Thursday, January 21, 2010
SEC coaches of the decade
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
There’s only one coach in college football in the AP poll era (since 1936) who’s won national championships at two different schools.
And he did it in the SEC.
Nick Saban has won national championships at two SEC schools.
It’s safe to say that coach -- Nick Saban -- is our coach of the decade. Here’s how the top 10 came out:
1. Nick Saban, Alabama/LSU: He’s rebuilt two proud programs in the SEC into national championship teams. He did it at LSU in 2003 and Alabama in 2009. Saban also won a third SEC title in 2001 during his second season at LSU. He’s an easy choice to top this list and is really just getting started at Alabama.
2. Urban Meyer, Florida: Meyer looked a like a cinch to top this list until Saban ran the table this season and won the national title. Still, Meyer has won two national titles in his five seasons with the Gators, who reeled off a 22-game winning streak over the last two seasons. He also revolutionized the league to a degree with his spread offense.
3. Mark Richt, Georgia: Despite some of the grumbling this past season in Athens, Richt’s consistency has been what sets him apart. He won SEC titles in 2002 and 2005 and has finished in the top 10 in the final polls in six of his nine seasons. He’s also won 10 or more games in six of his nine seasons.
4. Les Miles, LSU: The last two seasons are what dropped Miles to fourth. His three-year run from 2005-07 was spectacular. He won 34 games, including the 2007 national championship and the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 2006 season. But to be fair, he was playing predominantly with players Nick Saban recruited those first three years. Miles has lost nine games the last two seasons.
5. Tommy Tuberville, Auburn: Recently hired as Texas Tech’s coach, Tuberville was pushed out at Auburn following a 5-7 season in 2008. That was the exception, though. He was a stellar big-game coach and led the Tigers to a 13-0 season and SEC championship in 2004, although they were squeezed out of the BCS equation. Tuberville also beat Alabama six straight times during his time on the Plains.
6. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina/Florida: The Head Ball Coach has been average at best during his time at South Carolina. The Gamecocks are just 18-22 against SEC foes on his watch, but he has beaten Florida, Georgia and Tennessee during his five seasons in Columbia. And we can’t forget about his final two seasons at Florida. The 2000 Gators won the SEC title.
7. Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee: The dean of SEC coaches when he was fired following the 2008 season, Fulmer enjoyed his greatest success in the 1990s when he won a national title. He still managed to get to the SEC championship game three times last decade, but the Vols never won. What got him were too many lopsided losses to Alabama and Florida and losing seasons in 2005 and 2008.
8. Houston Nutt, Ole Miss/Arkansas: Nutt’s divorce from Arkansas was a messy one. The fans were over him, and he was over some of the unrealistic expectations. He did take the Hogs to two SEC championship games, and he’s won nine games -- including a pair of Cotton Bowls -- each of the past two years at Ole Miss. His challenge now will be winning with his own players.
9. Rich Brooks, Kentucky: There’s nothing real impressive about Brooks’ SEC record, but he took over a program reeling from NCAA sanctions and restored it to respectability before retiring following last season. The Wildcats went to four straight bowls last decade and won three in a row. He also upgraded their talent and depth significantly, which has shown up in recent seasons.
10. Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt: There may be a few eyebrows raised to see Johnson’s name on this list, but he belongs. Despite the disappointing season this past year, Johnson has dramatically improved the program across the board. The Commodores won their first bowl game in 53 years in 2008 when they defeated Boston College in the Music City Bowl. No longer are they an easy out for anybody.