Bowden Revisited And Rating SEC Football Coaches

Phillip Marshall discusses the recent article that features Terry Bowden and his time at Auburn and gives his ranking of the SEC's head football coaches.

Football season must be getting close. Terry Bowden is talking--yet again --about his departure from Auburn.

It's been almost seven years since Bowden walked out on his team the day before its game against Louisiana Tech. But neither the passing of so much time nor his success as an analyst with ABC Sports seems to be enough for him to put it behind him.

His latest salvo--filled with lots of innuendo and few facts--is part of a series Mike Freeman of the Florida Times-Union is writing on the Bowden family. One of the more amusing things I've ready lately was the statement--not attributed directly to Bowden--that reporters used to "hang out" at Bowden's house for cookouts. Those reporters must have been some I didn't know.

Bowden doesn't go into as much detail as he has in other forums, but the theme is always the same. He was an innocent victim.

The talent level in the program had declined dramatically in 1998. Players were frequently getting into trouble. Nobody will ever know for sure if Bowden would have survived after that season. What is certain is that no one told him to leave six games into the season.

It is not unusual for college coaches to be told during a season that their jobs are in jeopardy or even that they will be fired. Others suck it up, put their players first, and get through a very difficult time.

Bowden, instead, chose to leave. And when he did, he ruined his legacy at Auburn. The man who was the first coach ever to go 11-0 in his first season in Division I-A and won his first 20 games, would have had plenty of backers had he chosen to stand in and fight. Instead, he chose to walk away. That will be his legacy at Auburn.

Moving on...

Everyone else seems to be compiling lists ranking the SEC coaches, so I decided to do the same thing. It's a bit difficult since four new coaches have yet to coach an SEC game, but for what it's worth --and it isn't much--here is how I would rank them:

1. Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee. Say what you will about the off-field problems that have beset the Vols, but Fulmer has done little but win. He won 10 games last season, first with a pair of true freshman quarterbacks and then with a third-teamer who couldn't cut it at LSU.

2. Tommy Tuberville, Auburn. Tuberville and Fulmer are the only two active SEC coaches ever to go 13-0. The other one, Gene Stallings, is back home on his farm in Paris, Texas. Tuberville has the Tigers in position to compete with the best in the game. More importantly, his players stay out of trouble and earn their degrees.

3. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina. Spurrier might belong at No. 1 or No. 2. Obviously, if he can take the same magic he had at Florida to South Carolina, he belongs at the top. But South Carolina is a long way from Florida in more ways than miles.

4. Mark Richt, Georgia. Richt is another one who could move up. He's won at least 10 games in each of his last three Georgia seasons, though just one resulted in a championship. He had a special quarterback in David Green for the past four seasons. With Green, defensive end David Pollack, safety Thomas Davis and other major contributors gone, we'll see what happens. Like Fulmer, Richt's success on the field has been tainted by players having problems off the field.

5. Urban Meyer, Florida. Is he really the savior so many believe he is? He was just that at Utah and Bowling Green, but the WAC and the MAC bear little resemblance to the SEC.

6. Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State. It might never show on the field at Mississippi State, but Croom is the kind of man I'd want coaching my son.

7. Les Miles, LSU. Other than beating Oklahoma twice, Miles was good but not great in four seasons at Oklahoma State. He inherits a loaded team and an outstanding offensive coordinator in Jimbo Fisher. He could be a big hit and he could be a bust.

8. Houston Nutt, Arkansas. Nutt is certainly No. 1 among SEC coaches in tears shed in public, but he has not been able to get the Razorbacks over the hump to that truly special season. More than 30 of his players have been arrested in seven seasons.

9. Mike Shula, Alabama. Shula has had to learn on the job in a difficult situation. This season will go a long way in showing if he is the answer for the long haul.

10. Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt. Johnson showed he was a solid coach when he built a Division I-AA powerhouse at Furman. He is finding, like others before him, that it simply can't be done at Vanderbilt.

11. Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss. Orgeron talks a good game, but he's never even been a coordinator. When he says the quarterback won't have much to do with whether the Rebels win or lose, it kind of makes you wonder.

12. Rich Brooks, Kentucky. Brooks seems to be unhappy a lot. Of course, maybe coaching football at Kentucky is enough to make you unhappy.

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