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Around the SEC: Football Coaches Hot Seat

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Whose job is on the line in 2015?

Combined Sumlin and Miles make $9.3 million.
Combined Sumlin and Miles make $9.3 million.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Ten SEC coaches make $4 million per year or more. All but one will make $3 million or more this year. (Parents: stop teahing your kids how to play football and prepare them for how to coach football!) Are the universities getting their money's worth?

Barring some sort of disastrous season for one or more SEC teams, there is a chance that all 14 head coaches get through the next 12 months without having to call their real estate agents. In these days of job-hopping and impatient fanbases, that would be a rare feat.

That said, could there be a few SEC coaches on the dreaded hot seat?

The below chart is a list of each SEC head man listed in alphabetical order by school. The years and records represent their time at their current program only, including the upcoming season.

Coach School Yrs. Age Salary Win % W L 2014 2013
Nick Saban Alabama 9 63 $7,160,000 0.843 91 17 12 - 2 11 - 2
Bret Bielema Arkansas 3 45 $4,000,000 0.400 10 15 7 - 6 3 - 9
Guz Malzahn Auburn 3 49 $4,100,000 0.741 20 7 8 - 5 12 - 2
Jim McElwain Florida 1 53 $3,500,000 - - - - -
Mark Richt Georgia 15 55 $4,000,000 0.739 136 48 10 - 3 8 - 5
Mark Stoops Kentucky 3 47 $3,250,000 0.292 7 17 5 - 7 2 - 10
Les Miles LSU 11 61 $4,300,000 0.780 103 29 8 - 5 10 - 3
Hugh Freeze Mississippi 4 45 $4,300,000 0.615 24 15 9 - 4 8 - 5
Dan Mullen Mississippi State 7 43 $4,000,000 0.597 46 31 10 - 3 7 - 6
Gary Pinkel Missouri 15 63 $4,020,000 0.631 113 66 11 - 3 12 - 2
Steve Spurrier South Carolina 11 70 $4,000,000 0.651 84 45 7 - 6 11 - 2
Butch Jones Tennessee 3 47 $3,600,000 0.480 12 13 7 - 6 5 - 7
Kevin Sumlin Texas A&M 4 50 $5,000,000 0.712 28 11 8 - 5 9 - 4
Derek Mason Vanderbilt 2 44 $2,200,000* 0.250 3 9 3 - 9 -

* Since Vandy is a private institution, they do not disclose coaches' salaries. Mason's number is an estimate culled from a few sources.

OBSERVATIONS

  • The 14 SEC coaches will make a combined $57,430,000 for the 2015 season.
  • Saban has the highest salary and winning percentage. Sumlin is the second highest paid. Miles is runner-up in winning percentage.
  • Four coaches (Bielema, Stoops, Jones, Mason) have losing records at their current school.
  • Spurrier is the oldest at 70. Surprisingly, Mullen is the baby at 43.
  • Half of the coaches are under 50.
  • Richt is the senior SEC coach with 15 years at UGA. Pinkel has served 15 years as well but only three seasons in the conference. Miles and Spurrier have both spent 11 seasons at their current post.

Hot Seat Standings

KING OF THE CASTLE

Nicholas Lou Saban Jr. is a living legend and still going strong. He has had seven straight seasons of double-digit wins and three National Championships. He is about as secure as a coach can be.

Gary Robin Pinkel is Missouri football. He has not contended for Crystal Footballs (or the Big Beer Tap) outside a close call in 2007 but he is 113–66 at Mizzou and occasionally wins a divisional title. And that is just fine to the UM faithful. Even a 2011 DWI has not tarnished his reputation in Columbia. He is solid.

COACH DU JOUR

Arthur Gustav Malzahn III took his team to the Championship Game in his first season at Auburn but fell back to 8-5 in 2014. Several national press outlets have high expectations for the Tigers in 2015. Anything less than ten wins would probably disappoint the fans but he is still living off the second place trophy from 2013 and the Crystal Football that he won in 2010 as Offensive Coordinator. With Gene Chizik still on the Auburn payroll, Gus likely survives even a losing season.

Danny Hugh Freeze Jr. has yet to reach double-digits in wins in his three seasons in Oxford. However, wins over Alabama and Mississippi State last season bought a lot of goodwill. He should survive the 2015 season regardless of the outcome but the Rebs will lose a TON of talent after the coming season. Might he jump ship with them?

STATUS QUO

Mark Allan Richt (aka: Mr. Teflon, Mr. Nice Guy, Saint Mark) seemingly can do no wrong. All criticism and blame consistently deflects off him directly to his coordinators. He gets good recruits and wins games but he just can't put a full season together. The Catch-22 for UGA is how do you fire a guy who consistently wins and runs a clean program?

The banality of Daniel J. Mullen's tenure in Starkville is tempered by the low expectations. A winning season, a bowl game (any bowl game), and beat Ole Miss 50% of the time seems to be enough for the clanga-clangs. It is kinda sad but that is exactly what Mullen is doing and he seems complacent in that role. If ever he was going to make a jump, this off-season was the time.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM...

Glance back up at the chart above and you'll notice that Kevin Warren Sumlin is due to make $5 million this year. That's right. He is the second highest paid coach in the SEC and top five in the nation. And for what exactly? His Aggies have gone from 11-2 (6-2) to 9-4 (4-4) to 8-5 (3-5). Another downturn might kickstart the grumbling.

LONG IN THE TOOTH

Is the Mad Hatter's act growing stale in Cajun country? Leslie Edwin Miles has lost eleven games in the three seasons since losing to Alabama in the BCS Championship game. By contrast, Saban has suffered that total amount in the last seven seasons. For several years, it has been the defense that makes the Tigers' machine hum. However, the main engineer, John Chavis, now resides in College Station, TX.

Stephen Orr Spurrier has had a unremarkable career at South Carolina. Yet by Gamecocks standards, he is the most successful and legendary coach in school history. This past April, the Ol' Ball Coach's odometer ticked over to 70. After three straight 11-win seasons, SC devolved to a highly disappointing 7-6 last year. A quick glance at their schedule does not yield too many sure wins for the new season. If Spurrier puts out another flop this season, it may be time to have a little sit down about his graceful exit.

THE THIRD YEAR ITCH

Most coaches get a pass on their first season if they are walking into a dumpster fire of a situation. A mediocre yet improved second season will buy a guy some time. But it is Year Three that fans start to expect some real results.

Bret Arnold Bielema had a rocky first season with his team showing some real grit in the second. Valiant efforts in defeat will not hold much weight in 2015. It is time for Bert to win those close ones. Arkansas does not want to go through another coaching change so soon after the Bobby Petrino/John L. Smith debacle. He is safe barring an unmitigated disaster.

Lyle Allen Jones Jr. is in a similar boat as his counterpart at Arky. The Vols Nation is beyond weary of the extended doldrums they have been weathering since Fat Phil Fulmer (yes, I am still bitter) was wedged out the front door in 2008. Tennessee is on their third coach since that time and they are not looking to go through the process of finding a new head coach again so soon either. That said, this is is still a demanding fanbase with high expectations. Butch has gone 12–13 overall and 5–11 in the SEC in two years but leads the conference in moral victories.

Bob Stoops' kid brother is off to a less-than-stellar start at UK. Mark T. Stoops has won just two SEC games and seven overall. Yes, Kentucky is a basketball school but this fanbase will support a winning football team. The real problem is getting the recruits - especially when guys like Damien Harris want nothing to do with them. The Wildcats signed only two players native to the Bluegrass State for the Class of 2015. How many more 5-7 seasons will be tolerated?

NEWBIES

Florida has some real talent and a base for success. What new coach James F. McElwain can do with this squad will be interesting to watch. Barring a Hindenburg-Ellis-Johnson-at-Southern-Miss-like disaster, he gets the benefit of the doubt... for a year.

The hiring of Derek Blair Mason was either a sign of laziness or one of misguided overconfidence. James Franklin did amazing things in Nashville and it didn't take long for it all to come unraveled under Mason. This one could easily be filed under the STATUS QUO category for lack of vision and apathy of the Vanderbilt administration. Being only in his second year, they will give him time to find his legs. (Prediction: fired after Year 4).