Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is more than just one of the victims of an elaborate revenge fantasy on the part of Houston Nutt’s lawyer.
He’s also part of a growing trend in the SEC, in which coaches just don’t seem to have the same staying power that they used to.
Entering the 2017 season, across the 65 schools of the four power conferences and Notre Dame, the average head coach is 49.8 years old. He has been a collegiate head coach for 8.42 years, has been head coach at a Power-5 conference school for 6.09 years and has been head coach at his current school for 4.45 years.
The SEC’s numbers in those categories are...let’s just say...lacking.
The average age (48.7) isn’t that far off. The average years as a college head coach (6.29), Power-5 head coach (5.21) and head coach at his current school (3.43), though, are all 14 to 25 percent below the Power-5 average.
Take SEC coaches out of the equation, and the other three power conferences (plus Notre Dame) average a coach who is 50.1 years old, has been a college head coach for 9.00 years, a Power-5 head coach for 6.33 years and head coach at his current school for 4.73 years.
SEC coaches are anywhere from 18 to 30 percent below the averages from the rest of their Power-5 brethren.
Among the 14 coaches in the SEC, only half have been around long enough to see an unredshirted freshman work his way through their program — Nick Saban (Alabama), Bret Bielema (Arkansas), Gus Malzahn (Auburn), Mark Stoops (Kentucky), Dan Mullen (Mississippi State), Butch Jones (Tennessee) and Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M).
Only three — Saban, Mullen and Sumlin — have been around long enough to see a redshirted freshman make it all the way through the program.
The average SEC East coach has led his program for 2.29 seasons. Eesh.
The ACC leads the conferences in average college head coaching span for its coaches (10.1 years), while the Big 12 leads in average Power-5 coaching spans and years at current school (6.60 each). Although that number is HEAVILY skewed by Bill Snyder, Mike Gundy and Gary Patterson, who have amassed all but 13 of the league’s Power-5 years and years at current school.
Take a look. Just as a little FYI, I counted years with teams that didn’t used to be Power-5 (e.g. Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, etc.) as Power-5 all the same. Also, if a coach had two different tenures with the same team (i.e. Snyder, Bobby Petrino), I added those up:
It hasn’t always been this way.
As recently as 2014, when the leagues took their current shape, the SEC led all Power-5 leagues in average years as a college head coach (9.14) was second to the Big 12 in average years at a Power-5 school (7.36 to 8.50) and tied for second with the ACC behind the Big 12 in average years at the current school (4.79 to 7.60).
The SEC had its longevity well distributed, with six coaches — Saban, Georgia’s Mark Richt, LSU’s Les Miles, Mullen, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier -- having been at their current schools for at least five years. The ACC, for instance, had only four, with one — Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer — taking up 27.
From 2014 until now, Muschamp (got got), Richt (also got got), Miles (indeed got got), Freeze (got very publicly and embarrassingly got), Pinkel (retired) and Spurrier (also retired) have turned over.
That’s six coaches. The only other league that was more turbulent during that time was the Big Ten, with nine.
And the Big Ten, at least, looks a little more creative with its replacements.
In the SEC, we got promotions from within for Ole Miss (so far), LSU and Missouri, a retread at South Carolina, a first-time head coach at Georgia and an Group-of-5 up-and-comer at Florida.
In the Big Ten, we got former NFL head coaches at Illinois and Michigan, sitting Power-5 head coaches at Nebraska and Wisconsin, possibly the second-hottest (after Tom Herman?) up-and-coming Group-of-5 coach at Minnesota, another big Group-of-5 name at Purdue, a promotion from within at Indiana and first-time head coaches at Maryland and Rutgers.
So, to bring the framing element of this post full circle, the SEC may not wanna wait for its life as the undisputed top college football conference to be over before it wants to know, right now, what will its future coach retention success be?
Will it be yes, or will it be......sorry?