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Expectations soar for SEC coaches

If you are a head football coach in the Southeastern Conference, you can pretty much know two things: You will make more money than you ever could have imagined and your time on the job will probably end badly.

The last Auburn head coach to leave on his own terms was Shug Jordan. Doug Barfield was fired. Pat Dye resigned under pressure as the dark clouds of NCAA sanctions gathered. Terry Bowden resigned at midseason ahead of getting fired. Tommy Tuberville resigned after a 5-7 season. Gene Chizik was fired.

Alabama has been through eight coaches in the 30 seasons since Bear Bryant retired.

Four SEC schools will have first-year coaches next season. Nine out of 14 coaches have been in their current jobs for fewer than five seasons. The only SEC coaches with 10 years or more at their current school are Georgia's Mark Richt and Missouri's Gary Pinkel, who has been in the league just one year.

It wasn't always that way. The iconic coaches of the 50's and 60's - Jordan, Bear Bryant, Johnny Vaught, Vince Dooley, Charlie McClendon, etc., put down roots. Disappointing seasons didn't automatically bring calls for them to be fired.

That all changed as television money flooded the league and coaches began to be paid salaries that made them wealthy for life.

All that money has sent expectations soaring. Clearly, only two or three programs in the dog-eat-dog world of the SEC reach those expectations in a given season. The coaches at the schools that don't are quickly under fire. For new coaches, honeymoons are short.

Bowden was gone half a season after falling one point short of the 1997 SEC championship. At Alabama, Mike DuBose won the SEC championship in 1999 and was fired seven games into the 2000 season. Chizik won the national championship and was gone two seasons later.

It's a tough business, one that causes coaches to age rapidly before our eyes. It takes a tough man emotionally and one with immense stamina to make it work over the long haul.

SEC head coaches are more prominent than governors in their states. People are lined up to give them stuff. They live in mansions, drive expensive cars, wear expensive clothes. They have more perks than some Fortune 500 company CEO's.

Keeping all those things depends on their ability to get a team of 100-plus 18-22-year-olds to consistently perform at a high level and to keep those players walking the line off the field.

Those who don't manage that are paid millions of dollars to go away.

Who would have thought it when Auburn and Georgia got together to play a game of football at Atlanta's Piedmont Park in 1892?

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