Petrino boosts SEC's luster

In the past 11 days the Southeastern Conference has deleted Ed Orgeron and copy-pasted Bobby Petrino into its 2008 lineup. How's that for an upgrade?

Petrino went 41-9 as head coach at Louisville from 2003 through 2006, three times earning bowl bids and twice garnering top-10 national rankings. He is widely regarded as one of the brightest offensive minds in the game.

Petrino's abrupt switch from the NFL's Atlanta Falcons to the SEC's Arkansas Razorbacks on Tuesday was Step 3 in a process that began with Ole Miss' firing of Orgeron on Dec. 1. The Rebels took Step 2 later that day by hiring Houston Nutt, who had resigned as head man at Arkansas a few hours earlier. That left the Razorbacks with an opening they were struggling to fill until Petrino reportedly initiated contact with school brass on Tuesday afternoon.

The Hogs' enthusiastic interest prompted Petrino to resign as head coach of the Falcons at 5:45 EST and take the reins at Arkansas roughly six hours later.

The addition of Petrino adds even more luster to an SEC coaching fraternity that already was overflowing with high-profile honchos. I suggested in a Rocky Top News article earlier this year that the 2007 crop of SEC coaches might be the league's finest group ever. Now, with Petrino essentially replacing Orgeron, the 2008 crop should be even better.


Petrino brings to four the number of conference coaches with NFL head coaching experience. He joins South Carolina's Steve Spurrier (Redskins 2002-2003), Alabama's Nick Saban (Dolphins 2005-2006) and Kentucky's Rich Brooks (Rams 1995-96).

In addition to four head men with NFL backgrounds, the 2008 SEC will feature four coaches who have won national titles – Spurrier (1996 at Florida), Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer (1998), Saban (2003 at LSU) and Florida's Urban Meyer (2007). Then there's Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, who fielded a national championship-caliber team that went 13-0 in 2004 but didn't get to play for the top prize.

In addition to the seven high-profile coaches mentioned already, the 2008 SEC coaching fraternity will feature two head men with incredibly impressive resumes – Georgia's Mark Richt and LSU's Les Miles.

Richt's first seven years in Athens have produced three SEC East titles, two overall titles, a 71-19 overall record and an imposing 78.8 winning percentage.

Miles' first three years at LSU, meanwhile, have produced a 33-6 record and an 84.6 winning percentage. He finished No. 3 nationally in 2006 and will finish No. 1 this year should his Tigers beat Ohio State in the BCS title game on Jan. 7. If that happens, the SEC will have five national championship coaches on board when the '08 season begins.

Then there is Nutt, who has a record of 111-70 as a college head man. His 10-year stint at Arkansas produced top-20 national finishes in 1998, 1999 and 2006.

Here's a quick look at the 12 men who, barring further changes, will open the 2008 season as SEC head coaches:

Alabama: Nick Saban (1 national title, 2 years' NFL experience, 112-65-1 overall record as a college coach)

Arkansas: Bobby Petrino (1 year of NFL experience, 41-9 college record, 2 top-10 rankings in 4 years at Louisville)

Auburn: Tommy Tuberville (13-0 record in 2004, 41-9 record over the past 4 years)

Florida: Urban Meyer (1 national title, 70-15 college record, 31-7 record at Florida)

Georgia: Mark Richt (3 division titles, 2 SEC titles in 7 years, overall record of 71-19)

Kentucky: Rich Brooks (2 years' NFL experience, 23 years as a college head man)

LSU: Les Miles (33-6 record at LSU with a No. 3 ranking in 2006 and a No. 2 ranking in 2007 ... pending the BCS title game)

Mississippi State: Sylvester Croom (SEC Coach of the Year for 2007)

Ole Miss: Houston Nutt (3 SEC West titles in 10 years at Arkansas)

South Carolina: Steve Spurrier (1 national title, 2 years' NFL experience, 163-56-2 college record)

Tennessee: Phillip Fulmer (1 national title, 146-45 record and a 76.4 winning percentage that ranks No. 1 among among active coaches with at least 10 years' experience)

Vanderbilt: Bobby Johnson (first Commodore coach since George MacIntyre (1979-1985) to make it through six years in Nashville)

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