Originally written December 07, 2012 on Fox Sports South:
Some call it a sirens song. Others would call it a black hole. SEC coaching has become a bit of both depending on your perspective. If you are a fan, the jobs offered at college footballs top conference are the pinnacle of the sport: A place where a good football man can gain wealth and status that would make the Sun King blush.But if you are on the outside looking in, the conference can seem like a dense vortex where everything enters but nothing ever escapes. Recent news out of region only bolsters both claims. Nobody thought Bret Bielema would leave Wisconsin, especially after making his third consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl. The Big Ten was once the conference every great coach aspired to land. Now, its a training ground for 4-8 SEC programs. There was also the ten-gallon-sized blow to the solar plexus once-mighty Texas felt when the Longhorns lost their hand-picked head-coach-in-waiting (Will Muschamp) to an SEC school. So, who has voluntarily left the SEC ranks lately? Lane Kiffin dumped Tennessee after a year for USC, a move many Trojans fans regret and one that solidified Kiffins reputation as a flake. Urban Meyer hung up the whistle after two national championships and a series of panic attacks that had him fearing for his life. Then, like so many men of outsized egos, Meyer put his health and family aside to take on the reclamation of Ohio State. Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban both went away for awhile, but after toiling in the NFL wilderness, they found their way home. Spurrier just received another two-year extension at South Carolina, a deal that will keep him in Columbia until 2017 if he so chooses. That contract is reportedly worth 3.3 million a year, and by the time it runs its course, the Head Ball Coach will be 72 years old. Saban makes 5.62 million a year and is under contract at Alabama until 2020 when he will be 69. And it isnt just the money that keeps these guys from roaming. They are Southern Royalty, gentrified by their station. As someone joked on the sidelines of the SEC Championship game, if Nick Saban said he thought the governor of Alabama should be impeached, the Honorable Dr. Robert Bentley would be gone by Monday. It was only funny because it was so close to the truth. Even coordinators have a hard time leaving. Alabamas Kirby Smart has been like Scarlet OHara teasing suitors on the steps of Tara, while Todd Grantham at Georgia has been rumored to be taking several head jobs. To date, both appear to be staying put. Some keep the conference at arms length. Mike Gundy, Charlie Strong and Larry Fedora turned down the Tennessee job before the Vols settled on Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones. Chris Petersen and Gary Patterson get mentioned every time there is an opening, but neither has made the move. But others, like Auburns new head coach Gul Malzahn, dont hesitate to leave their homes and programs like Arkansas State where they have made commitments. Granted not every job is a great one. The pressure to succeed is overwhelming and often unrealistic. Just look at the criticism Mark Richt is getting after being one tipped pass away from playing for the BCS National Championship. But as former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden told me over a cup of coffee, Thats why you get in this business, to coach in the Swamp and Death Valley and Bryant-Denny and be a part of that kind of environment, that kind of atmosphere. And once you get a taste of it, the addiction takes hold. Its why so few leave until they are booted out the door, and why so many clamor to get the call when an opening becomes available.
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