Expect more than 2 SEC coaching searches

By: Wally Hall
Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012

— Maybe Kentucky’s dismissal of Joker Phillips wasn’t really the first shoe to fall in the SEC, when John L. Smith’s interim status at Arkansas is considered, but it might not be the last.

How much more can Tennessee endure under Derek Dooley before apathy overcomes the Vols Nation?

And down on The Plains, wouldn’t the smart thing for the future of the Auburn program be to pull the plug on Gene Chizik, who is dismal without Cam Newton and, for that matter, offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

Don’t really think Auburn would do it this year, too much pride, but it could happen.

That’s why the University of Arkansas was lucky to get a five-month jump on finding its next coach.

That puts it way in the lead for any candidates, and who knows, Jeff Long might already have his No. 1 commitment just waiting for the season to end to sign on the dotted line.

At least fans better hope so.

The Kentucky job isn’t really a factor for Long. The Wildcats are a basketball school that wants a 7-5 or 6-6 football program. Football games are a place to meet with other Wildcats fans and talk about the upcoming basketball season.

The only connection to Arkansas that job has is that the Razorbacks’ past two head coaches are being mentioned as possible replacements.

Bobby Petrino or Houston Nutt would be an improvement on where Kentucky has been, especially this season.

Petrino was fired with cause at Arkansas so he has zero contractual restrictions. He can sign with anyone. He had success up the road from Lexington with Louisville.

A downer might be he’s going to be hard-pressed to get a positive word out of any of the media who found him difficult to work with at Louisville, where he promised about a half-dozen times he was staying, only to meet with Auburn during the season, and where he said his family had found a permanent home, only to leave a week later for the Atlanta Falcons.

It is understood around here why he left the Falcons before the end of the season, but not anywhere else. That, and his April Fool’s Day folly, may hurt him.

However, he will be coaching somewhere next season.

Maybe Auburn, but more than likely not.

Nutt should get some consideration at Kentucky. He had success at Murray State and won more games at Arkansas and Ole Miss than Kentucky has in recent years.

The guy can sell, too. He could talk a widow into buying a burial suit with two pairs of pants.

The Tennessee job is more problematic in that it has everything Arkansas has and a bigger budget.

So if Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy is serious about getting away from his athletic director, Mike Holder, he might cross a few bridges to get to Knoxville over Arkansas.

No one seems to know the whole story, but the alleged reason Gundy is ready to leave is that he and Holder don’t get along, and Holder, the former golf coach, was practically handpicked by T. Boone Pickens.

The story is Gundy and Holder locked horns over Gundy’s contract last December, neither budging.

Then Holder got a call from Jimmy Sexton, who Gundy hired the day before, and the game wasn’t on, it was over.

Sexton is powerful enough to tell an AD: Either up the ante or I’ll find him a job where they will.

That’s the story behind why Gundy is supposed to be ready to move, and if Mack Brown does the right thing and walks away at Texas, look for the burned orange to have Gundy on their radar, too.

So, maybe, Kentucky’s dismissal of Phillips will turn out to be the only shoe, other than Smith’s, to fall. Right now, everyone knows there are two jobs open in the SEC, and at least one more probably will be open in December.

Sports, Pages 15 on 11/06/2012


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