Taking a look at the job status of each SEC head coach, ranking them from least likely to most likely to be fired heading into the 2017 season.
For the first time since 2011, there were no head coaching changes in the Southeastern Conference following the season. Of course, Les Miles was canned during the season, but all 14 men who ended the year on the sidelines with their respective teams will be back on in 2017, trying to earn a trip to Atlanta and a spot atop the SEC.
That doesn’t mean some coaches should begin renovating their houses, as a number of them enter next fall needing a big season to stave off the unemployment line. Can Butch Jones regain the Tennessee fan base’s confidence and recover from a season where expectations went unfulfilled? How secure are Mark Stoops and Derek Mason now that they led their respective teams to bowl games?
With that, let’s take a look at the conference’s coaches from safest to holding onto their jobs as they enter the 2017 to those with the hottest seat.
*Records listed are at current school
You Must Be Joking
14. Nick Saban (104-19, 66-12 SEC)
This job is his until he decides to retire. When will that be? No one knows, but opposing schools are looking forward to that day.
Honeymoon Season Went Well, Now Pressure Begins
13. Kirby Smart (8-5, 4-4)
His initiation year as a head coach is over, and the pressure to win big arrives with the return of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Can Smart live up to the expectations and get the Bulldogs back to contender status?
12. Will Muschamp (6-7, 3-5)
His debut season in Columbia was a success based on getting the Gamecocks to a bowl game. Now, he’s tasked with taking a different trajectory than he did in Gainesville.
Status Strongly Intact
11. Dan Mullen (61-42, 29-35)
The first season post-Dak Prescott did not go the Bulldogs way, and Mullen’s name kept on coming up in other open head coaching positions. Mullen has made Mississippi State relevant again, and for that, as well as finishing the year with a bowl victory, he will be given a free pass following a rebuilding year.
Monkey Off Back
10. Mark Stoops (19-30, 8-24)
Kentucky finally reached a bowl game under his watch, so a lot of the pressure is off of Stoops coming into his fifth season. A relapse, though, and Wildcats fans will be right back to asking for a successor.
9. Derek Mason (13-24, 5-19)
Just like Stoops, some criticism of Mason disappeared after the Commodores reached a bowl game for the first time in his three seasons. His name was even floated as a potential candidate for the vacant Cal position. Vanderbilt has a shot to be even better in 2017, so a bowl appearance is a must.
Must Do More Than This
8. Jim McElwain (19-8, 13-5)
Two SEC East titles in his first two seasons should have McElwain feeling easy about his status in Gainesville, but the lack of offense and development of a quarterback is worrisome. Gator fans expect much more than merely a trip to Atlanta, they expect to win the conference.
7. Ed Orgeron (6-2, 4-2*)
He earned the position by leading the Tigers to a 6-2 finish after the firing of Les Miles. Now the intensity of the job rises, and nothing short of 10-win seasons and competing for the national title will go over well in Baton Rouge.
More NCAA Sanctions Looming?
6. Hugh Freeze (39-25, 19-21)
Freeze followed up a 10-win season with a flop: going 5-7 and missing out on a bowl. Add in the NCAA probation that was a result of violations that occurred during his tenure, and the result is some rumblings in Oxford over how far Freeze can take the program.
Is Status Quo Okay?
5. Bret Bielema (25-26, 10-22)
A big-time hire by the Razorbacks in 2013 has resulted in underwhelming results. Bielema has had time to recruit his type of players and install his system, but mediocrity has been the outcome. How long can Hogs fans stick with that?
Maybe Not The Right Man For Job
4. Barry Odom (4-8, 2-6)
He oversaw some great defenses as the unit’s coordinator from 2012-15, so an abysmal season by the defense in Odom’s first season as head coach was a bit surprising. The Tigers finished No. 118 in total defense, allowing 479.7 yards per game. If that isn’t fixed, Odom’s time as a head coach might not last long.
Must. Win. Now.
3. Kevin Sumlin (44-21, 21-19)
Granted, three straight 8-5 seasons already have Aggie fans distraught. But it’s the hiring of Tom Herman at rival Texas that will bring on even more heat, especially if Herman starts to win immediately in Austin. That 11-2 season in 2012 seems like a long time ago for the 12th Man.
2. Gus Malzahn (35-18, 18-14)
The writing is on the wall for Malzahn entering 2017: win big with Jarrett Stidham at quarterback, or don’t bother coming back. Auburn is a paltry 11-13 in conference play during the last three seasons. Let’s not forget how quick of a hook the school’s athletic administration and boosters have wielded in the past.
1. Butch Jones (30-21, 14-18)
Failure to meet great expectations this past season plus departures of key players and coaches times a fan base that is sick of mediocrity equals a 2017 season that is do-or-die for Jones. No matter how much he speaks of “champions of life” and building the program “brick by brick,” results on the field are the only thing that matters. It’s a tough road for Jones, especially given that the program will have a new AD in charge this coming season.