seeing bars of gold placed at King Midas’ feet. Sometimes, Alabama’s dominance under the coach doesn’t seem fair.
2. Jim McElwain, Florida: 85.9%
Bottom line: 2 SEC East titles in two years. Cue the mic drop. Sure, Gators fans have room to quibble: Florida’s offense has been shaky, and those SEC title-game appearances under McElwain were duds. But considering how most of the SEC East is a collection of bleh now, McElwain has done a solid job.
3. Mark Stoops, Kentucky: 85.0%
The Bluegrass Bounce! The Wildcats awakened with a 7-6 record in 2016, their best finish during Stoops’ four years in Lexington. Stoops is enjoying well-earned momentum, but he must keep the good vibes alive in 2017.
4. Ed Orgeron, LSU: 84.2%
No Lane Kiffin? No problem. Orgeron, meet your honeymoon period. If coordinator Matt Canada figures out how to make the Tigers offense roar throughout the spring and fall, LSU might become a major factor in the SEC West.
5. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State: 84.1%
Mullen has a bunch of reasons to wear a gigantic grin this year. There are 4.5 million, in fact, after signing a four-year contract extension. It’s impressive that Mullen holds an approval rating this high after a 6-7 finish in 2016, the Bulldogs’ worst season under him since a 5-7 record in 2009. Starkville is smiling upon you, coach.
6. Will Muschamp, South Carolina: 83.1%
Muschamp’s elbows must be sore after dishing out crow in recent months. The Gamecocks beat low expectations in 2016 with a 6-7 finish and a Birmingham Bowl berth. There’s work to do at South Carolina, especially on defense. But Muschamp’s early returns are promising.
7. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss: 80.6%
You can’t knock what Freeze has accomplished in Oxford. But it’s fair to wonder if the Rebels’ best days under him are long gone. The NCAA storm cloud above his program has the potential to create a flood.
8. Kirby Smart, Georgia: 79.7%
Smart must do more to win over a tough fan base. This figure shows that Dawg Nation remains in wait-and-see mode with its coach, who was hired to be Athens’ Saban. Still, Smart delivered a monster recruiting class. Georgia could be the SEC East’s team to beat in the not-so-distant future.
9. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: 75.6%
Congrats, Mason! You earned your first bowl berth as Vandy’s coach. The bad news? Your fan base has given you the stiff-arm treatment. Hey, what’s James Franklin up to these days?
10. Barry Odom, Missouri: 71.9%
Woof! Talk about a rough-and-tumble first season for Odom. Missouri’s 4 victories were the Tigers’ fewest since going 4-7 in Gary Pinkel’s first season in 2001. There’s time for Odom to flip things in Columbia, but there’s an Everest-sized climb ahead.
11. Bret Bielema, Arkansas: 68.7%
The natives are restless. It’s time to ask a key question: What has Bielema done at Arkansas, other than produce mediocre seasons with minor bowl berths? The Hogs’ late hurl job in 2016 should make the coach sweat.
12. Butch Jones, Tennessee: 65.5%
If 2016 began like a lion for the Vols, it ended like a dandelion. That 9-4 finish was a letdown after huge visions to start the fall. Jones overhauled his staff in the offseason, so we’ll learn if the new look keeps away the pitchforks.
13. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: 59.5%
What is this, a bizarro Groundhog Day? The Aggies finished 8-5 in each of the past three seasons. So, yeah, it’s easy to see why fans cooled on Sumlin. Texas A&M has been stuck in a rut for too long.
14. Gus Malzahn, Auburn: 57.9%
That seat is sizzling under Malzahn. The Tigers enjoyed buzz after signing transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who could play a big factor in how the coming year unfolds for the coach. This will be a telling time for Malzahn, who must recapture his old magic.
The SEC Country approval rating poll is designed to give an indication of fan happiness over a period of time.
Our formula is based on the percentage of respondents that select each answer. We multiply that percentage by the following factors: 1 (strongly approve), 0.67 (approve), 0.33 (disapprove) and 0.0 (strongly disapprove). In other words, if 50 percent of respondents select “strongly approve” and 50 percent select “approve,” the formula would be (50 x 1) + (50 x 0.67) = 83.5% approval rating.