Rating The Attractiveness Of The SEC Football Jobs

Ranking them 1-12, Phillip Marshall looks at what Southeastern Conference teams have the best chances for success on the football field year after year.

The question is asked often. Which of the 12 Southeastern Conference football coaching jobs is the best one? It's a subjective question in many ways, but in many ways it isn't. With a few exceptions--the emergence of Miami in the last 20-plus years being the most prominent--college football history repeats itself over time.

History says almost every SEC championship will be won by one of six teams--Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and LSU. They are the only SEC schools that have won national championships as members of the SEC. Arkansas was named national champion by some as a member of the Southwest Conference in 1964, but not by the major polls.

Here is one man's ranking of the attractiveness of the football coaching jobs among SEC schools:

Florida--It's the largest school in the league and has the wealthiest athletic department. It is in a state that has enough talent to supply three of the nation's top programs and still provide big-time players for schools all over the country. The weather is magnificent. There really is no reason for the Gators to ever fall from the nation's elite for long.

LSU--Louisiana doesn't measure up to Florida in producing college players, but it produces its share. And LSU gets almost all of them. Tulane is not a recruiting force. Schools from neighboring states steal a player now and then, but not often. The fan base is rabid, the tradition runs deep and the school places a high priority on athletics. One of the more mystifying events in SEC history was LSU managing eight losing seasons in 11 years before Nick Saban arrived.

Georgia--Only Florida among SEC states produces more college players than Georgia. The Bulldogs have to fight with Georgia Tech in-state and numerous others from out of state, but year in and year out, most of the top players in Georgia want to be Bulldogs. There is great tradition and a loyal fan base. Like Florida and LSU, Georgia has it all.

Phillip Fulmer is the longest survivor among SEC head coaches. He is beginning his 13th year as head coach of the Volunteers.

Tennessee--The Vols have a major disadvantage because their state doesn't produce a lot of players. They have a major advantage because they have a huge stadium that is filled to capacity every game by more than 100,000 fans. Philip Fulmer has made the Vols a national force for more than a decade.

Auburn--Like Tennessee, the Tigers have some big advantages and some big disadvantages. They are in an advantageous geographic area. There are players in three states--Florida, Georgia and Alabama--who live closer to Auburn than any other big-time football school. Outside of some portions of Alabama, Auburn is not the No. 1 recruiting power in any of those places, but it's No. 2 in most of them. And in those places, No. 2 isn't bad. The Tigers have facilities second to none, a loyal fan base, financial security and great tradition. Fifth on this list is nothing to be ashamed of. There really isn't a great distance between No. 1 and No. 6. Any of the SEC's big six can win a national championship in any given season if the cards fall right.

Alabama--The Crimson Tide has the richest tradition in the SEC, but it has not been helped by the march of time. Though you can still hear Bear Bryant's booming voice before games at Bryant-Denny Stadium, today's players weren't yet born when he died. Alabama has a recruiting advantage in most parts of Alabama, but its national recruiting power has waned over the years. NCAA scandals have taken their toll in recent years. The Tide will eventually be back, but it's not likely to ever again be an annual national championship contender.

Arkansas--The Razorbacks really are in the wrong conference. They should be in the Big 12. They recruit against Big 12 schools and their tradition is in Big 12 country. They have won the SEC West twice, but over time, they'll take a back seat to the six schools that have historically been the SEC's best.

Ole Miss--The Rebels have tremendous tradition, but unfortunately, most of it was built when the SEC had a large sign that said "whites only." They can't match the fan support or the finances of the big boys. Their refusal to give up playing "Dixie" as their fight song turns off a lot of African-American athletes. They'll have a big year here and there and will always have a chance to pull a shocker or two, but they won't be able to sustain it.

South Carolina--The Gamecocks have never been consistent winners. Lou Holtz seemed ready to change that after two straight Outback Bowl appearances, but the past two seasons have produced losing records.

Mississippi State--Have you ever been to Starkville? Enough said.

Kentucky--What you have at Kentucky is a school with little football tradition in a state that produces few football players. That's not the best of combinations.

Vanderbilt--We're hearing it again now. Vanderbilt has the right coach. Vanderbilt has more talent than it's had in years. The bottom line: Vanderbilt has had 22 consecutive losing seasons.

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