Tommy Hicks: What if we threw all the coaches into different arenas?
Let’s have a little “what if” fun today. Let’s take the 14 head football coaches in the SEC and reassign them to other schools within the league.
Who should go where? What would be the best fit, or better yet, the craziest fit? What could that coach do at a new address and what impact would he have on that program?
Maybe it would be best just to throw the names in one hat, draw from that group, then drop the names of the schools in another hat and draw from that and see who winds up where. But that’s too easy.
Let’s try it another way … simply assigning a coach a new SEC school.
Now, there are those who believe anywhere Nick Saban shows up, that school will be better off. After all, he is widely considered the best college coach in the country right now and it would take a pretty strong argument to suggest he doesn’t deserve the title.
But there are a few others in the league who would be in the Top 10, certainly in the Top 25 nationally, so the shifts could be advantageous to other schools as well.
We’ll try to put the right guy in the right place, or at least in the most interesting place, and see how this little experiment goes.
Keep an open mind, and remember, this is just for fun while we await the start of the college football season. Also keep in mind, there are some coaching matchups that just fit — Matt Luke at Ole Miss, Ed Orgeron at LSU, Kirby Smart at Georgia — and it takes some doing to see them elsewhere in the league. But still we press on, looking for other possibilities.
There are also a couple of matchups here that seem natural as well. You’ll see them when they roll around. And while there are a few coaches on this list who haven’t even had a chance to coach their current teams for a game, we’re not going to let that get in the way of a good game of coaching musical chairs.
Here we go …
Alabama’s Nick Saban to … Vanderbilt. OK, we’re not talking ability to pay his salary, his interest in the job or things of that nature. Let’s take the best college football coach in the country and place him at a school that traditionally hasn’t had a lot of success and see how he changes the program. This would be one of the greatest coaching experiments ever.
Arkansas’ Chad Morris to … Texas A&M. He knows the state, has the right type of offense that would work there and would actually be a good fit in a lot of ways.
Auburn’s Gus Malzahn to … Arkansas. A natural fit, and one that, if rumors are true, was a possibility following the end of last season until Auburn officials stepped up with a big new contract. This one was a no-brainer.
LSU’s Ed Orgeron to … Tennessee. Man, oh, man, just give this some thought for a moment. The Red Bull king in the Land of Orange. The Vols have done crazy at this position in the past (see Butch Jones) but just to see Orgeron decked out in bright orange, hyped up in front of all those fans at Neyland Stadium is worth the price of admission. Otherwise, a bad fit, but we’re not dealing with reality at the moment.
Ole Miss’ Matt Luke to … Kentucky. OK, so it’s hard to picture Luke anywhere but Ole Miss based on his deep ties to the school, but in this exercise he has to go somewhere in the league and Lexington might be a good fit with his energy level and what he could bring there.
Mississippi State’s Joe Moorhead to … South Carolina. He is a proven recruiter, he likes challenges and this would put him back on the East Coast, so to speak. This just feels like a strong fit. He has a strong personality and has good credentials as a coach. This would be an interesting matchup.
Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher to … LSU. Again, another no-brainer. Fisher’s name has been dropped here before, his personality and his past history in Baton Rouge make this the right matchup. And how many LSU fans wish this was actually real? Exactly.
Florida’s Dan Mullen to … Georgia. Like his current gig at Florida, Mullen gets an opportunity to proven himself on a bigger stage and with a bigger program. Georgia is fast becoming Quarterback U and he would fit perfectly into that situation. The Dawgs don’t want to lose Smart, but this move would be interesting.
Georgia’s Kirby Smart to … Alabama. Again, a no-brainer. He knows the school, knows The Process, and Alabama officials would make him happy financially. Of all the coaches in the league, if Alabama can’t have Saban, this is who they would most want in charge of the football program, a member of the Saban coaching tree.
Kentucky’s Mark Stoops to … Missouri. In truth, is six of one, half a dozen of the other, with Stoops entering a similar situation, but that would be something of a comfort zone and Mizzou is one of the places where his personality and abilities could thrive. Not a bad matchup actually.
Missouri’s Barry Odon to … Florida. Work with me here. Odom led a big turnaround at the end of last season and with the right ingredients, which he would have at Florida, there’s no telling the success he could enjoy. This is an intriguing match-up.
South Carolina’s Will Muschamp to … Ole Miss. This seems a good fit too. The fiery Muschamp would be a crowd favorite among the Grove contingent. His personality, especially at this time, might be exactly what the Rebels need. This is not a bad combination at all.
Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt to … Auburn. Maybe it’s time for a defensive coach to be the head man on the Plains. The defense has been strong in recent seasons and historically and Pruitt might provide the right touch. This is not a bad matchup when one gives it some thought.
Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason to … Mississippi State. OK, so there’s only one option left at this point but the combination could work. Mason has strong defensive coaching skills and that would fit in Starkville. He also has the type of personality that would be a plus at MSU. Give him some players — and MSU has a lot of players this season — and let’s see what he could do.
Tommy Hicks, a Phenix City native, has covered sports in Alabama for more than 40 years. Contact him at