There are times when emotions run hot, situations escalate and pleasantries get tossed out the window. Only then do you see the true heart, soul and passion of the people who live, breathe and invest time and money into SEC football Saturdays.
This… this is one of those times.
If you stepped out for a relaxing Sunday with your family or friends, buckle up, because you have missed an awful lot. Here are the quick-hit highlights:
- Florida has hired Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen
- Texas A&M fired Kevin Sumlin and is reportedly set to hire Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher
- Tennessee is supposedly in talks with Ohio State coordinator Greg Schiano, and fans are not taking the news well.
- Arkansas is doing… something. Maybe looking at Memphis coach Mike Norvell? Nobody is quite sure.
Here are three major takeaways from an absolutely wild day around SEC Country.
1) Dan Mullen can fix Florida’s offense, and that’s really all that matters
It doesn’t take a genius to recruit Florida; Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain and Ron Zook were all largely successful in doing so.
It doesn’t take a coaching mastermind to cobble some of that Sunshine State talent into a respectable defense. The Gators defensive coordinator position has acted as a springboard for many coaches — Charlie Strong, Dan Quinn, Teryl Austin and Geoff Collins, to name a few — but even Randy Shannon’s unit ranked 31st in total defense with many of Muschamp’s recruits gone.
Building an offense that can actually challenge SEC defenses ain’t so easy. Neither is developing a quarterback who can survive the rigors of an SEC schedule. Muschamp, McElwain and all of their offensive coordinators failed on both fronts, often miserably.
Only once since Urban Meyer left have the Gators scored more than 30 points per game; under McElwain, they never did better than 23.9. For a program with Florida’s resources, that’s not just bad — that’s pathetic.
Mullen needs no introduction. He has survived what no other conference coach has since 2007 — Nick Saban’s arrival at Alabama — and turned Mississippi State into a consistent performer in the cutthroat SEC West. More importantly, he has done so by signing a bevy of Magnolia State and JUCO 3-stars and, wait for it, developing them into capable college starters.
And, of course, Mullen has been especially great at developing quarterbacks. Nick Fitzgerald, a former wide receiver who only had one other scholarship offer (Middle Tennessee), and Dak Prescott might be his crowning achievements. Imagine what he could do with blue-chip California prospect Matt Corral?
Maybe some Florida fans would have preferred a flashier hire, like Chip Kelly, or a young upstart like UCF’s Scott Frost. But Mullen already has proven he can win in the SEC, and for that there is absolutely no substitute.
This hire is a clear win for the Gators, and a crushing blow for Mississippi State, which already lost athletic director Scott Stricklin to the Gators. The SEC East just got better.
2) Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M? That’s a whole lot of ego on one campus
Don’t get me wrong: Jimbo Fisher is a great coach, and it makes sense why he’d be the Aggies’ first choice.
Fisher’s apparent level of interest in the Texas A&M job is intriguing. The A&M post, all things considered, is a pretty ideal setup from a resources and recruiting standpoint. The challenges of playing in the SEC West still exist, but the access to Alabama-level recruiting talent is practically unbeatable. Throw in a recently-renovated stadium along with competitive facilities and College Station is a pretty sweet place to land.
At the same time, Florida State has most of those same advantages. Maybe Fisher was just ready for a change of scenery after eight years at the helm in Tallahassee. Or maybe he was tired of Seminoles fans heckling him during a losing season, where he lost his starting quarterback in the season opener, four seasons removed from a national championship.
Jimbo Fisher just got into it with a fan who yelled “get new coaches.” Fisher said “walk your a— down here and say it.”
— Garry Smits (@gsmitter) October 21, 2017
Spoiler alert: Texas A&M fans will do the same thing if Fisher signs a massive contract only to go 6-6 in Year 1.
Whatever the motive, the Aggies are going big, as expected. It’s worth questioning whether two sides that think so highly of themselves are a fantastic fit. But then again, winning cures everything, doesn’t it?
3) Greg SchiaNO: The funniest, saddest story of the day
Tennessee’s coaching search started with the predictable Jon Gruden rumor hysteria. Then the focus apparently shifted toward Chip Kelly and Dan Mullen. Ultimately, athletic director John Currie reportedly settled upon the most predictably laughable successor to Butch Jones: Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, whose best coaching performance came in 2006, when Rutgers won 11 games.
The reaction has been outrage and condemnation, for a handful of reasons.
- Schiano has not been a college head coach since 2011. His only head coaching experience at the college level came during his 11-year stint at Rutgers, where he compiled a 68-67 overall record.
- His Ohio State defenses have been torched in big games. Iowa dropped 55 points on the Buckeyes earlier this month. Baker Mayfield shredded his secondary for 386 yards passing.
- There are Schiano’s perceived implications in Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky scandal. Schiano was on Joe Paterno’s staff at the time and, according to court documents, assistant Mike McQueary testified that Schiano knew about Sandusky’s sexual misconduct.
Literally everyone with a stake in Tennessee has criticized the reported hire: Vols fans, alumni and even state legislators. Even White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders weighed in. People are protesting, and you can bet Knoxville riots will follow if this goes through. The only people I’ve seen defending Schiano here are Paterno’s son, Scott (go figure), and ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit (whose Twitter mentions were shredded by angry Tennessee fans).
The mounting pressure could be enough to torch any talks that took place between Tennessee and Schiano. One report from ESPN on Sunday night indicated that indeed was the case. A separate report indicated that Schiano was seeking compensation from Tennessee for calling off the deal.
Are Tennessee fans right to be angry? Absolutely. Currie is clearly in over his head and has little-to-no sense of his own fan base.
At the same time, Tennessee fans probably need to step back and realize that this is not an elite job that can attract or keep top coaching talent. Florida and Texas A&M have you beat. Arkansas might be neck-and-neck at this point. Phil Fulmer was the best Tennessee has had, and we all remember how that ended. The Schiano incident sure won’t change perceptions, especially if fans and politicians manage to run the guy off before he even signs a contract.
This is a toxic situation all around, and there might have been disgust even if Currie hadn’t settled on Greg Schiano. What a mess.