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1st and Five: Top SEC Single Season Coaching Failures this Decade

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Okay, you asked for it, you got it. After linking the thread about the top 11 worst coaching stints in CFB last week, most of you homers still wanted to talk about the SEC and SINGLE seasons. Never one to not capitalize on a good opportunity, (nor a good crisis) I present to you my list of the worst five single-season coaching disasters in the Southeastern Conference this decade (and century). And because coming up with 10 might be nit-picking gnat sheet out of pepper, I present it in the1st and Five format, so it is easily and quickly digested by all. And to be clear, to have a coaching failure, there must have been some scintilla of expectations present. Otherwise, we get back to that whole does a tree falling in the woods alone make a sound conundrum.

 

5) Mike Shula, Alabama, 2006, 6-7:  Not everybody thought that the Tide would 'be back' for long under Shula, Sports Illustrated covers the year before aside. Alabama wasn't even ranked in the pre-season top 25 AP poll, despite coming off an impressive 10-2 season in 2005 where the Tide went undefeated their first nine games before tanking the last two conference games against LSU and Auburn. But the Capstone had hope, and this was to be the sink or swim time for Shula--either continue the winning or continue on his journey somewhere else. Also at stake was to break the spell against Auburn for Shula's first win against the Tigers since his playing days. Didn't happen. He lost his last three regular season games and his proxy, Joe Kines, lost the bowl game. End of the line for Shula at Alabama, as his firing lead to the susequent biggest manhunt in US coaching history.

4) Nick Saban, Alabama, 2007, 7-6: Okay, I swear I won't load this list up with Alabama coaches, but you have to believe that the aforementioned largest manhunt in US coaching history would come with some expectations, right? You simply don't double-down on a coaching salary and not think that good things are going to happen. They sold out the spring game. How can you not get up for the regular season? Actually, Saban didn't start out that bad. He won the first three games and six out of the first eight.  It was the dropping of the last four regular season games that turned the season sour, including getting Croomed by Miss State, losing to Auburn for a sixth finger and the devastating loss to Louisiana-Mundane. After handing Saban the keys to the Crimson Kool-Aid Kingdom, many Tide fans were thinking about calling a locksmith.

3) Tommy Tuberville, Auburn, 2008, 5-7: Okay, the universe is balanced again now that we throw an Auburn coach to the wolves. And don't think he doesn't deserve it. Tubs had been averaging almost nine and a half wins this decade and had been coming up short with a return trip to Atlanta by only a hair. Auburn was a pre-season top 10 and expectations were very high with new OC Tony Franklin's new Spread Eagle offense. After all, it seemed to work in the Chick Fil A Bowl, right? Never mind that an offense so radical had never worked at Auburn, and wouldn't work that season, either. Tubs threw Franklin under the bus and eventually got thrown under himself, by either Jacobs, Lowder, himself, or all of the above. Even after having his fingers severed by Alabama in the Iron Bowl, Tuberville could have weathered the storm, but never got the chance--again, by reasons still unclear. Perhaps the biggest disappointmnet of the whole season was under-estimating Auburn fans' ability and desire to regroup around their coach.

2) Urban Meyer, Florida, 2007, 9-4: It seems a little strange to have on this list a coach with two BCS crowns in the last three years, but you have to take a closer look at the mystery meat sandwiched in between those MNC slices of bread. After going 13-1 in 2006 to win it all, Florida started 2007 ranked #6, looking for the first repeat of a BCS championship.  A mid-season streak of two losses in a row to Auburn and LSU, coupled with a rare loss to Georgia, ensured that the Gators would not only sit home from the big dance, but from the SEC championship as well. And all of this was compounded by the fact that they were playing with the best player in all the land--Tim Tebow. Expectations were astronomical, but Meyer tanked it, punctuated by the lackluster loss to Michigan in the Cap One Bowl. Judging on how he rebounded from this season though, it almost seems worth it.

1) Phil Fulmer, Tennessee, 2005, 5-6: Starting the pre-season ranked #3 and looking to have their first SEC title since 1998, Tennessee was also looking to be the first BCS crown repeat customer.  The wheels came flying off Fulmer's Purina chuck wagon somewhere in the middle of the schedule and it wasn't too long before Vols fans were in open revolt. After a close loss to Florida early in the season, Fulmer and company bounced back with a gutsy overtime win in Baton Rouge. After another conference win, they proceeded to lose four in a row, including a beatdown in South Bend and a devastating loss to Vanderbilt for the first time in 23 years--in Neyland, no less. Fulmer kept his job, probably under the condition that this never happen again, again.