Everyone knows the SEC will continue to be competitive, regardless of the perceived weakening of the conference’s strong-hold on college football.
The last five BCS Coaches Trophies belong to coaches in the SEC. College football fans long ago accepted the talent advantage of the SEC over other BCS conferences in college football. But the coaching advantages should not be over-looked. SEC football programs invest heavily in head coaches, and their staffs. These same programs and their fans expect as much in return— if not more, from those given the privilege to lead one the SEC’s elite programs.
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik just recently signed a new deal, paying him $3.5 million per year through 2015. In fact, Auburn increased their payroll in a big way, by giving some Chizik’s top assistants hefty salary increases, totaling $4.085 million for the 2011 season.
Auburn may have learned from the down-fall of former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer. Meyer began losing assistants almost every season after winning his first national championship in 2006. By signing their top assistants to lucrative contracts for three years, they hope to keep the “band” together.
Even with the pay raise, Chizik has plenty of distance on paydays between himself and Nick Saban. The University of Alabama unveiled a statue of Saban earlier this year. If you follow college football, you understand how much that really means. Saban will be chasing his legacy from here until he leaves Alabama. Saban could be the coach, who can finally live up to the legacy of Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama. Saban’s Crimson Tide comes into the 2011 college football season as one of the early contenders for a national championship.
University of South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier also became immortalized in bronze this spring at the University of Florida. Spurrier took the Gamecocks to their first SEC Championship game. For a period in the late nineties Spurrier made a living in Atlanta, along with Alabama. Now Spurrier will be looking to polish his own legacy as a coach. Winning an SEC Championship would make the “Ol Ball Coach” a legend in South Carolina as well as at Florida.
Dan Mullen and his Mississippi State Bulldogs will be looking to improve upon last season’s 4-4 record. Mullen got a big win against the Gators, that more than likely increased this season’s expectations for the team. Mullen earned the Mississippi fan support, but he will need to find a way to compete in the SEC Western Division. That’s the division that includes current national champion Auburn, Alabama and LSU.
Florida Gators new head coach Will Muschamp begins his first campaign as the top man. Muschamp gradually built momentum over the summer, gutting-out a series of small victories in recruiting, demonstrating leadership and assembling his coaching staff. The Gators come into the season with some extra buzz due to the addition of Chalie Weis as offensive coordinator. That said, this season could have a huge impact on Muschamp’s ability to be successful in the future. A bad season could damage his ability to take advantage of a full recruiting class.
Those only scratch the surface of SEC coaching story lines. Georgia head coach Mark Richt recruited well, and already had great talent on the roster. The Pressure to win an SEC Championship will be at an all-time high in Athens.
Tennessee Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley will attempt to continue rebuilding the Vols program.
Les Miles looks to be in LSU for at least three or four more years. Just a months earlier,doubts about his abilities as a head coach began to ding Miles’ reputation.
Oh, and we still haven’t talked about Houston Nutt, Joker Phillips or James Franklin.
SEC football could be entering one of its most competitive eras in the conference’s history. Pride and expectation levels will push coaches to be at their best all season. Most of the leaders of this year’s teams, have proven they can win on some level— whether as a player or records in past coaching positions on both the college and NFL level.
With so much concentrated talent on the field, and in the film rooms, a sixth straight BCS Championship could be a real possibility for America’s best college football conference.