For a while there, I was getting very, very bored with SEC football. The late November games were thrilling and gut-wrenching, and the SEC Championship game was certainly memorable, but the SEC's December did not have its usual thrills.
The thrills about which I write are, of course, the inevitable high-profile hirings and firings of our coaches. Seemingly every December over the past several seasons have seen all SEC football fans wondering "what is [SCHOOL] going to do with [BAD COACH]?" "Who is [ATHLETIC DIRECTOR] now meeting? Where is his plane?" "How does [SCHOOL] expect to replace [RETIRED GUY]?"
But this December was different. Nobody was getting fired. Nobody was getting hired. Nobody was retiring and nothing scandalous was occurring. And, to boot, the Big XII, a conference with which our dearest SEC has been in a virtual arms race over the past few years, was really getting shit going. First Mark Mangino gets fired for mocking the murdered, re-injuring the injured, and pissing in the cribs of orphans. Then, Mike Leach made a whiny brat (yeah, I called you that, Craig James' kid) sit in a shed for being a prick and, as a result, saw his character assassinated by ESPN's narrative manufacturing machine.
And where were we Southeasterners? Oh, just practicing for our bowls, coaching up our kids, getting excited for the holidays and the new year, nothing too strange.
And then Urban Meyer ups and quits. Just like that. On the spot. One minute you're watching the Meinike Car Care Bowl, and the next minute a possibly paradigm-shifting bomb of reality dropped dead center into your living room.
"Is this some kind of ploy?" "How does this really affect the SEC?" "Does Urban Meyer have cancer?"
Don't lie. You all thought that.
And then, a day later, he's just taking a leave of absence. Just a little coaching hiccup, is all. He'll be back in no time, barring nothing earth-shattering occurs. The drama was fun while it lasted, teasing us and reigniting mental images of FOIA requests, free Augusta National memberships, and Jimmy Sexton continuing to stuff his already obese pockets with more of everybody's cash.
Oh, but Rich Brooks retires!.... Which, isn't all that surprising and, with Joker Phillips having been named Kentucky's head coach in-waiting, robbed all of the drama and excitement of coaching speculation from us.
(Some would include here something about Willie Martinez losing his job. To them I say "go visit Dawg Sports and chat about it there because, really, the rest of us don't care that much. Kthx.")
Bobby Petrino was staying put, Houston Nutt wasn't flirting (post Kansas), Spurrier's seat wasn't all that hot, and the SEC was, in-general, having a very down year, dramatically speaking.
And then, kaboom, Lane Kiffin and the Orgeron Circus pack up and leave Tennessee in the most sudden coaching move since, at the very least, Bobby Petrino fled the seemingly dying Atlanta Falcons two seasons ago. Sure, Pete Carroll to the Seahawks was a bit odd, but not terribly surprising--the NCAA looks poised to rain down hard on the Trojans' athletic programs and Carroll seemed to be losing his Midas touch. Jim Leavitt's firing was somewhat unfortunate, but not at all shocking or even that memorable. And Tuberville to Texas Tech was more bizarre than anything.
But this--with the sudden nature of the change, the downright bastardly tactics employed by Coach O to keep his precious 'croots with him, the scorn felt by the Volunteer faithful, the apparent disrespect Kiffin and company had for Tennessee's (and, vicariously, the SEC's) traditions, and the downright stupidity of the hire--is the most fantastically dramatic, confounding, and batshit insane coaching change college football has seen in a very, very long time.
It's truly incredible. The very same coach and staff which brought so much excitement to the conference during last off-season has, overnight, multiplied the excitement ten-fold and sent the fun that is the Lane Kiffin show back West. A coaching staff with a 7-6 record in the NCAA--no, this does not include Ed Orgeron's three botched abortions he performed in Oxford nor does it include Lane's poor work in Oakland--is now coaching the greatest program of the last ten years. And Tennessee, a program noteworthy for coaches like General Neyland, Johnny Majors, and Philip Fulmer, is left behind by a young coach after only one year. USC looks downright dumb, Kiffin and Orgeron look downright evil, and Tennessee comes out of this one somehow smelling like a rose.
Now we have gotten our controversy! Now we have gotten our justification for bizarre and paranoid speculation as to the future of our football programs! Now we have gotten our much-needed off-season fark material! Now, the SEC is back to form.
So, just as with the last couple of football seasons, during which the Southeastern Conference was presumed to be "down," slowing against the emerging Pac 10 or Big XII, only to roll-up the postseason sleeves and put the argument to rest; our conference has once again showed that, despite the best efforts of those against which we compete, the Southeast still does this college football thing better than anybody else. We are the champions once again, whether that be of the BCS variety, or of the "lacking in both predictability and mental health" variety.
What's that? You wanna..? Really? Alright, I'll lead off!
S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!
PS - I do realize that, without the Pac 10, none of this is possible.
PPS - I am certain that there are perhaps some minor issues of chronology here. Don't be nitpicky and miss the point of this. Thanks.