The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

October 17, 2012

For some SEC teams, coaching seat heating up

— The Southeastern Conference could be getting another makeover.

This one would have nothing to do with expansion.

The league that has won six consecutive national championships has more coaches on the proverbial "hot seat" than in any recent year, with potential openings at Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee. The Razorbacks are seemingly in disarray, while the Tigers, Wildcats and Volunteers have had all sorts of on-field problems.

With the season a little past the halfway point, talk about possible replacements is more rampant than speculation about the upcoming recruiting class or even basketball season. Well, not at Kentucky.

Still, all that conjecture can make a long season feel like it's never going to end.

"There can be outside distractions whether you're doing great or whether you're doing not as well as you certainly would like to be doing," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "The great thing about college football is everybody's got an opinion. It's the greatest sport on the planet, and part of what makes it so great in this part of the country is that everybody does have an opinion.

"When you get into this, if you're not strong enough to handle that, then you're in the wrong business — both as a player and as a coach."

The way things have unfolded at Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee, it could be gut-check time for all four coaches and their assistants.

The Razorbacks fired coach Bobby Petrino in April for hiring his mistress to a position in the athletic department and initially lying about her presence during a motorcycle accident. Athletic director Jeff Long then hired former Michigan State and Louisville head coach John L. Smith to a 10-month contract.

Arkansas (3-4, 2-2 SEC) went 1-4 in September, including home losses to Louisiana-Monroe and Rutgers. Making matters worse for Smith, he mistakenly referred to Arkansas as Alabama during a speech and told reporters to smile two days after a 52-0 loss to the top-ranked Crimson Tide. Smith also is making headlines for his $40.7 million bankruptcy.

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