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Survival of the SEC Coaching Hot Seat: Win, Baby, Win


SEC coaching hot seat; Florida coach Billy Napier looks at the scoreboard during the second half against Arkansas at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.
© Matt Pendleton/USA TODAY NETWORK

The best way to extinguish the sparks that could set a coach’s seat ablaze is to win ball games. Just win baby! Some seats burn hotter and longer than others but eventually, many are engulfed in raging infernos, resulting in coaches being shown the door with money bags slung over their shoulders. In the Southeastern Conference, three such coaches have failed to win consistently and have diligent firemen standing by, firehose at the ready to douse the flames of underachievement.

 



No. 3: Sam Pittman, Arkansas Razorbacks

Pittman received a vote of confidence from his boss, Athletic Director Hunter Yuracheck, and was retained after a dreadful 2023 season that saw the Razorbacks win just one SEC game and post an overall 4-8 record. Going into his fifth season in Fayetteville, Ark., Pittman has posted a 23-25 record (.479 winning percentage) with two winning seasons since he was hired away from Georgia in December 2019.



Pittman’s best season at the helm was in 2021 when the Razorbacks finished 9-4 with a 24-10 victory over Penn State in the Outback Bowl. After losing quarterback KJ Jefferson, running back Rocket Sanders and other key personnel to the transfer portal at the end of last season, Pittman’s office is a smoke-filled room. And, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.



No. 2: Billy Napier, Florida Gators

Napier is going into his third season in Gainesville, and the Gators have been all but skinned under his watch. Under Napier, Florida has two losing seasons in the books, despite QB Graham Mertz leading the SEC in completion percentage. Napier’s record with the Gators is 11-14 (a .440 winning percentage) and has won only three conference games in each of his two seasons.



Florida has been the whipping boy for both Arkansas and, believe it or not, Vanderbilt. However, Napier has had some recruiting success. He landed the signature of the No. 1 high school quarterback in the country in five-star phenom DJ Lagway from Willis, Texas. According to 247Sports, Lagway was the No. 3 overall prospect and No. 1 in Texas in the 2024 recruiting cycle. Whether Lagway sees any action this season is anyone’s guess.


The patience of the school administration and the fan base is wearing so thin, that onlookers can see through it. They ran Dan Mullen out of town after one losing season and a 34-15 overall record. The first time Napier’s Gators get turned to a pair of alligator-skinned shoes and a matching handbag Napier will be seen strapped into the fastest airboat on his way out of “The Swamp” with waterboy Bobby Boucher at the controls.



No. 1: Clark Lea, Vanderbilt Commodores

Lea has coached the Commodores to Mariana Trench-like depths of mediocrity since 2021, after being hired away from the bluest blue blood program, Notre Dame. With the weight of a ship’s anchor around the team’s neck, Lea has led Vanderbilt to a dismal 9-27 record (a .250 winning percentage). In three seasons in Nashville, Tenn., Lea has led the Commodores to only two SEC wins.



To break the anchor chains of gridiron despair, Vandy Clark hired Tim Beck and Jerry Kill from New Mexico State. Kill was head coach and Beck was the offensive coordinator for the Aggies and led NMSU to a 10-win season and a berth in the 2023 Conference USA Championship Game. Beck is the OC for the Commodores and Kill will serve as chief consultant to the head coach and senior offensive advisor.


In addition, rumor has it that former New Mexico State QB Diego Pavia hit the transfer portal and will follow Beck and Kill to Music City. Pavia is the reigning Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year. That kind of talent can breathe new life into any dying football program, even Vanderbilt. Is Kill a head coach-in-waiting? We shall see.


There you have it. Three coaches on the SEC coaching hot seat who need to produce and produce big in 2024. If not, they will be shown the door and depending on contract language will be paid millions of dollars to turn in their whistle and clipboard and told “We will take it from here, coach.”

 



 

 

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