The SEC Coaches' Q&A: Headwear history

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
8:54
AM ET
Kevin SumlinPatrick Green/Icon SMITexas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is one of the three new visor-wearing coaches in the SEC.
Steve Spurrier's visor is one of college football's most iconic trademarks.

Since the Head Ball Coach began wearing it in 1990, it has gained a foothold in the NCAA, likely thanks to the respect afforded Spurrier by his peers. Now, some of the most prominent coaches in the country are wearing visors, including OKlahoma's Bob Stoops, USC's Lane Kiffin and Oregon's Chip Kelly.

The SEC took a huge step forward in visor-dom this year with conference expansion, adding visor-wearing coaches in Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and Missouri's Gary Pinkel. In addition, new Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze wears one.

That brings our scoreboard to seven coaches who wear nothing (dubbed the "hair guys" by well-coiffed Tennessee coach Derek Dooley), five visors and two hats.

In this installment of our questionnaire, each coach explains how he arrived at the crucial decision.

The SEC has added three more visors to the sideline this year. How did you arrive at your game-day headwear decision?

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, visor: Well, I've always worn a visor on the golf course. When I got to Florida, it was only natural to get some visors with the Gator logo on it, and so forth. That's when I really started wearing it, in 1990. Actually, the year before at Duke, we beat Clemson on a rainy day, and I wore a hat. I kept the hat on the rest of the season, and we won all of our games the rest of the season. So I wasn't going to change. But when I got to Florida, obviously the visor. ... But if it's a cold night or a rainy day, I still wear a hat. Those guys that wear visors on rainy days? That's not real smart. They don't work real well.

LSU coach Les Miles, hat: [Bo] Schembechler wore a hat, and I kind of grew up behind that guy leading me, and I've kind of worn hats. Just my choice. I think those hat guys need to stand their ground. I think they need to fight. I think those guys that have the low -- kind of the low receding visor look -- you know that's certainly their personal decision. But I think that the guys that have a full superstructure, a full hat that stands tall and cuts the wind, and has greater protection ... I think those guys are making a great decision.

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, none: I'm not a hair guy. You can't put me into any of those categories. Am I the only bald coach? Joker's real low, but close ... but it's just tight. I'm the only bald one! I have a very long head, and hats don't work for me. They never have. I'll wear them for rain, to keep the rain off my glasses. But they just don't look good. I try. My wife makes fun of me, the players make fun of me, my staff. ... I have a long head. It sits up there on top of it. It doesn't look right.

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, none: There are less and less hair guys than ever before. I never thought the hair guys would start becoming in the minority. But I guess it's because of all the fodder out there about skin cancer, with the sun. I prefer to trust the SPF. But I wear a hat in practice every day to keep the sun out.

Florida coach Will Muschamp, none: Well, headsets don't fit well with a hat on. So that's No. 1. I'm all into comfort, and Derek [Dooley] is all into looks. That's the difference.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, visor: Is that right? [Laughs] I don't know. I was actually at Oklahoma, and I had been a hat guy, and there's a shortage of hats in Oklahoma. There's a whole lot more visors available at practice than hats. I actually started wearing a visor there. They didn't have any hats at practice every day, and I just started wearing one, and I've just been wearing one ever since.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, visor: Really? They're following me, huh? I'm the trendsetter in that. I think Spurrier, he got that from me, right? [Laughs] Yeah, that's a tough call. I grew up a big fan of Steve Spurrier, so I always thought that was kind of cool that he had the visor on. So when I started coaching, I started with the visor. It kind of lets your head breathe when you're out there at practice. It's kind of fun, so I've stuck with it. And now it's become a big deal about what visor I'm wearing each week. Because you can have some fashion statements with your visor.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, visor: Really? I didn't know that. I'm the most experienced, so I think I should be the one to be able to wear it. But why do I wear it? It helps me set my headset right. That's why I wear it. Keeps the sun off my face a bit. But I wear it indoors, and the reason is, rather than putting the heavy headset on my head and my hair, it just works better that way.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik, none: I'm a visor guy. I'm not a hat guy. I'm definitely a visor guy. I'm not an anything guy on game day. On the practice field, I'm a visor guy. Can't really describe why. I've just always been a visor guy.

Arkansas coach John L. Smith, hat: Well, it's when I started losing all my hair and had nothing else to cover my head, I thought I better do that. I'm definitely the non-hair guy. That's the reason of the hat.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, none: Well, when I started, I wore a hat. And I'm saying, this is just not ... the lid is just not giving me the image that's going to promote the kind of success that you want to have. It didn't even look like me. Identity, I think is really important. And I think some of the coaches that wear visors, like Coach Spurrier ... I kid about that all the time like I want to be like him and I'm going to wear a visor. But it's part of his identity. It's what he's always done. And I think that's important. I've never done it, since my very first years. And I don't think I ever will. [You've been known to toss the straw hat around in practice every once in a while.] Well, the straw hat I wear to protect my bald head. And I do toss it around, and they're not very durable. So that's a problem.

Georgia coach Mark Richt, hat: I don't wear anything. I don't look too good in a ball cap. At least my wife questions that, I think. I've just never been a visor guy. If I'm gonna put something on, I need full coverage.

Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze, visor: I hate to give this guy credit. ... [Laughs] Really, when I became a high school coach, I kind of wanted to be like Steve Spurrier, and he wore a visor. And hats don't look good on my little head. And that's the truth. When I started high school coaching, that's where it really originated. I used to try to throw it like he does, too. I try not to do that now.

Kentucky coach Joker Phillips, none: You can't call me one of the hair guys, either. I've never been a real hat guy. You see the shape of this head? This head doesn't sit well with hats. So therefore I just have never been a hat guy. Especially on game day. If we have some rain, yes. I don't have hair to catch the water from going into my eyes. I will wear a hat when it's raining.
Dave Wilson is a college football editor for ESPN.com. He joined ESPN.com in 2010 and previously worked at The Dallas Morning News, San Diego Union-Tribune and Las Vegas Sun.

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