VOL. 132 | NO. 243 | Friday, December 8, 2017
The Press Box
Latest SEC Football Rankings: 1. Sexton. 2. Saban.
By Don Wade
Fourteen schools play football in the SEC. Six of them, or 42.9 percent, now have a different man coaching their football team than they had at the start of the season.
That’s a lot of turnover. It suggests coaching in the SEC is often a battle against personal extinction.
Now one of those moves, it should be noted, was Dan Mullen stepping up from Mississippi State to Florida. Also consider this: Of the eight coaches who finished the season at the same school, 25 percent of them are in this season’s College Football Playoff.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart and Alabama coach Nick Saban, neither of whom were ever any danger of losing their positions, now conceivably could meet in the national championship game – Protégé vs. Mentor.
But the most relevant coaching statistic in the SEC is this one: 11 of the current 14 coaches are clients of agent Jimmy Sexton. That’s 78.6 percent. A quarterback running the West Coast offense should have so high a completion percentage.
Jimmy Sexton is to college football coaching clients what Scott Boras is to MLB clients.
And to those poor athletic directors and college presidents who must negotiate with Sexton, he must feel like a triple-threat: omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.
Sexton’s SEC head coaching client list: Saban; Smart; Mullen; Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, whom he just got a fat new contract at Auburn via the threat of jumping to Arkansas; Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, whom he just got a fat new contract to leave Florida State; South Carolina’s Will Muschamp; Kentucky’s Mark Stoops; and Missouri’s Barry Odom.
Plus other new league hires at Ole Miss (Matt Luke), at Arkansas (Chad Morris), and at Tennessee (Jeremy Pruitt).
Meaning, only LSU’s Ed Orgeron, new MSU coach Joe Moorhead and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason are not in the Sexton coaching stable.
Sexton has so many clients that even guys that lost jobs were his, too. He had fallen star Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss and Luke turned the interim gig into a full-time job as other coaches kept their distance from the coming NCAA sanctions.
Butch Jones, fired at UT, was a Sexton client. So was Jim McElwain at Florida. And maybe even that shark.
Of course, University of Memphis coach Mike Norvell is a Sexton client as well. He just re-upped for five years and at least $13 million. Norvell’s name was linked most strongly to Arkansas, but also briefly to UT and Ole Miss.
All indications are none of those situations got serious, that Norvell – for whatever reasons – was never close to leaving.
His call? Sexton’s advice? Other factors?
One wonders because Sexton has so many clients one can imagine him standing over a huge magnetic board of the United States and moving the pieces – the coaches – from one school to another as he sips a favorite vintage and tries to calculate the commissions in his head.
Forbes, as of September of this year, put his commission for 2017 at $26.8 million. That included his work representing NFL clients, but not his more recent chess-piece maneuvering of college football coaches.
Saban wins the most SEC games and might even be a primary reason so many coaches get fired. But when that damage is done, we all know who is ready and waiting to help a school start fresh with a new coach and a new contract.
Jimmy Sexton, 100 percent.
Don Wade’s column appears in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.