SEC bucks age trend

Given all of the recruiting miles they must log, all of the long hours they must work and all of the pressure they must withstand, college football coaches need the resiliency of a rubber band.

Because the job extracts such a tremendous physical and emotional toll, more and more schools are entrusting their programs to younger and younger coaches. Of the 23 men hired to oversee NCAA Div. 1-A programs since the 2006 season ended, 17 of them are under the age of 50.

The trend toward younger coaches seems to have missed the Southeastern Conference, however. Sure, Florida's Urban Meyer (42) and Ole Miss' Ed Orgeron (45) are relative youngsters, but they're exceptions in this league.

Consider:

Kentucky's Rich Brooks will turn 66 in August. South Carolina's Steve Spurrier is 62. Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer will celebrate his 57th birthday on Sept. 1, the same day his Volunteers visit the California Golden Bears. Vanderbilt's Bobby Johnson is 56, Alabama's Nick Saban is 55 and LSU's Les Miles is 53. Auburn's Tommy Tuberville is 52. So is Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom.

Is the game passing them by? Apparently not. Brooks posted his best season with the Big Blue last fall, going 8-5. Spurrier, also 8-5 in '06, remains one of the most respected coaches in the game. Fulmer bounced back from his first losing season (5-6) in 2005 to go 9-4 in 2006.

Johnson went 4-8 with a Commodore team pegged for much worse in the first year of the post-Jay Cutler Era. Despite an unsuccessful stint in the NFL, Saban remains so highly regarded that he recently signed a $4 million-per-year deal with the Tide. Miles is coming off an 11-2 record and top-five national finish in '06. Tuberville also went 11-2 last fall.

The national trend may be toward young pups, but the old dogs of the SEC appear to be holding up pretty well.

What follows are the ages of the 12 SEC head coaches:

Urban Meyer, Florida, 42 (turns 43 July 10)

Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss, 45 (turns 46 July 27)

Mark Richt, Georgia, 47

Houston Nutt, Arkansas, 49

Tommy Tuberville, Auburn, 52

Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State, 52 (turns 53 Sept. 25)

Les Miles, LSU, 53 (turns 54 Nov. 10)

Nick Saban, Alabama, 55 (turns 56 Oct. 31)

Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt, 56

Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee, 56 (turns 57 Sept. 1)

Steve Spurrier, South Carolina, 62

Rich Brooks, Kentucky, 65 (turns 66 August 20)


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