HYAMS: Ranking the SEC coaching hires

Matt Hayes of The Sporting News gave three SEC schools an A for their football coaching hires and a fourth school a B.

But he wasn't so impressed by one school hiring a former SEC head coach and he was critical of several other notable hires around the nation.


Hayes gave high marks for Florida hiring Urban Meyer from Utah, LSU for hiring Les Miles from Oklahoma State and South Carolina for hiring Steve Spurrier.


He gave Ole Miss a B for getting former USC assistant Ed Oregeron.


Spurrier was the best hire because he's proven himself. Look for him to average over eight wins per season in Columbia.


The next-best hire is Meyer, who could win the SEC and have the Gators in the top 10 his first season.

Miles is a B hire at best. He was 2-2 against Oklahoma, but he was 28-21 overall. Ron Zook won some big games at Florida, but got fired when he lost some ``little'' ones.


Oregeron is a C hire. He is an outstanding recruiter, but he has a checkered past.

Hayes gives Illinois a D for hiring Zook: ``He'll get $1.1 million per year after running one of the nation's best programs into the ground.''


Hayes likes the hire of Charlie Weis at Notre Dame over Washington hiring ex-Irish coach Tyrone Willingham. I don't. Willingham is a better hire, having proven he can win at Stanford. He wasn't given a fair shake at Notre Dame.


Hayes gave Pittsburgh a C for hiring Dave Wannstedt. I'd give a D. Hayes gave Stanford a B for getting Walt Harris when Norm Chow of USC was the better choice.




New Florida coach Urban Meyer apparently will bring more discipline and accountability to the Gator football program.


Florida's assistants recently visited every player on campus. Meyer wanted to know where the players lived and what kind of lifestyle they have.


Meyer wants to eliminate what he calls the ``human element'' from football. He doesn't mean emotion or personality. He means getting rid of pettiness and jealousy from all areas of the team because that can ruin a program.


He meets with every spouse of every coach on the team because, he said, on both college and NFL teams that is where some of the petty stuff begins.


He wants his players to treat women with respect and to avoid drugs and stealing.


``I understand we're recruiting in areas where drugs are like Pop-Tart,'' he said.


Meyer believes coaches are responsible for every aspect of their player's lives.


A coach once said to him: ``I'm not a baby sitter.''


Meyer's response: ``The hell you're not. Coaches are responsible for everything.''


Meyer is bringing to Florida a program he had at Utah: The Champions Club. It rewards outstanding achievement from on the field to the classroom to the weight room. At the end of the season, a champions banquet that includes prime rib is held for those who make the club.




SEC supervisor of football officials Bobby Gaston said that based on review of tapes from SEC games in 2004, only seven calls would have been overturned if instant replay had been used.


That's an inordinately low number, considering the Big Ten altered 21 calls.


Surely Gaston was just talking about tape he watched, not tape of all SEC games.


Besides an attempt to get calls right, Gaston said there is another positive to implementing instant replay: Fan reaction.


Gaston said Big Ten officials claim ``when there's a controversial call and the fans realize that it's being reviewed, an atmosphere comes over the stadium of, `Well, at least they're looking at it again,''' Gaston said. ``The Big Ten officials said that in itself was the biggest benefit … that fans feel you're making every attempt to get it right.''


Gaston did caution that few judgment calls are reviewable.


``I'm not sure that everybody totally understands that,'' Gaston said.


Gaston said instant replay should not cause games to be delayed significantly. He said televised Big Ten games averaged 3 hours, 15 minutes while SEC games on TV averaged 3:12.




Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom might be the sternest disciplinarian in the SEC. Make a mistake, you're suspended until further notice.


Bulldogs starting offensive tackle Richard Burch was suspended after being arrested for the sale of marijuana.


His return depends upon his remorse.


Take, for example, starting center Chris McNeil. He was suspended after wrecking his truck after a night of drinking. McNeil got counseling, met regularly with Croom and headed in the right direction. He was reinstated but returned as the third-team center.


``He hadn't done anything (wrong before) but he made a mistake,'' Croom said. ``When you make a mistake, we suspended you. It was up to him how he handled it.''


Croom has faced other disciplinary decisions.  In the spring of 2004, star running back Nick Turner, who previously was arrested for passing five counterfeit $100 bills at a local nightclub, missed appointments, practice and finally a meeting with Croom. Turner was dismissed.


Cornerback Eric Fuller was suspended for six games for violating team rules, then dismissed when he broke another one.


Receiver Antonio Hargro had several lesser penalties before being dismissed for violating team and university rules.


``I can tell when a guy is genuinely sorry for his mistake and when a guy is doing lip service,'' Croom said.




Dan Reeves, a former South Carolina quarterback and Super Bowl coach, is interested in the athletic director's job at South Carolina.


``I'd like to talk to them,'' said Reeves, 61. ``Tell them to give me a call. As an alum, I think a lot of South Carolina. To say I'm not interested would not be true.''


Reeves, former coach of the Falcons, Broncos and Giants, does not have his degree. He joined the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent in 1965.


``That's always been something I regretted,'' Reeves said.


He said the only time not having degree became an issue was when he interviewed for the Auburn football job in 1981.


``When you recruit players, you want them to graduate,'' Reeves said. ``So I told (Auburn's search committee), `Listen, I never got my degree and I don't want that to be something that would hurt recruiting. They told me it wasn't a problem.''


Auburn hired Pat Dye, instead.




The career of South Carolina quarterback Mike Rathe apparently is over after his appeal for a sixth-year of eligibility was denied by the NCAA.


 ``I just want to play football and avoid going to the real world for a little bit,'' the California native said. ``I love the game. I love the atmosphere. I love college athletics.''


Rathe transferred to South Carolina after two stints at schools in his hometown of San Diego. At the University of San Diego, he burned a year of eligibility by playing in one junior varsity game. He transferred to Mesa Community College and played in two games in 2001 before breaking a finger and missing the rest of the season.


Counting his time at South Carolina, Rathe played in 13 games in four-year span. Rathe based his appeal on his first year at San Diego.


If the NCAA ruling stands, the Gamecocks could enter spring practice with three quarterbacks, one a walk-on. Syvelle Newton, the starter at the end of last season, is suspended following his petty larceny arrest last week.




Former LSU star Shaquille O'Neal wants a house in Baton Rouge and he wants the one owned by former LSU coach Nick Saban, now with the Miami Dolphins.


``I've seen it a million times and I'm going to get it,'' said O'Neal, the highest paid NBA player at $29.5 million this year. ``And I'm gonna get it for the same price he paid for it.''


That might be tricky. Saban paid $1.72 million in July 2001 and is asking $3.25 for the four-bedroom house with a swimming pool and guest house.


O'Neal recently paid about $18 million for a Miami mansion once owned by former Heat center Rony Seikaly.


O'Neal still owns a $6.25 million home in Orlando.




The SEC is used to getting six or seven teams into the NCAA tournament field.


That won't happen this season.


In fact, if you picked today, the SEC would have three teams in the field of 65: Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi State. Those are the only three SEC teams that rank among the top 60 in one RPI projection.


The fourth-best SEC team is No. 63 Arkansas followed by Vanderbilt (65) LSU (75), Florida (76) and South Carolina (84).


Surely, one of those five teams will make a run and challenge for an NCAA berth.


But when you consider that the SEC is the sixth-rated conference in the RPI, at this time, it's hard to imagine more than four league teams making it to the Big Dance.


In the past, an 8-8 SEC record could get you into the NCAA field. No this year. It will take at least 9-7, perhaps even 10-6, depending on your non-conference exploits.


It's worth noting that since the SEC went to a 16-game schedule in 1991-92, all 10 teams that went 10-6 made the Big Dance. Of the 16 that went 9-7, 10 were invited. Of the 16 that went 8-8, eight were invited.


Three 8-8 teams last year got a bid: Alabama, Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Alabama reached the Elite 8 and Vanderbilt made the Sweet 16.




Street & Smith magazine embarked on a near impossible task: selecting the top 100 greatest men's basketball programs in history.


The 14-point criteria included NCAA and NIT success, conference success, all-time won-loss record, NCAA infractions, NBA first-round picks and mascot ferocity.


No. 1 – Kentucky. The SEC had one other program in the top 10: No. 8 Arkansas.


No other SEC team was higher than 50th. LSU was No. 50, followed by 54 Alabama, 77 Tennessee, 96 Florida and 99 Mississippi State.




EXTRA POINTS: Alabama offensive lineman Wesley Britt (hairline fracture of his foot) and Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers (hamstring) did not play in the Senior Bowl. … Tennessee linebacker Kevin Burnett didn't attend Senior Bowl practices because of swelling in his knee that occurred after workouts following the Cotton Bowl. … Florida lost to Miami and Florida State in men's basketball in the same season for the first time since 1964. … Florida recently got commitments from five players who had committed to Purdue, Auburn, South Carolina, Notre Dame and Florida State.

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