SEC: Pat Dye
No, it had nothing to do with his customary visor, and he wasn't drawing up ball plays on a napkin or looking at his watch and wondering if he'd make his tee time.
"I got to thinking, 'Where are all the guys who played football in this league over the last 30-some years?'" Spurrier recounted. "You don't see many former players from the league coming back [to the SEC] to be head coaches anymore."
Over the past decade, there have been a few such as former Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom (Alabama), former Kentucky coach Joker Phillips (Kentucky) and former Auburn coach Gene Chizik (Florida). And before Nick Saban took over at Alabama, former Alabama quarterback Mike Shula headed up the Crimson Tide's program.
Currently, though, Spurrier and Florida's Will Muschamp are the only two. Matter of fact, more of the current SEC head coaches played their football in the Big Ten -- Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Kentucky's Mark Stoops at Iowa, LSU's Les Miles at Michigan and Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin at Purdue.
An SEC pedigree was once a must for becoming a head coach in the SEC, but times have changed.
Click here to read my entire column on the changing guard in the SEC.
The mid- to late-1970s is about as far back as I go, but I’ve gone back and picked out some of the more memorable ones over the past 30 or 35 years.
These are all SEC vs. SEC matchups, and I’ll rank the top 5 as well as five more that just missed the cut. I’ll come back later Thursday with a few more, including some upsets in non-conference and bowl games.
1. Mississippi State 6, Alabama 3 (1980): The No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide had won 28 straight (and an SEC-record 27 straight conference games) and were heavily favored against the unranked Bulldogs. But Mississippi State played suffocating defense that day in Jackson, Miss., and snuffed out a late Alabama drive. The Crimson Tide had moved to the Bulldogs’ 4, but were out of timeouts. Alabama quarterback Don Jacobs took the snap and started down the line of scrimmage to the right side. Mississippi State’s Tyrone Keys shot through and tackled Jacobs, forcing a fumble that Billy Jackson recovered to seal one of the greatest wins in Mississippi State history. Alabama’s wishbone attack, which had been averaging more than 300 yards per game, mustered just 116 rushing yards against the Mississippi State defense. The Crimson Tide lost four fumbles in the game. And in a classy gesture afterward, Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant visited the Mississippi State locker room to congratulate the Bulldogs on the win.
2. LSU 17, Alabama 13 (1993): The No. 5 Crimson Tide had gone 31 straight games without a loss and were coming off an unbeaten national championship season. Inexplicably, they lost at home to an unranked LSU team that had lost five of its first seven games that season and finished 5-6. The Tigers were a 24-point underdog that day and in the midst of their fifth straight losing season. Alabama starting quarterback Jay Barker was out with an injured shoulder, and the Tide -- using three different quarterbacks -- threw four second-half interceptions. Coach Gene Stallings finally went to David Palmer at quarterback late in the third quarter, and “The Deuce” directed the Tide on a pair of scoring drives. But LSU held on for the win, and Stallings said afterward that he waited too long to go to Palmer, who was normally a receiver.
4. Auburn 23, Georgia 23 (1994): Even though it wasn’t a loss, it sure felt like one for No. 3 Auburn, which had its 20-game winning streak under Terry Bowden stopped. The Bulldogs were unranked and had lost at home to Vanderbilt a few weeks earlier. But they rallied from 14 points down on the road thanks to a couple of Eric Zeier touchdown passes and survived a missed 44-yard field goal attempt by Auburn’s Matt Hawkins with 13 seconds to play. That was Ray Goff’s next-to-last season at Georgia, which finished 6-4-1 and didn’t play in a bowl game. It didn’t get any better the next week for Auburn. The Tigers, who were on NCAA probation, lost to Alabama.
5. Alabama 9, Tennessee 6 (1990): The Vols were ranked No. 3, coming off a 45-3 demolition of Florida and very much in the national title picture. Alabama had started the season with three straight losses, the first season with Stallings as coach, and was unranked entering the game. But Alabama’s defense stole the show that day before a stunned crowd at Neyland Stadium and shut down Tennessee’s high-powered offense. With the game tied at 6-6, the Vols were able to get into a position for a 50-yard field goal attempt with 1:35 to play, but Alabama’s Stacy Harrison blocked it. The ball scooted more than 20 yards the other way to the Tennessee 37, and Phillip Doyle won it for the Crimson Tide with a 47-yard field goal on the last play of the game to make it five in a row against the Vols.
The five that just missed the cut:
Ole Miss 22, Alabama 12 (1988): Yep, it's the infamous brick through the window game. An irate fan tossed a brick through the office window of Alabama coach Bill Curry after the Rebels stunned the No. 12-ranked Tide in Tuscaloosa. It was Ole Miss’ first win ever against Alabama in the state of Alabama, and spoiled the dedication of the new Paul “Bear” Bryant Museum. Alabama didn’t complete a pass that day.
Alabama 17, Auburn 15 (1984): The Alabama fans refer to it as the “Wrong Way Bo” Iron Bowl. Auburn coach Pat Dye elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 late in the fourth quarter, but Bo Jackson went the wrong way on the play. Alabama’s Rory Turner forced Brent Fullwood out of bounds on the sweep, and the Tide held on to beat the No. 11-ranked Tigers and knock them out of the Sugar Bowl. It was a sweet end for Alabama to its first losing season since 1957.
LSU 31, Tennessee 20 (2001): The No. 2-ranked Vols were coming off a huge win at Florida and poised to go to the Rose Bowl to face Miami for the national championship, but backup quarterback Matt Mauck rallied the Tigers in the second half after filling in for the injured Rohan Davey and gave Nick Saban his first of two SEC titles in Baton Rouge.
Georgia 24, Florida 3 (1985): The Bulldogs romped past the No. 1-ranked Gators with freshman running back backs Keith Henderson and Tim Worley both rushing for 100 yards. It was the only game Florida lost all season. The Gators were ineligible to play in the Sugar Bowl because of NCAA sanctions, but finished No. 5 in the final Associated Press poll.
Arkansas 25, Tennessee 24 (1992): The Vols were ranked No. 4 and had already beaten Florida, Georgia and LSU. The Hogs opened that season, their first in the SEC, by losing to The Citadel, resulting in the firing of Jack Crowe as coach. Joe Kines took over as interim coach and guided a 1-4 Arkansas team to a stunning comeback win against the heavily favored Vols in Knoxville. Todd Wright won it for the Hogs with a 41-yard field goal with two seconds left.
- Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News wonders if Gus Malzahn is strong enough to change Auburn for the better.
- Malzahn's goal is to get Auburn back to a championship level.
- Jonathan Wallace is ready to make the transition to Malzahn's no-huddle offense.
- Arkansas pulls a surprise and hires Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin.
- Top prospect Reuben Foster says Trooper Taylor is a key to his recruitment at Auburn.
- Former Auburn coach Pat Dye says he would have hired Kirby Smart for the Tigers' head-coaching job.
- Steve Greenberg of The Sporting News writes that Bielema will bring a toughness to Arkansas.
- Georgia coach Mark Richt was on the road recruiting the morning after the Bulldogs' SEC championship game loss.
- David Yost's departure leaves a void at Missouri.
- South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney wins the Ted Hendricks Award as the top defensive end in college football.
- Keeping Hugh Freeze in Oxford is Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork's top priority, writes Parrish Alford of The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
- Charlie Strong's strengths match Tennessee's weaknesses, writes John Adams of The Knoxville News-Sentinel.
- Alabama's Barrett Jones is called one of the greatest scholar-athletes to have ever played the game.
- Georgia safety Shawn Williams says the Bulldogs are playing "too soft" on defense.
- The Florida game is big for Georgia, but is even bigger for Mark Richt, writes Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Florida's football team has a motto: FNB (Florida Never Breaks).
- It's too late for Tennessee coach Derek Dooley to get tough with quarterback Tyler Bray, writes John Adams of The Knoxville News-Sentinel.
- LSU is passing more this season, but not better.
- Mississippi State's LaDarius Perkins is running past the doubters.
- Alabama's AJ McCarron might be Heisman worthy, but it's still too early, writes Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News.
- Former Auburn coach Pat Dye refuses to discuss the state of affairs at Auburn on his weekly appearance on the Paul Finebaum Radio Show.
- Auburn's Tre Mason wants more carries with the game on the line.
- Arkansas is looking to keep its momentum going Saturday against Ole Miss.
- Ole Miss and Arkansas both get extra prep time to prepare for their matchup this weekend.
- The decision on whether to keep Kentucky coach Joker Phillips next season should come down to whether the Wildcats' decision-makers think the team will win next season, writes Mark Story of The Lexington Herald-Leader.
- Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and the Commodores aren't taking any win for granted.
- It's been a frustrating season for Missouri freshman receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.
- All of South Carolina's deficiencies were on display in the loss to Florida.
This just in: If you coach in this league, you’re always on the hot seat.
There is no such thing as equity. There is no such thing as enduring loyalty. There is no such thing as patience.
Remember when coaches used to talk about five-year plans?
Heck, a four-year plan in this league is about as obsolete as leather helmets.
That’s what happens when more than half of your head coaches are making in excess of $2.5 million per year.
And when you do win in this league, you better keep on winning.
This is all a long-winded way of saying that I’m not the least bit surprised by all the unrest at Auburn right now. The Tigers are 1-4 and looking like a long shot to finish with a winning season. All the while, there’s a growing faction among the Auburn fan base that wants Gene Chizik out and wants him out now.
Yes, this is the same Gene Chizik that led Auburn to a national championship two years ago, the school’s first in 53 years.
But it’s also the same Gene Chizik that just lost to a reeling Arkansas team last week at home and has now lost six of his last seven SEC games dating back to last season. Those six defeats were by an average margin of 23 points.
On the surface, it’s ridiculous that a coach two years removed from winning a national championship would even be in the conversation of coaches around the country who’re in real trouble.
Let’s be honest. Only a handful of people on the Plains really know whether Chizik is genuinely in trouble.
One of those people is former Auburn coach Pat Dye, who’s still a major player when it comes to matters involving the Auburn football team.
Dye went on an Arkansas radio show last week and said Chizik wouldn’t be in trouble if he didn’t win another game this season and maintained that Chizik would “absolutely” be back next season no matter what.
For what it’s worth, Dye also said former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino (who was once an assistant at Auburn) would never get hired at Auburn.
Of course, Dye made his comments before Auburn went out and stunk up Jordan-Hare Stadium against Arkansas, a loss so ugly that Chizik apologized to the Auburn fans.
In theory, I’m with Dye on this one. I don’t see Auburn sending Chizik packing after this season. But if things don’t get better in a hurry, he’s going to have one foot out the door entering the 2013 season.
Some may say he already does. Chizik brought in two new coordinators prior to this season. It’s been a disaster on offense, and at this rate, the person whose seat may be the hottest is offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.
Still, Chizik’s issues run much deeper than simply trying to salvage this season.
That “other” school in the state of Alabama is dominating college football right now and has a head coach that is driven beyond belief. The Crimson Tide aren’t recruiting players under Nick Saban. They’re selecting them.
Not only that, but Saban has a pretty fair track record of developing those players, which explains why Alabama has won two of the last three national championships and is ranked No. 1 again this season.
Saban casts a long shadow across that state, which even for a coach like Chizik who won a national championship of his own two years ago, can create impossible odds.
The recruiting rankings are starting to work against Chizik, too. Auburn’s class last year was ranked No. 17 nationally by ESPN, but was No. 3 in 2011 and No. 4 in 2010.
The problem is that a lot of those players who helped Auburn attain those lofty rankings are either no longer in the program or haven’t panned out to this point.
To name a few: Michael Dyer, Trovon Reed, DeAngelo Benton, Shaun Kitchens, Antonio Goodwin, LaDarius Owens and Eric Mack.
What’s more, sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier -- ranked among the top high school quarterbacks in the country two years ago -- has struggled mightily this season and was pulled last week in favor of Clint Moseley.
The Tigers are ranked 12th in the SEC in total defense. That’s after finishing 11th in total defense last season.
Simply, there’s not a lot that Auburn can hang its hat on right now, making it difficult for anybody on the Plains to see a rosy future.
That’s not to say it won’t get rosier down the road, but the future is surely how Chizik will be judged.
Whether he gets one more year, two more years or no more years, you can bet the Auburn brass will base that decision on how much confidence it has in Chizik being able to dig the program out of this funk going forward, and probably most importantly, being able to steer the program out of that giant crimson shadow.
Anything he’s done in the past ... is just the past.
Welcome to life in the SEC.
- The SEC continues to churn out elite defenders.
- Harvey Updyke says he wasn't terrorizing anyone over the return of a lawnmower.
- Bill Clinton weighs in on the struggles at Arkansas.
- Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson is winning the game he can control.
- Georgia will test the progress of Tennessee's running game.
- Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley embraces a louder presence with the Tide.
- Aaron Murray's "nerdy" approach helps him net records and wins for Georgia.
- LSU offensive lineman Josh Dworacyzk hopes to rebound after the Auburn game.
- Akeem Auguste and D.J. Swearinger are set to return to South Carolina's secondary this weekend against Kentucky.
- Former Auburn coach Pat Dye says he "wouldn't swap Gene Chizik for 10 Nick Sabans."
- Jason Leiser of the Palm Beach Post writes that Florida tackle Xavier Nixon could be struggling to keep his job on the Gators' line.
- Texas A&M running back Christine Michael will continue to come off of the bench.
- Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has been muzzled but is making noise on the field.
- Mississippi State players and coaches want to improve their focus.
- Kentucky's trio of freshmen cornerbacks is making noise in the Wildcats' secondary.
- Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace sat out the Rebels' Tuesday practice.
- Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray is scheduled in court Wednesday over a boating incident.
- The Vols fifth-year seniors want to be the building-block class.
- Georgia's Jarvis Jones is ready to "seize the moment" during his senior season.
- Georgia is examining its options on special teams.
- Vanderbilt coach James Franklin wants to see his team be mentally tougher in practice.
- Former Auburn coach Pat Dye says the Tigers are a year away from having a "full deck of cards."
- Alabama commitment Darius Paige transfers to another high school, and one of his former coaches says Alabama assistant Jeremy Pruitt advised him to transfer to Foley High in Alabama because people there would help him academically.
- Alabama's defensive backs are getting plenty of opportunities in preseason camp.
- LSU's Tyrann Mathieu is working to get a handle on his fame.
- Junior offensive guard Jon Halapio emerges as one of Florida's team leaders on offense.
- Senior quarterback Tyler Wilson and freshman receiver Mekale McKay star in Arkansas' first scrimmage.
- Kentucky's freshman receivers are catching on quickly this preseason.
- Kentucky returns 2,060 unsold tickets for the opener at Louisville.
- Ole Miss freshman defensive end Temario Strong is cleared academically.
- Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen likes his depth on both lines of scrimmage.
- Missouri's Sheldon Richardson is finally in the swing.
- Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin breaks down the Aggies' quarterback competition.
- South Carolina's Damario Jeffery is ready to take his place as a starting linebacker.
We're all about the love here on the SEC blog, but this is after all "Hate Week" at ESPN.com. Seriously, this is all done in fun, and some of your responses were priceless.
Here's a sampling:
Drew in Greenville, S.C., writes: I don't think there is any doubt that Lane Kiffin is the clear winner (loser). The two glaring differences between Kiffin and all the other candidates is that he left the program in shambles and he didn't win anything. All the other coaches had success at their respective schools and Kiffin never sniffed success. With Kiffin at the helm, if felt like I was always having to defend my school's decision to hire that clown. Currently, Dooley may not be winning much, but at least I don't have to defend him for his lack of honor.
Darth Tripous writes: The most hated SEC coach has to be Lane Kiffin. My hope is that one day Alshon Jeffery will say to Kiffin, "Fill 'er up please."
Mike in Mandeville, La., writes: I'm down on Nick Saban, but not for the reasons most LSU dislike him. I just need to look at the last play of his tenure at LSU, the Iowa "Hail Mary." Saban was DB coach and that garbage could happen? Nicky was always pulling boneheaded stunts, only saved by the awesome talent he recruited. Anyone remember his annual inability to pick a starting QB? How about UAB 13 LSU 10? The 2000 Arkansas game he failed to use a time out to punt with the wind and ended up with a 3-yarder to start the 2nd quarter? How about 4th & inches at his own 27 during the 2001 SEC title game? The dog show from 2002 that started in Auburn and culminated in the Cotton Bowl loss to Texas? 2003 Florida? UGa 2004? Nick seems to have learned a great deal from the NFL, but the poor in-game calls that cost LSU from 2000-2004 will always have Lil' Nicky No. 1 on my dog list!
R.J. in Portland, Ore., writes: The biggest SEC villain is no doubt Nick (the dictator) Saban. He oversigns, ruthlessly cuts players, has hissy fits in front of the media and undermines them. Not to mention he compares losses to horrific tragedies such as Pearl Harbor and has a terrible personality. The guy is everything that is wrong with college football.
Jason in Athens, Ga., writes: By far, it's the "Evil Genius" now at South Carolina. Being a lifelong DAWG fan, I despised him when he was at Florida, when we could only pull out one win in the 90's (1997: behind Bobo and Edwards running the show). And now he has gotten the best of us the past few years for sure. But as much as I wish he would leave, I have respect for him because he is without a question one of the best college football coaches in history. Anyone who can win an ACC championship with Duke is a helluva ball coach.
Sam in Athens, Ga., writes: Spurrier is still the most hated coach in the SEC for his snide comments. Saban may be despised by Auburn fans, but the rest of the league recognizes he is simply the best coach in college football today.
Byrd in Houston, Texas writes: How can anyone beat out Tommy Tuberville for the most hated coach? Ole Miss hates him for leaving. Bama hates him for beating them more often than not. Auburn hates him for "losing" toward the end of his tenure. The rest of the SEC hates him. Close second: Jackie Sherrill.
Chris in Tampa, Fla., writes: It's Gene Chizik. He has a terrible record and a bought national title. But, somehow, he has the puppet Auburn fans dancing on his string.
Barry in Charleston, Tenn., writes: James Franklin is the coach I despise most. Dirty on the field and talks too much off it, especially for a program that has always been awful. I hope Candy's fans realize he won't be there once he gets a better offer from somewhere else.
Brian in Washington, D.C., writes: Saban. Period. Petrino would make the discussion if he still met the employment requirement. Without him, there is no argument.
Trevor writes: Gotta be Derek Dooley. He makes horrible remarks about Vanderbilt, has no originality, and let's face it, who really does like the orange pants? Even Johnny Majors still cringes at the thought of orange pants. Spurrier would be a close second.
Michael in Eden Prairie, Minn., writes: Pat Dye for sure. He was the one who turned my Gators into the NCAA in the early 1980s for paying players while the whole time doing it himself. Remember Eric Ramsey?
Realdawgsnocowbell writes: Does it have to be a head coach? How about Willie Martinez?
John in Baton Rouge, La., writes: There have been many coaches in the SEC that are so much fun to hate. For me, though it's none other than Phil Fulmer. Of all his accomplishments and successes, the first thing that comes to my mind is a particular game played Sept. 26, 2005. It was an extremely hot Monday night after Hurricane Rita. It was my freshman year at LSU and my first time in the student section. With the community recently rocked by two hurricanes, everyone was excited to have a game to watch in Tiger Stadium. Sadly, we squandered a 21-point lead and fell in overtime. I remember clearly the sight of Gerald Riggs scoring the winning touchdown and the moment of dead silence that came over the crowd as we realized what had just happened. Tennessee then planted their flag at midfield and Coach Fulmer in his post game interview said that Rick Clausen was now the greatest story in America . It wasn't the greatest story in America. The greatest story in America at the moment had just been ruined. Ever since, Fulmer has been the coach that I loved to root against!
Jordan in Birmingham, Ala., writes: Without a doubt, the most hated coach to ever come through the SEC is Phillip Fulmer! Roll Tide!
Hard to believe that it’s been 15 years since the tie was replaced by overtime in college football. It’s certainly changed strategy at the end of games. Coaches typically play for overtime now and kick the extra point instead of going for the two-point conversion and the win.
Ties involving a pair of SEC teams are featured in Maisel’s piece -- Auburn’s 16-16 tie with Syracuse in the 1988 Sugar Bowl and Florida’s 31-31 tie with Florida State in 1994.
A few more come to mind:
- In fact, in that same season Auburn played Syracuse to a 16-16 tie in the bowl game, the Tigers tied Tennessee 20-20 earlier that year in Knoxville.
- The only blemish on Ole Miss’ 1960 record was a 6-6 tie with LSU in late October in Oxford. The Rebels finished 10-0-1, winning the SEC championship, and were also voted national champions by the Football Writers Association of America.
- Auburn tied Georgia Tech 7-7 in 1958, which was the only blemish on the Tigers’ record that season. The Tigers went into that game ranked No. 2 nationally and had won 17 straight games.
- Alabama and David “Deuce” Palmer rallied to tie Tennessee 17-17 in 1993 in a battle of Top-10 teams. Palmer scored on a two-point conversion in the final seconds to forge the tie, which was later forfeited because of NCAA sanctions against the Crimson Tide.
- Alabama went unbeaten in conference play to win the 1981 SEC championship, but lost two games that season and tied one. The tie was to Southern Miss, 13-13, at Legion Field in Birmingham. That next season, Bear Bryant’s last at Alabama, Southern Miss beat Alabama 38-29 in Bryant’s final game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
- LSU and Alabama played to a 14-14 tie in 1985 in Baton Rouge, which cost the Tigers a share of the SEC championship. LSU had a chance to win the game, but missed a 24-yard field goal with five seconds to play.
- Colorado and Tennessee played to a 31-31 tie to open the 1990 season in the Pigskin Classic in Anaheim, Calif. The Buffaloes went on to win the Associated Press national championship that season.
- In 1979, Charlie Pell’s first season at Florida, the Gators played Georgia Tech to a 7-7 tie in Gainesville. The reason that tie was significant was that it marked the only game all season the Gators didn’t lose. They finished 0-10-1.
- Georgia and Clemson battled to a 16-16 tie the second game of the season in 1983. The Bulldogs rallied from a 16-6 deficit and tied the game with 38 seconds to play on Kevin Butler’s 31-yard field goal. The game ended in bizarre fashion. Clemson’s Donald Igwebuike tried a 68-yard field goal in the final seconds that was no good, leaving a second on the clock. Butler then tried one from 66 yards for the Bulldogs that was also short.
Alabama doesn't have any lineup changes, but running back Terry Grant didn't make the trip.
The 1989 Auburn team was introduced before the game, and many of the players from that SEC championship team were in attendance. But it was former Auburn coach Pat Dye who received the loudest ovation -- by far.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn coach Gene Chizik is the first to admit that it took a lot of courage for athletic director Jay Jacobs to hire somebody that was 5-19 the last two years.
But the fact that Jacobs knew Chizik, knew his work ethic and had worked with him previously at Auburn allowed him to look deeper than just those two losing seasons in Ames, Iowa.
Had it not been for that prior relationship, Chizik wouldn't be here right now.
Taking the Iowa State job was a gamble. It was a major rebuilding task. But as Chizik points out, when you start passing up head coaching opportunities as an assistant, you never know when another one is going to come your way.
And while some have fixated on what Chizik didn't do at Iowa State, Jacobs was more interested in what he did do at Auburn and Texas as defensive coordinator.
At one point, Chizik was part of 29 consecutive victories, beginning in 2003 at Auburn and ending in 2006 at Texas. In 2004, his last season at Auburn, he won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach. He also coached three consecutive Thorpe Award winners for the nation's top defensive back.
Here's the second part of my Q&A with Chizik:
You've sort of locked it down here as far as releasing information about your team, closing practice and closing scrimmages and have generally been pretty guarded. Why is that?
Gene Chizik: Everything that I do is to protect what we're trying to do here at Auburn. Things over the last few years have gotten so out of control with technology. It's changed the whole world. The world right now is different, so I do what I think is in the best interest of our football team at all times. That's our players. That's injuries. That's rumors. That's whatever gets out there. I want to be able to have control of whatever's out there. I still won't always have control, just like no coach has complete control. But to the best of my ability, I'm here to protect and do what I think is best for our players, and that's the bottom line. I don't close practices because I want to close practices. I close practice for a reason, because the people I need to be at practice are the ones I want to know what is going on in depth with Auburn football, and I don't need it in 200 chat rooms 15 minutes later.
Some coaches take over a program and go out of their way to bring attention to themselves and to their team. You've sort of been the opposite. You've kept your head down, gone to work and haven't made a lot of waves off the field. Is that just your style?
GC: Here's the deal: I do my job, and I go home to my family. I want to do what I can to help Auburn win football games. Now that entails a lot -- recruiting, re-recruiting my players everyday, doing everything I can for this program. I ask myself every day: Does this help me win football games? Does this decision affect my guys in a positive way or negative way? That's everything I do, because at the end of the day, the only thing that gets you attention is whether you win or you lose. I don't get validation by the outside world. I get validated because I have a job to do for these players, for the guys who hired me and for my family. So if it doesn't tie into winning football games, all that other stuff doesn't matter. That's not who I am, and I'm never going to be that.
Where are you with this football team two weeks away from playing your first game as opposed to where you thought you would be?
GC: That's a hard question because we're playing against ourselves everyday. We're a very, very thin football team. We're 10 players under the (85-man scholarship) limit.
How did your numbers get so low?
GC: Part of it is natural attrition. But before I even got here, it was down. Again, depth is a huge concern for us right now. Couple that with the fact that we don't have an off date until 11 games into the season.
How have those factors impacted the way you've structured preseason camp and how much you've hit?
GC: Just look at it. We've been in camp two weeks and have 14 more weeks before we get a week off, so you're practicing four straight months before you ever get some reasonable time off. It's a very fine line. We've hit them, and we've pulled off. We've practiced them long, and we've practiced them short. We really take it day by day.
You're on record as saying you won't be one of those head coaches that meddles into what your offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, is doing on that side of the ball. Is there a big difference in being involved and meddling?
GC: One thing Gus and I have been on the same page about from Day 1 is that philosophically we agree on what we're trying to get accomplished. We spend countless hours going over situations so that on game day it's not our first rodeo. We're watching the ends of halves of games together, how they're handling time, how they're handling what they're doing, how they're handling what they're calling and talking about communication on the sideline. We go over what's four-down territory, what's not four-down territory, all those things so it's been like we've been together before. But I can assure you that philosophically we're on the same exact page. We meet a lot, not on how he calls plays, but situationally what I would like to see in certain situations and see called in certain situations.
How much healthier is Chris Todd now with his shoulder, and has it been obvious with the way he's thrown the ball in camp?
GC: I think he is healthier. I think he's more confident with it. He's really made some nice throws. We're at the point in camp where we need to be very careful with it, because your arm gets tired. But that happens with everybody. I don't think any of that is shoulder-related. I think going with Chris (as the starter) was a home run.
With Chris being out for the spring while recovering from shoulder surgery, was he at the forefront of your mind in the quarterback race coming into the preseason?
GC: One of the things we said was that we were going to be very open-minded and very specific when we're accessing these guys. When you put all the factors out on the table right now, he's got game-time experience. He's played with an unhealthy shoulder. He hasn't gone through spring practice, yet he comes in and picks up the offense fast, which is what you get from a guy who's played. He's made some really good throws, which tells you his shoulder is on its way to being what you want it to be. And in a short period of time, he's made up a lot of distance. So what does that tell you? At the end of the day, as long as you give him the right reps, we felt like he gave us the best chance to win. It doesn't mean he gave us the only chance to win. But we felt like down the road, the longer he's in it, that he's going to give us the best chance to win.
The rap on Auburn has always been that the board of trustees and other boosters have manipulated what went on with the football program. How realistic is that?
GC: You've got passionate people here who really care. They want to be a part of things. It's no different from Florida or Georgia. If that's the rap against us, I would take a little bit of issue with that. They are simply passionate people that care like everybody else does. We'
;ve got a great leader now. The guy over there in that office, Jay (Jacobs), played here, has been here and has done it for X amount of years. He's a great leader and has a firm grip on running this athletic department now.
What role do you think former Auburn coach Pat Dye played in your hiring?
GC: I really don't know all the details in it. I don't know what role, if any. I just know that I always respected the heck out of coach Dye and what he's done here. But I can't really answer what role he had. I'm just glad I'm here. I know that.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Here's a look at the SportsNation results from Alabama Day in College Football Live's "50 States Tour" and my take on whether or not I agree:
1. Which team was the best in state history?
SportsNation results (29,093 votes)
- 1992 Alabama, 13-0, national championship: 37 percent
- 2004 Auburn, 13-0, SEC championship: 30 percent
- 1979 Alabama, 12-0, national championship: 29 percent
- 1978 Alabama, 11-1, national championship: 2 percent
- 1957 Auburn, 10-0, national championship: 2 percent
My take: Agree
It's hard to pick against that 1992 team, which featured one of the most ferocious defenses the SEC has ever seen. I can still see John Copeland and Eric Curry coming off the edge and so do most quarterbacks who had the unfortunate task of trying to pass against them. My biggest question, though, is where is the 1961 Alabama team on this list? You want to talk about a dominant defense, the Crimson Tide finished 11-0 on their way to Bear Bryant's first national championship and never allowed more than seven points in a game. Included were six shutouts, including five in a row heading into the 10-3 win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.
2. Which player is the best in state history?
SportsNation results (26,765 votes)
- Bo Jackson, Auburn: 55 percent
- Joe Namath, Alabama: 29 percent
- Derrick Thomas, Alabama: 11 percent
- Cornelius Bennett, Alabama: 5 percent
- Pat Sullivan, Auburn: 1 percent
My take: Agree
Jackson is perhaps the most well-rounded athlete to ever come through the SEC and rivals Herschel Walker as the best running back in league history. But, geez, how is Alabama offensive tackle John Hannah not on this list? For that matter, where's Bart Starr, Don Hutson and Ozzie Newsome?
3. Which coach is the best in state history?
SportsNation results (26,343 votes)
- Paul "Bear" Bryant, Alabama: 85 percent
- Pat Dye, Auburn: 7 percent
- Shug Jordan, Auburn: 5 percent
- Frank Thomas, Alabama: 2 percent
- Gene Stallings, Alabama: 1 percent
My take: Agree
Talk about a slam-dunk. Asking who the best football coach is in Alabama state history is like asking who's the world's best golfer right now. Bear Bryant is, was and always will be the standard for college football coaches. His legacy will endure. Even though he's been dead for more than 25 years, he remains the face of football in the SEC.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The Eastern Division was hard enough. Now, onto the Western Division.
I could have picked 10 or 12 for Alabama. Maybe the Crimson Tide should have two Mount Rushmores.
Anyway, here goes and thanks again for all your help. I'm sure there will be no second-guessing, right?
Bear Bryant: Bryant is revered as much today in Alabama as he was when he was winning six national championships.
Lee Roy Jordan: Bryant referred to Jordan as the "finest player he ever coached."
Joe Namath: Broadway Joe was called the "greatest athlete I ever coached" by Bryant.
Ozzie Newsome: The quintessential tight end, Newsome was one of the most complete players to play for Bryant.
Just missed the cut: Cornelius Bennett, John Hannah, Don Hutson, Ken Stabler, Derrick Thomas, Frank Thomas.
Lance Alworth: The first athlete at Arkansas to letter in three different sports in the same year.
Frank Broyles: An iconic figure in the state, Broyles spent 50 years at Arkansas as either head football coach or athletic director.
Darren McFadden: Two-time Doak Walker Award winner is one of the SEC's best backs of the last quarter century.
Billy Ray Smith Jr.: Followed in his father's footsteps and became a two-time All-America defensive end in 1981-82.
Just missed the cut: Gary Anderson, Brandon Burlsworth, Dan Hampton, Ken Hatfield, Lou Holtz.
Pat Dye: As coach, he won 99 games and four SEC titles. As athletic director, he brought the Alabama game to Auburn.
Bo Jackson: The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner remains the greatest all-around athlete the SEC has ever seen.
Ralph "Shug" Jordan: Auburn's stadium bears his name. He won 176 games in 25 years, including the 1957 national championship.
Pat Sullivan: Two-time SEC Player of the Year who became Auburn's first Heisman Trophy winner in 1971.
Just missed the cut: Terry Beasley, Tucker Frederickson, Tracy Rocker, Tommy Tuberville, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams.
Billy Cannon: A true SEC legend and LSU's greatest player, Cannon won the Heisman Trophy in 1959.
Tommy Casanova: Played offense, defense and returned kicks and was a three-time All-American from 1969-71.
Glenn Dorsey: The most decorated defender in LSU history, Dorsey led the Tigers to the 2007 national championship.
Charles McClendon: LSU's winningest coach with 137 wins and 13 bowl appearances from 1962-79.
Just missed the cut: Paul Dietzel, Kevin Faulk, Dalton Hilliard, Bert Jones, Nick Saban.
Johnie Cooks: The Bulldogs' greatest defender and a force on some of their best teams. The No. 2 pick in the 1982 NFL draft.
D.D. Lewis: A member of the College Hall of Fame, Lewis was a two-time All-SEC linebacker in 1966-67.
Jackie Sherrill: The winningest coach in Mississippi State history, Sherrill took the Bulldogs to the SEC title game in 1998.
Jackie Parker: An All-America quarterback in 1953 and a two-time SEC Most Valuable Player.
Just missed the cut: John Bond, Jack Cristal, Sylvester Croom, Eric Moulds, Tom "Shorty" McWilliams.
Archie Manning: The very definition of an icon. The speed limit on Ole Miss' campus is 18 mph to commemorate his jersey number.
Eli Manning: The youngest Manning followed his dad to Ole Miss and became the most prolific passer in school history.
Chucky Mullins: Ole Miss players pass his monument before every game, and many touch his head on the way to the field.
John Vaught: In 24 years as Ole Miss' coach, he made the Rebels a fixture in the national polls and won six SEC titles.
Just missed the cut: Charlie Conerly, Jake Gibbs, Frank "Bruiser" Kinard, Barney Poole, Patrick Willis.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Let's take a stroll around the SEC to see what else is being written and said:
- LSU co-defensive coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto is named the head coach at Northwestern State. The Tigers' other co-coordinator, Doug Mallory, is reportedly heading to New Mexico to be Mike Locksley's defensive coordinator.
- Georgia coach Mark Richt says he's ready for a playoff and senses that the sentiment is shifting among coaches and even college presidents toward some type of playoff.
- Columnist Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News writes that Auburn is once again Pat Dye Country.
- South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop has been playing through a painful sports hernia injury this season.
- Former Arkansas star receiver Marcus Monk is trying his hand at basketball with the Hogs.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The word coming out of Auburn is that new coach Gene Chizik will pursue several coaches to be on his staff that either played at Auburn or coached at Auburn.
That makes sense, especially with former Auburn coach Pat Dye being such a strong supporter of the Chizik hiring.
It's akin to getting the band back together.
Three names that immediately come to mind are Georgia assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner, Georgia offensive line coach Stacy Searels and Ole Miss defensive line coach Tracy Rocker. All three played under Dye at Auburn.
Georgia coach Mark Richt, though, says he hasn't heard from anybody yet at Auburn wanting to talk to Garner or Searels.
Searels did one of the best jobs of any assistant in the SEC this season, and if the Bulldogs want to keep him, they might want to ante up. He wasn't one of the top two or three highest paid offensive line coaches in the SEC this year, but he certainly deserves to be.