SEC Football: The Hot Seat Gets Hotter for Mark Richt and Houston Nutt

Jeremy Hillman@@SECpigskinContributor ISeptember 5, 2011

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13:  Head coach Mark Richt of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Going into the 2011 college football season there were at least two coaches from the SEC on most people's "hot seat" lists.  Hot seat, of course, is referring to the coaches that are the closest to being fired.

Those two coaches are Georgia's Mark Richt and Houston Nutt at Ole Miss.

There were 12 games this past weekend involving SEC programs. The good news for the conference is that Southeastern Conference teams won 10 of those 12 games.

The bad news for Richt and Nutt is that their teams were the only two SEC teams that lost.

Watch this week as fans, media, and administrators of those programs crank up the heat on the proverbial hot seats of these two coaches.

Fair or not, college football is a big business and people in Athens and Oxford want to see the stock going up, not down.

How Did Mark Richt Get on the Hot Seat to Begin With?

Mark Richt came to Georgia as a hot shot coordinator from one of the hottest teams in college football at the time, Florida State. He had coached under FSU legend Bobby Bowden and coached Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Chris Weinke and Charlie Ward.

The Bulldogs hired Richt in 2001, replacing Jim Donnan.  In his first seven seasons, Richt's Bulldogs won two SEC titles and participated in three BCS bowl games.  Georgia won 11 games in 2007 and finished in the top five in the nation. The Georgia faithful were happy with their hire.

However, he is now the most tenured coach in the SEC and is entering his 11th season as head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. In the past three seasons Georgia has slid from that success found in 2007 and  have seen less wins each of the past three years.  Georgia had 10 wins in 2008, eight wins in 2009 and just six wins last season in 2010.

Now Richt and the Bulldogs start 2011 with an 0-1 record, after a loss to Boise State and feelings of frustration are prominent across the Bulldog nation.

There have been some off-the-field issues, such as player arrest and players like Washaun Ealey exiting the program, but the declining loses are the glaring issue at hand.

How Did Houston Nutt Get on the Hot Seat to Begin With?

Houston Nutt was an assistant coach under Jimmie Johnson at Oklahoma State and then went on to be the head coach at Div. 1 AA Murray State where he won the Eddie Robinson Div. 1 AA Coach of the Year award in 1995 and won 11 games in that season and in 1996.

Nutt then went on to be the head coach at Boise State in the Broncos first season as a Div. 1 A program.

From there he was hired as the head coach at Arkansas were he stayed for ten seasons. In those 10 years he won eight or more games six times and took the Razorbacks to eight bowls.

In 2008 Nutt was hired by Ole Miss to take over their program and rebuild from an unsuccessful Ed Orgeron era. The Rebels wanted an experienced coach and consistent winner. They felt like they had that in Houston Nutt.

In 2008 and 2009 Nutt delivered as the Rebels won nine games in back-to-back seasons. The expectations soared in Oxford and they were seemingly pleased with their hire.  

However, last season Ole Miss fell to 4-8 and looked poor at times in doing so. More importantly, the Rebels have also lost to rival Mississippi State the past two seasons and the State program has soared into the top 25 rankings of late.

To make matters worse,  Nutt and the Rebels lost on opening weekend of this 2011 season, a one point loss to BYU at home, and have won just four games in their last 13 attempts. Four wins and a two loss streak to a bitter rival will not put any coach in a good position. 

What Will Happen Now?

For Richt and Georgia, it all comes down to this upcoming Saturday. If the Bulldogs can find a way to beat a tough South Carolina team at home, Mark Richt could save his job by leading Georgia to an SEC East Division title.

If Georgia loses the game against the Gamecocks, the Bulldogs will be 0-2 on the season and have a bleak shot at any championships. That scenario would not be good for Mark Richt and his employment with Georgia.

This truly may be a must win game for Richt on Saturday in Athens.

The time line and urgency isn't quite as bad for Nutt at Ole Miss. For Houston Nutt to keep the hot seat talk at bay, he needs to find a way to get his Rebel program six wins this season and be competitive against Mississippi State in late November.

If Ole Miss fails to make a bowl game and plays poorly against upstart Mississippi State, it could get ugly for Nutt in Oxford.

Who Would Be the Top Targets to Replace Them?

The top potential targets for Georgia if Richt is replaced:

1. Gary Patterson, TCU

2. Kyle Whittingham, Utah

3. Chris Petterson, Boise State

4. Bo Pelini, Nebraska

5. Bill Cowher, ex-NFL coch 

The top potential candidates if Nutt is replaced: 

1. Kirby Smart, Alabama DC

2. Chris Petterson, Boise State

3. Kevin Sumlin, Houston

4. Gus Mahlzahn, Auburn OC

5. Jon Gruden, Analyst 

Stay tuned to see if Mark Richt and Houston Nutt have red hot seats or blow out the flames with victories as the season progresses.


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