The Unforgiven Of SEC Football

Columnist Phillip Marshall discusses 10 SEC football coaches who found out just how tough the country's toughest football league really is.

It happens every year about this time. As football season rushes closer, some head coach becomes the fair-haired boy of the preseason magazines.

This year, it's Georgia's Mark Richt. To read about this guy, you'd think he had taken the Bulldogs to the Rose Bowl in his first season as a head coach. What he actually did, of course, was go 8-4, lose to an inferior Boston College team in the Music City Bowl and play large roles in losing two games with last-minute decisions.

So what makes him so special? Well, he's a good looking guy, he coached for Bobby Bowden and somebody has to be special. As I was contemplating this mystery of life, I started thinking about coaches at SEC schools who grabbed the brass ring only to see it slip quickly away. Here's a list of 10 whose falls were fast and hard:

1. Mike DuBose, Alabama. He's the poster boy. After taking the Tide to the SEC championship and the Orange Bowl in 1999, he lost control of his staff and his team in 2000. His firing was announced after a shocking loss to Central Florida at home and the Tide finished 3-8.

2. Terry Bowden, Auburn. We all know this story--11-0 in his first season in 1993, West Division champion in 1997, gone at midseason in 1998.

3. Ken Hatfield, Arkansas. The Razorbacks were actually in the Southwest Conference at the time, but Hatfield's fate was so mystifying it still must be included here. In four seasons, Hatfield won 10 games twice and nine games twice. But he was run out of town after the 1989 season and replaced by Jack Crowe.

4. Bill Battle, Tennessee. What a start Battle got at Tennessee, going 11-1 in 1970, his first season as a head coach. His future seemed secure. He'd played for Bear Bryant. He was young and charismatic. He even beat his old boss that first season. Battle's Tennessee teams went 10-2 the next two seasons, but there was a problem. In each of those two seasons, the two losses were to Alabama and Auburn. He never had a losing season, but he never beat Alabama again and was gone after the 1975 season.

5. Bill Curry, Alabama. Curry had the Crimson Tide at 10-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation in 1989. But he lost to Auburn for the third straight time at Alabama and the 10th straight time in his career. That was too much. He'd been exiled to Kentucky within a matter of days of a Sugar Bowl loss to Miami.

6. Mike Archer, LSU. Archer went 10-1-1 his first season in 1987 and shared the SEC championship in 1988. Two years and two losing seasons later, he was gone. LSU had started a long, painful slide.

7. Hal Mumme, Kentucky. Mumme installed his pass-crazy offense and took Kentucky to back-to-back bowls in 1998 and 1999. His 2000 team went 2-9 and 0-8 in the SEC. Right behind that disaster came a bigger one, NCAA sanctions. So long, Hal.

8. Ray Goff, Georgia. Goff was given the unenviable task of replacing his former coach, Vince Dooley. After a rough start, he went 9-3 in 1991 and 10-2 in 1992. It seemed he was over the hump. Three years and three subpar records later, he had gone back to the farm.

9. John Majors, Tennessee. Not even heroes always survive. John Majors was one of the great players in Tennessee history. He led Pittsburgh to a national championship and returned to his alma mater amid great fanfare in 1977. His last four teams all won at least nine games. Yet, after missing games in 1992 with heart problems, he was forced out and replaced by Phillip Fulmer.

10. Billy Brewer, Ole Miss. Brewer returned to his alma mater in 1983. The early years were hard, but it seemed he finally had it turned around. He won eight games in 1989 and nine games in 1990. But, like Mumme, an NCAA scandal did him in. He was fired before the 1994 season.

Someone could join these 10 soon enough. It could be Richt. It could be LSU's Nick Saban. It could be Ole Miss' David Cutcliffe. It could be anybody. Memories in the unforgiving world of SEC football are notoriously short.

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