It wasn’t that long ago when Georgia hired Mark Richt away from FSU, was it? Richt was a clean-cut, God-fearing offensive coordinator and Jim Donnan had worn out his welcome in Athens. It was only 10 years ago.

Remember how shocked you were when Steve Spurrier decided to end a one-year retirement and let it be known he’d consider returning to Florida, but UF’s relatively new president told him to submit a resume? And then an angry Spurrier took the head coaching job at, of all places, South Carolina! South Carolina? Barely a blip on the college football radar. An SEC rival. Hell, an SEC East rival. How could Florida turn its back on the ol’ ball coach? Why didn’t LSU hire him? Seems like yesterday, doesn’t it? It was 2004.

Speaking of LSU, the Tigers were scorned that same year by Nick Saban, who bolted for the NFL and millions of the Miami Dolphins’ dollars. LSU settled for an SEC unknown, a guy named Les Miles who spent four years at Oklahoma State.

And speaking of Saban, the memories still seem so fresh of him screaming at reporters in South Florida who kept asking him about rumors he was leaving the Dolphins to take the Alabama job. “No!” Saban bellowed time after time. “How many times do I have to say no?” he repeatedly asked. Saban took the Alabama job shortly thereafter. The year was 2007.

What’s the point of this trip down memory lane? The SEC Media Days are in full swing this week in Hoover, Ala., and, to steal from an old joke, you might need a program to know who the coaches are.

The proud SEC, the king of college football, was once a conference of coaching legends; a conference where coaches became more popular and better known than U.S. presidents. There was Bear Bryant, Gen. Neyland, Johnny Vaught, Shug Jordan, Wally Butts, Charlie McClendon, Vince Dooley, Pat Dye, Spurrier, Johnny Majors, and Phil Fulmer. These coaches were around for more than a decade; sometimes for a life time.

I realize times have changed in nearly every facet of our lives. It’s a microwave world, a world of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, emails, iPods, Google. Nothing seems to last very long before something new comes along.

UGA’s Richt entering his 11th season is the longest tenured SEC head coach. That may not be the case next year because Richt is very much on the hot seat, which gets more crowded each year. Gators fans still have to feel shocked/ betrayed/angry/disappointed because Spurrier is at South Carolina, but he and Miles are now second in seniority among current SEC coaches. They’re entering their seventh seasons at their respective schools. Saban is next in seniority, heading into his fifth season. Hell, he’s lasted as long as one recruiting class.

Arkansas’ Bob “Suitcase” Petrino is in danger of ruining his reputation. He’s going into his fourth season with the Razorbacks. That matches Houston Nutt’s tenure at Ole Miss. Nutt, if you recall, was run out of Fayetteville so the Hogs could hire Petrino, who almost completed an entire season coaching the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

Auburn’s Gene Chizik is now a hero on the Plains, but it was only two years when the War Eagle following was in shock because their school hired an Iowa State coach with a 5-19 record. It was just two years ago when Gators fans happily said good bye to their beleaguered young offensive coordinator, Dan Mullen, and would have helped him move to Mississippi State. Joker Phillips is preparing for his second season at Kentucky. Ditto for Tennessee’s Derek Dooley, who was the school’s third or fourth choice after Lane Kiffin departed Knoxville after only 11 months. Some SEC die-hards joke Tennessee hired Derek because the Volunteers got him confused with his daddy Vince.

Florida, of course, has a new head coach in Will Muschamp, who’s never been a head coach before. Vanderbilt also has a new coach. His name is . . . mmmm, what the hell is his name? I’m kidding. The name is James Franklin, and he’d better wear a nametag at media days or few will recognize him.

In case you’ve lost track, nine of the SEC head coaches have not been at their schools long enough for an entire recruiting class to go through. (I’m being old fashion here, thinking about the player who redshirts as a freshman and then plays four seasons.) Those nine coaches have a combined 16 years on their current jobs.

Whatever happened to continuity? To building a program? To loyalty by either the school or the coach?

Today, coaches jump from job to job or get fired quicker than you can say Sullivan-to-Beasley or Reaves-to-Alvarez or Wuerffel-to-Hilliard or Cam Newton-to-the-highest-bidder.

There’s a lesson here for all of those 4- and 5-star recruits. Pick your school carefully, the emphasis being on the word school. So, you’re a hotshot quarterback who can throw the football 90 yards on a string and you can’t wait to play in Petrino’s pro-style offense. Understand by the time you’re ready to play that Petrino might be coaching the new Los Angeles Bills of the NFL and Urban Meyer’s kids will be grown and he’s back coaching, this time in Fayetteville with his beloved spread offense.

The SEC isn’t the only conference that shuffles coaches like a dealer in a poker game. It’s the way things are now and that, I guess, balances out things, but that doesn’t mean I like it or that it’s good for college football. Only one thing is certain: It isn’t going to change.

Just imagine a year from now and ponder some possible changes that will create a domino effect. By December it’s very possible BCS conference schools Georgia, Ohio State, North Carolina, Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA, Ole Miss, Georgia Tech, Clemson and, no doubt, others will be looking for new head coaches. And then the schools that lose their coaches to those schools will be looking for new head coaches. And then . . . well, obviously this trend isn’t going to change any time soon.

 

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