Last week, I gave you the top five SEC hires of the 2000's. This week, the hammer falls on the bottom five. Keep in mind, this is my take on the worst hires, not necessarily the worst coaches. Does your list look a little bit different? Feel free to e-mail me.
1. Mike Price, Alabama
A case can be made for virtually anyone on this list to take top honors, but the prize for the worst hire of the decade has to go to former Alabama coach Mike Price. Price's stay in Tuscaloosa was a short one. He was hired in December 2002 to replace Dennis Franchione, who left the Crimson Tide in favor of Texas A&M. An off-the-field incident in at a golf tournament in Pensacola, Fla., ended Price's tenure as Alabama's head coach just five months after he was hired. He never coached a game for the Crimson Tide. As much as I'd like to put someone else at the top of this list, the spot belongs to Price. Who knows – he may have been the right guy to lead Alabama out of the probation hole; but he threw it away before he even got the chance.
2. Lane Kiffin, Tennessee
Kiffin came to Knoxville with a loud mouth and an ego to match it. The former USC offensive coordinator, who amassed a not-so-stellar 5-15 record as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, was hired in December of 2008 to step in for Phil Fulmer. After whipping Vol Nation into a frenzy in the off-season, angering virtually ever SEC head coach in the process, Kiffin's Vols limped to a 7-6 record capped off by a 23-point loss to Virginia Tech in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Kiffin then bolted Knoxville in mid-January under the cover of night to become the head coach at USC. His departure so close to National Signing Day left Tennessee scrambling to find a replacement and maintain some semblance of order in the program. The Vols saw several key players depart following the 2009 season, including prized Kiffin recruit Bryce Brown. The Vols have moved on, and are better off with new head coach Derek Dooley, but Kiffin's influence on the Tennessee program will linger for a while.
3. Ron Zook, Florida
Admit it, you probably expected the Zooker to be at the top of this list. A case could certainly be made for it, but it's never easy to replace a legend – especially one like Steve Spurrier at Florida. Let's be honest, Zook didn't stand much of a chance with the Gators. His hiring was wildly unpopular with Gator Nation pretty much from day one. His overall record at Florida (23-14) wasn't terrible, but it failed to meet the lofty expectations leftover from the Spurrier era. Zook was fired after a 38-31 road loss to Mississippi State. While his game day coaching ability leaves a lot to be desired, his recruiting efforts were never questioned. Of the 24 offensive, defensive and special team starters on Florida's 2006 National Championship team, 22 were recruited by Zook. Was Zook a bad hire? Yes, but wasn't “LeBron James in Game 5” bad. It's pretty obvious that Zook was grossly unprepared to coach in the SEC, but it wasn't as bad as many like to think.
4. Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss
Ed Orgeron was hired by the Rebels in December 2004, after athletics director Pete Boone fired David Cutcliffe after his only losing season in Oxford. Good thinkin'. Coach O compiled a 10-25 record as the Rebels head coach, culminating with an 0-8 season in conference play in 2007. It marked the first time in a quarter-century that the Rebels went winless in the SEC. Orgeron's miserable 2007 season spawned several web sites calling for his firing, and one timeless YouTube video.
5. Mike Shula, Alabama
Much like Zook, Shula didn't stand much of a chance at Alabama. He was hired in May 2003 following the Mike Price fiasco, and took over a team still in the grips of probation. Shula compiled a 26-23 record at Alabama (10-23 after Alabama was forced to vacate wins in 2005 and 2006), which included a 10-win season in 2005 that saw the Tide in the National Title mix as late as early November. But two six-win seasons and a four-win season wasn't good enough for the Tide. In November 2006, one week after his fourth straight loss to intrastate rival Auburn, Shula was dismissed as Alabama's head coach and replaced by Nick Saban. Shula takes a lot of heat, some of which is justifiable. But what did you expect? His team was suffering through NCAA sanctions and had recently fired a head coach in late May BEFORE HE EVEN COACHED A GAME. Above all else, Shula was a victim of unrealistic expectations. His appearance on this list is more a product of the situation rather than an indictment on his coaching ability. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't Bear Bryant and Alabama's certainly better off with his replacement. But he wasn't exactly dealt a good hand when he took over in 2003.
Guy Morriss, Kentucky - Coached two seasons, got a premature Gatorade bath and bolted to Baylor...BAYLOR!
Dennis Franchione, Alabama - Posted 17 wins in two seasons at Alabama and then left for Texas A&M via video teleconference. The wins are nice...but ouch!
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee
Off-Season Column Archive:
SEC Hires of the Decade – The Bottom Five – May 14, 2010
Top 5 SEC Hires of the Decade – May 5, 2010
Georgia In A Gray Area – April 26, 2009
Taunting Rule Goes Too Far – April 16, 2009
Memorable SEC Press Conferences – February 20, 2009
2010 Early SEC Picks, Part 2 – February 18, 2009
2010 Early SEC Picks, Part 1 – February 16, 2009
Florida Reaches For DC – February 12, 2009
Vols Go West For New DC – February 3, 2009
Early 2010 SEC Predictions – January 31, 2010
Chizik Doing It Right – January 21, 2010
Georgia's DC Debacle – January 12, 2010
SEC Bloggers: Do Over – January 8, 2010
Trouble In Baton Rouge – January 2, 2010
Meyer Calls A Reverse – December 27, 2009
Urban Meyer's SEC Legacy – December 26, 2009
End Of The Season Accountability – December 26, 2009
Ranking The SEC Bowl Games – December 18, 2009
2009 SEC Superlatives – December 13, 2009
Click here for the 2010 Three & Out archive
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