Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year twice.
SEC rules at paying its coaches
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn chats with Arkansas head coach Chad Morris as their teams warm up before an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
The SEC has five of the eight highest-paid head coaches in the nation -- and 10 in the top 35 -- according to USA Today's annual survey of salaries that the newspaper released Wednesday.
Chad Morris, in his first season as the University of Arkansas' coach, is tied for 35th with LSU's Ed Orgeron, Kansas State's Bill Snyder, Iowa State's Matt Campbell and Washington State's Mike Leach at $3.5 million.
Alabama's Nick Saban, who has led the Crimson Tide to five national championships since 2008, is No. 1 at $8,370,000.
Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher is No. 4 at $7.5 million; Auburn's Gus Malzahn No. 5 at $6,705,656; Georgia's Kirby Smart No. 6 at $6,603,600; and Florida's Dan Mullen No. 8 at $6,070,000.
Annual salaries for other SEC coaches are:
• South Carolina's Will Muschamp No. 21 at $4.2 million
• Kentucky's Mark Stoops No. 23 at $4,013,600
• Tennessee's Jeremy Pruitt No. 26 at $3,846,000
• Ole Miss' Matt Luke No. 44 at $3.0 million
• Vanderbilt's Derek Mason No. 46 at $2,812,523
• Mississippi State's Joe Moorhead No. 49 at $2.6 million
• Missouri's Barry Odom No. 56 at $2,350,000
Slur shouted at QB
Adam Sasser, who would have been a senior on Georgia's baseball team and returning starter at first base, was dismissed Wednesday after being accused of yelling a racial slur at Bulldogs' quarterback Justin Field during Saturday's game against Tennessee at Sanford Stadium.
Georgia's equal opportunity office launched an investigation into Sasser's alleged behavior at the game.
Sasser's comments were overheard by several people at the game who confronted him about using racially insensitive language, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
"If what I read and heard is true, it's really unacceptable behavior. That's not who we are at Georgia," Georgia Coach Kirby Smart said earlier this week. "We're trying to build a program on tolerance and mutual respect. You can't control what other people say, but the expectation is that people that are part of our program and come to our games share the same beliefs that we do.
"It's sad that something like this would happen. I'm disappointed. But it doesn't affect our family, our unit here and our kids have been great. It's not something I've had to address with them. I've addressed it with Justin. That's the most important thing."
Sasser batted .317 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI last season, helping Georgia make the NCAA Tournament.
Fisher faces pal
Alabama's Nick Saban isn't the only SEC coach who plays against his former assistants.
Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher -- one of Saban's former assistants -- will take on one of his former assistants when the Aggies play Kentucky on Saturday night.
Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops was Florida State's defensive coordinator from 2010-12 when Fisher was the Seminoles coach.
This is the first time Fisher is playing Stoops with both as head coaches.
"You hate coaching against friends," Fisher said. "It's not the most fun thing in the world. But hey, you're in the business long enough, you have a lot of friends. That's going to happen."
Stoops, hired as Kentucky's coach in 2013, was Arizona's defensive coordinator when Fisher offered him a job at Florida State. Fisher had just been promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach of the Seminoles with Bobby Bowden's retirement.
"I have really good memories of coaching under [Fisher]," Stoops said. "I say that because clearly it's not easy. There are some hard times.
"I was there from day one when he took that job over and believe me, it's tough going through that. A lot of tough, competitive days, and long hours, and steady grind. But I learned a lot."
Florida Coach Dan Mullen fought back tears at times in his postgame news conference after the Gators won 13-6 at Mississippi State.
It was a particularly emotional game for Mullen because he was Mississippi State's coach the previous nine seasons.
"I met with that team to tell them that I was leaving before I told my mom, my dad or any person in my family," Mullen said. "The first people that found out were those players in that locker room.
"After the meeting, a bunch of those players gave me hugs, and this is the next time that I've seen them."
Several Mississippi State players also hugged Mullen after losing to Florida.
"If you haven't done it, it's hard to explain the coach-player relationship," Mullen said. "It is such an unbelievably tight relationship. You really do love all those guys."
Mullen said it might have been the last time he'll coach a game at Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium considering future SEC schedules through 2025 don't have Florida on the road against the Bulldogs.
Hands on coaching
Video of Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher grabbing the face mask of Aggies linebacker Tyrel Dodson during last week's game against the University of Arkansas drew plenty of criticism on social media.
Fisher found himself playing defense during his weekly news conference when asked about the incident.
Dodson wasn't penalized, but Fisher said he grabbed the player's face mask after Dodson got into a verbal confrontation with one of the Razorbacks.
Fisher said he had to get Dodson's attention and calm him down so he wouldn't draw a penalty or be ejected from the game.
"He and I have a relationship that is second to none," Fisher said. "He is my unity council guy. He's a guy that's in my office once or twice a week as I discuss problems with our team, the way we're going to do things, and he understood exactly because I told him, 'I can't lose you. You're our team leader. You're our team captain. You're our leading tackler. You call all the signals. You do everything.' I was just trying to get his attention."
Dodson offered support for his coach.
"I just want everyone to know that Coach Fisher was there for me at that time," Dodson said. "He had my back and was telling me just to stay focused and he needed me.
"I totally understand it. The media was making it look more than what it was."
Fisher said he understood some people criticized him for grabbing Dodson's face mask.
"That's their opinion, and there's nothing wrong with that," Fisher said. "I respect that, totally."
Old ball coaches
Steve Spurrier and Les Miles, who as SEC head coaches won national championships at Florida in 1996 and at LSU in 2007, respectively, are having some good-natured fun on Twitter leading up to the Tigers playing the Gators on Saturday.
"How much you wanna bet your Gators are going down this weekend?" Miles tweeted to Spurrier.
"We're going to win on Saturday," Spurrier replied. "If we don't, I'll eat some of that grass of yours. When we do win, you're wearing my visor!"
When Miles coached at LSU, he became famous for chewing on blades of grass from stadium playing fields.
"I have a little tradition that humbles me as a man, that lets me know that I'm a part of the field, a part of the game and it's the very bottom as well as the very top, and it could be all over the internet," Miles said in 2010 about his ritual. "I tell you one thing: The grass at Tiger Stadium tastes best."
Spurrier is known for wearing visors.
Not since Bear
Texas A&M joined the SEC along with Missouri for the 2012 season, but the Aggies haven't played Kentucky in a conference game.
That will change Saturday when the Wildcats visit Kyle Field.
Not only will it be the first SEC game between Kentucky and Texas A&M but it's also the first time the schools have played since 1953 when Bear Bryant was the Wildcats' coach.
The Aggies won at Kentucky 7-6 in 1953. Bryant left after the season for Texas A&M.
In 1952 in the teams' first meeting, Kentucky won 10-7 at Texas A&M.
Coaches love to talk about establishing consistency in their programs, but not the kind Tennessee has displayed this season.
The Vols have been beaten by 26 points in each of their three losses -- 40-14 to West Virginia, 47-21 to Florida and 38-12 to Georgia.
Georgia has scored its first touchdown in each of its three SEC games on a fumble recovery.
Deandre Baker fumbled an interception against South Carolina, but teammate Juwan Taylor recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown in the Bulldogs' 41-17 victory at South Carolina in the season opener.
The Bulldogs forced a fumble by Missouri tight end Al Okwuegbunam as he was fighting for extra yards after a catch. Georgia's Tyson Campbell returned it 64 yards for a touchdown as the Bulldogs won 43-29.
In Georgia's 38-12 victory over Tennessee last week, the Vols forced a fumble by quarterback Jack Fromm, but tight end Isaac Nauta recovered the ball and went 31 yards for a touchdown.
SEC TOP TO BOTTOM
1;(1);Alabama;5-0;Saban talking up Arkansas this week
2;(2);LSU;5-0;Can Tigers survive in the Swamp?
3;(3);Georgia;5-0;Taking on Vandy between the hedges
4;(4);Auburn;4-1;Gus trying to get offense going
5;(5);Kentucky;5-0;Tough road trip to Aggieland
6;(10)Florida;4-1;Happy homecoming for Mullen in Starkville
7;(6)Texas A&M;4-1;Seven in a row over the Hogs
8;(9)Missouri;3-1;Will open date help against Carolina?
9;(7);Mississippi State;3-2;Not looking like a contender
10;(8);South Carolina;3-2;No match for Kentucky
11;(11);Ole Miss;3-2;ULM shouldn't be a problem
12;(12);Vanderbilt;3-2;Narrow escape against Tennessee State
13;(13);Tennessee;2-3;Open date to get ready for Auburn
14;(14);Has lost 11 in a row to Alabama
Player to watch
LSU junior quarterback Joe Burrow won his second SEC offensive player of the week award in a three-game span after passing for 292 yards and 3 touchdowns, and rushing for 96 yards and 1 touchdown in the Tigers' 45-16 victory over Ole Miss.
Burrow, a graduate transfer from Ohio State, is looking for another big game when LSU plays at Florida on Saturday night. He has completed 53.4 percent of his passes (70 of 131), but he hasn't thrown an interception.
Game of the week
LSU at Florida
WHEN 2:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS)
WHERE Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.
RECORDS LSU 5-0, Florida 4-1
RANKINGS LSU is No. 5 in The AP poll;Florida is No. 22
LINE LSU by 2 1/2
LSU will go for its third consecutive victory at Florida. The Tigers beat the Gators in Gainesville 30-27 in 2014 and 17-16 in 2017.
While Florida lost to LSU last season, new Gators Coach Dan Mullen led Mississippi State to a 37-7 victory over the Tigers.
By the numbers
1950 -- Last season Kentucky started 6-0, a record the Wildcats can reach if they win at Texas A&M.
14 -- Undefeated FBS teams, including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and LSU.
"I'm going to get football fixed, and then there's a lot of things we can talk about once we get that boat financially going in the right direction."
-- Tennessee Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer speaking to the Knoxville Quarterback Club.
"I do, because I think Dan Mullen is a better coach than Joe Moorhead, and anyone who doubts me please rewatch Saturday night's game. State had more talent, and Dan Mullen found a way to win [13-6], which means he's a better coach and outcoached the other guy."
-- SEC Network talk-show host Paul Finebaum when asked whether he thought Mississippi State (3-2) would be undefeated if Mullen -- who is now Florida's coach -- still coached the Bulldogs.
Sports on 10/04/2018
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