Franz Beard: Thoughts of the Day

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, JUNE 26, 2019

OWNING THE SEC? OH PLEASE!

There it was in black and white on the ESPN.com website Tuesday. Under the sub-heading “Owning the SEC,” Chris Low wrote: “For the second straight season, Clemson has two nonconference games against SEC foes – Texas A&M at home and South Carolina on the road. Dabo Swinney is 13-5 against SEC teams since the start of the 2012 season, which includes five wins over South Carolina, three wins over Auburn, two wins over Alabama and wins over Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M.”

What Dabo Swinney and Clemson have done with two national championship game wins over Alabama in the last four years is impressive, but would Clemson have even made the national championship game if it had to play an SEC schedule instead of a bunch of ACC cupcakes? Lest we forget, Bobby Bowden years ago lobbied for Florida State to join the ACC instead of the SEC because he knew the path to the national championship game was much less complicated in the ACC. Bobby knew how tough it would be if the Seminoles had to play the likes of Alabama, Auburn, and LSU every year in addition to the annual showdown with Florida.

Low’s commentary drew the ire of Paul Finebaum, who told Mark Heim of Al.com that Clemson “owning the SEC” is a “completely misleading and outrageous proposal.” Finebaum went on to say, “A more intellectual way of approaching this would be to ponder what the record would be if Clemson had to play an SEC schedule with road games at Alabama and LSU opposed to Wake Forest and Boston College … Dabo is 13-5 against SEC teams. Saban is 57-5. Which is more impressive? The SEC is the toughest conference in football. The ACC – outside of Clemson – is a clown show.”

What sets the SEC apart from every other conference in college football is the level of talent, which, in turn creates competition that no one else can duplicate. Proof was in the April NFL Draft in which 64 SEC players were taken in the 7-round event and that’s with Tennessee hanging a bagel. The ACC, meanwhile, finished fifth among the power five conferences with 28 and six of those were from Clemson. That means the other 13 ACC schools sent 22 players to the NFL.

THE LIST FOR WEDNESDAY

Which SEC football coaches have nothing to worry about and which ones shouldn’t be thinking about long term real estate investments in the city they call home? Today the discussion is job security for each SEC coach.

Nick Saban, Alabama (salary $8,307,000): Nick Saban will be the football coach at Alabama until the day he decides it’s time to hang up his whistle. He will make that decision with some assistance from Miss Terry. The thought of Nick hanging around the house all day horrifies her so he’ll keep on coaching. The buyout is a mere $33,600,000.

Chad Morris, Arkansas (salary $3,500,000): Absolutely nobody expected a 2-10 season in 2018. That’s the worst record in school history and that means substantial progress has to be made this year. Progress in 2019 followed by anything less than eight wins in 2020 could send Morris packing. The buyout is $12,500,000.

Gus Malzahn, Auburn ($6,700,000): It’s another season and once again it’s highly unlikely that Auburn will beat Alabama so that means Gus Malzahn and job security are like two ships passing in the night. Despite a buyout figure of $32,143,750, the Auburn people wouldn’t think twice about firing Malzahn if he goes 8-5 again in 2019. He might get away with nine if one of the wins is against Alabama.

Dan Mullen, Florida (salary $6,070,000): Mullen surprised everyone in 2018 except Dan Mullen. You can call him cocky if you want, but Mullen believes in himself, believes in his coaches and has the ability to let his team know he believes in them as well (see Franks, Feleipe in particular). He has the Gators on the right track to get back to a championship level. As Megan Mullen says with a smile, “We’re here for a long time. We’re planning to retire here.” Don’t be shocked if that happens. The buyout is $12,000,000.

Kirby Smart, Georgia (salary $6,603,600): Kirby has the Georgia faithful thinking this is the year they’ll beat Alabama and win the first national championship since what seems like the Teddy Roosevelt administration. They’re madly in love with Kirby after two close encounters with beating Nick, but what happens if the Bulldogs don’t meet expectations in 2019 or in 2020? Will the fan base turn on him like they did Mark Richt? The buyout is $27,917,500.

Mark Stoops, Kentucky (salary $4,000,000): You keep hearing Stoops name mentioned with jobs where there is actually a chance to win a championship but he is loyal to Kentucky. As long as he has the Cats going to such exotic locations as Nashville and Memphis for bowl games with an occasional trip to Jacksonville, the fan base will love him. At some point, someone is going to make him an offer he can’t and won’t refuse. The buyout is $15,625,000.

Ed Orgeron, LSU ($4,000,000): Folks who think Coach O is on the hot seat really don’t understand the state of Louisiana. Coach O is Cajun through and through which is why he says, “I’m the first coach they’ve ever had here who doesn’t speak with an accent.” He can recruit, he’s smart enough to hire good assistants and he’s well known for letting his coaches coach. He should win 9-10 games every year and that will keep him gainfully employed. The buyout is $5,291,667.

Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State (salary $3,200,000): Moorhead got a contract extension after going 8-5 with a team with which Dan Mullen would have won 10 or more games. The Bulldogs are likely to take a step back this year, which will make 2020 a very critical year for his plans of long term gainful employment in Starkville. Moorhead has no buyout clause.

Barry Odom, Missouri (salary $3,050,000): Two straight bowl seasons have the Mizzou faithful believing Odom is the guy who can build the program into a solid and consistent winner. He’s convinced the administration to upgrade his facilities so that’s a sign he’s got them convinced, too. It would take a serious reversal of fortunes in the next couple of years to put him on the hot seat. The buyout is $1,912,500.

Matt Luke, Ole Miss (salary $3,100,000): The Ole Miss folks really want Luke to do well. He’s one of them. He played at Ole Miss, just like older bro Tom and dad Tommy. He’s got some wiggle room because he inherited a team in the NCAA jailhouse but he has to show progress this year. While making Rich Rod his offensive coordinator might seem like a stroke of brilliance, it could also make it easier for the faithful to turn in the event things go south early. It doesn’t help that Ross Bjork left to become the AD at Texas A&M, either. Luke has no buyout clause.

Will Muschamp, South Carolina (salary $4,200,000): Forget the talk that he’s on the hot seat. AD Ray Tanner likes Will and so does the fan base. They believe he’s building a strong foundation for the future. He’s the coach at South Carolina for the foreseeable future. The buyout is $18,650,000.

Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee (salary $3,846,000): The faithful up in Dollywood USA and thereabouts are still happy as clams with Jeremy Pruitt. Of course, they were also happy with Butch Jones until he made the mistake of a losing season after consecutive 9-win years. Pruitt needs to have the Vols in the 8-9 win vicinity by year three or else he will be in deepest and darkest. The buyout is $11,780,000.

Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M (salary $7,500,000): Of all the former Saban assistants capable of knocking off the old boss, Jimbo is most likely. He has nine years remaining on a 10-year contract that pays $7,500,000 a year. Aggies will give him whatever he wants and needs to make the program better than the one in Austin. They believe it’s a matter of when not if Jimbo delivers a national championship. The buyout is $68,125,000.

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt (salary $2,800,000): As long as the Chardonnay and brie tailgate set are happy with 4-6 wins a season, Mason’s job is safe. If they start longing for the good old days of James Franklin winning nine games in back-to-back seasons, then Mason could be in trouble. Vandy should be good enough to win 5-6 games and maybe make it to a lovely bowl week in scenic Birmingham, which would more than satisfy what passes for the masses in Nashville. Vanderbilt is a private school so the buyout isn’t public knowledge.

Thursday: First to worst, the most difficult place to play on the road in the SEC.

SOME GOOD QUOTES FOR WEDNESDAY

This is from a disturbing story on ESPN by Paula Lavigne about how some college football coaches put an inordinate amount of pressure on the training/medical staff to put someone on the field who is injured:

“According to the survey, about 36% of respondents reported that a coach has been able to influence the hiring and firing of sports medicine staff. And of athletic trainers who reported that happening, 58% then reported being pressured by a coach or administrator to make a decision ‘not in the best interest of a student-athlete’s health.’”

From Ross Tucker of The Athletic on the NFL’s decision regarding pass interference, which will be in the hands of on-site replay officials and won’t happen because of a coach’s challenge on the field:

“With it being in the hands of the replay officials there is no telling how many times they will stop the game in these situations to look at possible pass interference calls. Supposedly they will be told that there is a “higher standard” to stop the game for interference then there would be for a fumble or whether or not a player stepped out of bounds, but there is no possible way every replay official will have the exact same “higher standard” since that is naturally subjective. Plus, no matter what anyone says, my sneaky suspicion is that when in doubt they will choose to stop the action because they will only really get in trouble if they don’t stop a play that they should have.”

SEC FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL STUFF

Tickets for the Chik-fil-A Kickoff Classic matchup between Alabama and Duke are averaging $402. Seats in the nosebleed section of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta are fetching $143 per ticket.

Tickets are far more reasonable for the Advocare Kickoff Classic between Auburn and Oregon at Jerry’s World in Arlington, Texas. Seats can be had for as little as $45.

Georgia doesn’t have a returning wide receiver with more than nine catches in 2018 or who averaged more than 10 yards per game. Running back D’Andre Swift is the leading returning receiver for catches (32), yards (297) and touchdowns (3).

Suspended guard Nick Weatherspoon is back on the Mississippi State team and practicing per basketball coach Ben Howland. Before he was suspended back in February, Weatherspoon averaged 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: The New York Yankees set a Major League Baseball record Tuesday night when DJ LeMahieu homered in the bottom of the first inning, the 28thconsecutive game in which a Yankee has hit a home run … Jonah Williams, the former Alabama left tackle who was the first round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, will miss the entire 2019 season after surgery to repair a torn labrum … Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley has a $4.65 million buyout if he leaves for any football job, college or pro … I don’t have to make this up but breakdancing has been approved as an Olympic sport for the 2024 games in Paris. Seriously … Tom Dundon, the owner of the Carolina Hurricanes NHL team and previously the chief investor in the Alliance o American Football, wants his $70 million back, claiming the AAF and its executives made misrepresentations that substantially more capital would be needed to keep the league afloat … Kumar Rocker came to Vanderbilt’s rescue again, pitching 6-2/3 innings of shutout baseball as the Commodores beat Michigan, 4-1, to even the College World Series at 1-1.