SEC Notebook: Bad news for the Ballcoach

Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks head into 2009 with a uniquely challenging schedule. They're the only team in a BCS conference which plays its opening two games on the road.

The visits to NC State and Georgia have likely just gotten a little more difficult, as starting defensive end Clifton Geathers was arrested early Sunday morning on charges of being drunk in public, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Under South Carolina policy, Geathers will be suspended until his case is resolved. The junior had been named most improved at his position by Spurrier at the conclusion of spring practice. The Gamecocks will now likely be without two starters on their defensive line for awhile, as tackle Ladi Ajiboye is already suspended for the first three games of the season.

RAZORBACKS GETTING HIT HARD

Every team has suffered some injuries in the early going, but Arkansas is the SEC team that appears to have taken the worst damage to this point. Starting cornerback Isaac Madison has been lost for the year to a torn ACL. Lucas Miller, last year's yardage leader among the wide receivers, broke his collarbone and will miss 4-6 weeks. Backup tight end Chris Gragg is also out for the season after dislocating his ankle. USC transfer running back Broderick Green has also missed valuable practice time with an illness, which Bobby Petrino expressed concern about potentially being (irony alert) swine flu.

DID HAMILTON HAVE A PLAN?

A new book chronicles what turned out to be the end of Phillip Fulmer's reign in Knoxville, and the resulting coaching search that led to Lane Kiffin getting the Tennessee job. "On Rocky Top" by Clay Travis reveals some details that raise further questions about the thought process behind AD Mike Hamilton's choice of the ex-Oakland head coach to lead the Vols.

Unless there's a specific candidate a school wants before they make a move, there's generally a theme to coaching searches. A school's AD wants to hire a certain type of guy, and the candidates he looks at reflect that. For example, it was clear Mississippi State wanted someone known for his offensive prowess as Sylvester Croom's successor and their search led to Dan Mullen's hiring after considering multiple offensive gurus from successful programs.

According to Travis in an excerpt from the book released last week, Tennessee's second choice behind Kiffin was Air Force coach Troy Calhoun. It's hard to see why Calhoun and Kiffin would even be on the same list to start a search, much less the final choices. Kiffin's appeal was his recruiting prowess and credentials from working under Pete Carroll at USC. Calhoun played for Air Force, as far from a big time football factory environment as it gets, and went 17-9 as head coach there the last two years. Calhoun's style of play doesn't resemble Kiffin's, and there's nothing in his background before becoming a head coach that would indicate any special recruiting expertise.

The only thing that Calhoun and Kiffin really have in common is that neither has any experience with the SEC or more than two years experience as a head coach. Each spent a brief time in the NFL as well. If ignorance of the SEC and inexperience as a head man were the things Hamilton was stressing in his search, that's a curious template to work from. Otherwise, the Calhoun report gives one the distinct feeling the UT AD didn't have much of a clue what he was looking for before he selected Kiffin as the Vols new head coach.

THEY DON'T CALL IT $EC FOR NOTHING

Recent figures from the Collegiate Licensing Company make clear just how fervent SEC fan support is, and how much those fans are willing to open their wallets to back it up. For the fiscal year running from July of 2008 through the end of June, the SEC had eight of the top fifteen programs in sales. Florida is number two, trailing only Texas, with Georgia, LSU and Alabama all right behind them. Nine SEC schools sold more merchandise last season than any program from the Pac-10.


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