The only coach of the four who took the podium who can be completely confident he’ll be back next year is first-year LSU coach Les Miles.
On the other end of the spectrum is Kentucky coach Rich Brooks. He opened his comments by saying, “Last day guys, it’s winding down,” and it was unclear if he was talking about the event or his tenure in Lexington.
Brooks, who is heading into his 21st season as a collegiate head coach, has a career winning percentage of .436 in college. He was hired by the Wildcats after an unsuccessful two-year stint in the NFL and a six-year hiatus from coaching and has three years left on a five-year deal that pays him $750,000 annually.
In his two seasons, Kentucky is 6-17 overall and 2-14 in the conference, so he wasn’t surprised when the subject of his job security came up. In fact, he was shocked, he said, that he fielded nine questions before he was asked about it.
“Everywhere else I’ve been, that’s been the first question in the door,” he said. “Job security is a tenuous thing in athletics these days, particularly in the SEC. I can’t control job security. All I can control is the direction we’re headed and the plan and path we’re taking to get Kentucky out of probation.”
Even Alabama coach Mike Shula, who is in his third season after taking over another scandal-ridden program, has embraced his shaky status. Earlier this year, Shula was given a one-year contract extension through 2009, but he was not given a raise from his $900,000 a year salary.
“When I took this job, my name was on the hot seat list. That’s how I look at it,” said Shula, the former Crimson Tide quarterback. “I don’t worry about that. If I do, then I’m not worrying about what I need to be concentrating on. What’s fair and not fair? All I know is when you win, people probably are going to say good things about you and your football team. When you lose, they probably are not going to say good things about you and your football team.”
Shula was 4-9 in his first year and 6-6 last year. He is 5-11 overall in the SEC.
That record is paltry compared to the one posted by Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, who is 53-33 in seven years with the Razorbacks. Arkansas is 29-27 in the SEC under Nutt and made an appearance in the SEC title game in 2002.
It’s hard to believe Nutt could be anywhere near this list, but Arkansas is on the verge of having just its third back-to-back losing seasons since 1944. The Razorbacks were 5-6 last year and failed to go to a bowl game after six straight trips.
They have seven offensive and nine defensive starters returning, but they will have to replace quarterback Matt Jones, who was Mr. Everything on offense.
Nutt understands how close he might be to looking for work despite his track record of success and a contract that is scheduled to pay him $1.4 million through 2010.
“That’s the nature of our business,” he said. “No one puts more pressure on me than I do on myself.”