Tennessee, Texas and Auburn are three Top 20 jobs. Extended patterns of subpar performance could see all three come available next season.
Mack Brown: Two subpar seasons. Two terrible blowouts to Oklahoma. The defense, expected to be a strength, ranks 113th in yards allowed per play. Messing with Texas has become facile, making a sticky situation for Mack Brown, who can be bought out for just $3.5 million after 2012. This is a young team with talent, enough to turn it around next or even this year, but questions linger about Mack Brown’s fitness to coach them. These are questions that aren’t being asked.
After the Longhorns two worst years in recent memory, Brown received a lucrative extension through 2020. Texas football has become a burnt orange ATM, where on field performance and even prominent rivalries seem to be an afterthought. Jen Engel draws an apt parallel to a prominent NFL team in close proximity. Texas is the nation’s best job. There is no reason this team should not contend for a national title in a given year. The optimal time to bed in a new coach would be 2013. How long does the program remain in stasis to let Mack Brown leave on a high note?
Derek Dooley: Tennessee might be better in 2012, but that is not good enough. Losing to Mississippi State should be crucial, as losses to Alabama and South Carolina the next two weeks should leave the Vols with a 7-5 ceiling and Derek Dooley with a 4-17 record in the SEC. Dooley seems swell and smart, but he is not competing at even a moderate SEC level and shows few signs of progressing the team to that point. Attendance is in decline. Students have become desperate enough to paint reasoned facts on the rock about why he should be fired. It is time for a change.
The problem for Tennessee may be cost for a cash-strapped athletic department. The program would have to buy out Dooley ($5 million) and well-paid assistants such as Sal Suneri (guaranteed a three-year $2.4 million deal to join Dooley’s sinking ship). The school would also need to bring in a new coach. A replacement such as Jon Gruden does not come cheap.
Gene Chizik: Auburn is a bad team exacerbated by bad coaching. They have a 1-5 record. They have not beaten a team in regulation. Their best reasonable scenario may be 3-9 and 0-8 against the SEC. That would be the worst Auburn season since 1952. It would be a degree beyond letdown seasons that saw Terry Bowden and Tommy Tuberville depart. Those coaches had stronger track records before the quick leash.
Auburn signed Chizik to a contract extension after the BCS title, with a $7.5 million buyout after this season. The Tigers have resources but that could make the cost prohibitive. Firing Chizik may require an event that pushes the discussion beyond reason or economics. Cue Alabama. The Tigers gauge themselves against their in-state-rivals. Were an undefeated Alabama to highlight their disparity in the Iron Bowl with an Oklahoma-on-Texas style beat down, that could be the tipping point.
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