The head coaching carousel as far as SEC football goes is all but over for the 2023 college football season. Speculation went wild over several potential openings at Arkansas, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Some were speculated to be open because of firings, and some because of movement from school-to-school by current head coaches. The only two that came to fruition were Texas A&M and Mississippi State.
So, all head coaches are safe, right? Wrong; they appear to only be safe heading into the 2024 season. Job security can be as short or as long as a coach makes it. Take former Mississippi State head coach Zach Arnett for example. Arnett didn’t even survive an entire first season before being fired with a few weeks remaining in 2023.
Here are coaches that are on the hot seat at their respective schools entering the 2024 season:
Which SEC football head coaches are on the hot seat entering 2024?
Sam Pittman (Arkansas) – Pittman is entering his fifth year in Fayetteville with a winning percentage of 48%, which is the lowest in the SEC for a coach that’s been at his school four or more years. Much speculation was made towards the end of the 2023 season whether or not Pittman would be retained. Arkansas Athletic Director, Hunter Yurachek, announced that Pittman would be retained for the 2024 season before the Arkansas/Missouri contest. Missouri trounced the Hogs 48-14 with the Hogs showing a transparent lack of discipline on the field. In Pittman’s post-game press conference, he was asked how he goes about building up the program moving forward after the abysmal defeat. His response was simply that “he didn’t know,” and asked for the next question. On Lockedon Razorbacks on YouTube, host John Nabors goes into how this is very concerning to Hogs fans and leaves many in the fan base quite upset with the apparent lack of optimism from Pittman on the state of the program. While Pittman’s seat is scorching hot, it simmered some as the team brought back former head coach Bobby Petrino as its offensive coordinator. Before his controversial firing from the Hogs as head coach in 2012, Petrino had the Hogs clicking as a team going a combined 21-5 in his final two seasons with an arsenal of offensive weapons. We will see if the Petrino/Pittman connection can right the ship in Fayetteville. If Pittman has anything less than an eight-win season, he could easily be on the outs in Fayetteville.
Clark Lea (Vanderbilt) – Clark Lea enters his third season as head coach of the Commodores with a disappointing third year in which the team went 2-10 for the second time in Lea’s three-year tenure. The first 2-10 record came in Lea’s first season, which made it more understandable as he looked to be building something going 5-7 in his second season. This was the first time the Commodores had won five or more games since the 2018 season. Lea however plummeted back to 2-10 in 2023 prompting him to fire his offensive coordinator and announcing that he’ll take over play-calling duties on the defensive side of the ball from current defensive coordinator Nick Howell, which all but serves as a demotion for Howell. This changing of the guard signifies that Lea is squarely on the hot seat, which isn’t surprising. The former Vanderbilt linebacker better right the ship quickly in 2024, or the team won’t hesitate to get rid of him. And his off-season isn’t off to a good start as quarterbacks AJ Swann and Ken Seals entered the transfer portal. Former Vanderbilt quarterback Mike Wright entered the portal in 2022 before transferring to Mississippi State as well.
Billy Napier (Florida) – Billy Napier enters his third season as head coach of the Florida Gators with mild speculation that he needed a bowl-eligible season in 2023 just to retain his job then. Well, the Gators finished 5-7 and aren’t bowl-eligible, but Napier retained his job for 2024 at least. Napier did manager to beat the rival Tennessee Volunteers this season in Gainesville which was his first win against a top 25 program at home with the school. The Gators lost some close contests in 2023, but close doesn’t cut it in SEC football as all fans will remember is the five-game losing streak the team had to end the season. Napier is bringing in some strong recruiting classes as according to On3’s recruiting services, the Gators ranked 16th in 2023 and sit at fourth currently for 2024. Napier went 40-12 at Louisiana University in the Sun Belt before taking the job with the Gators, so the gator nation is holding out hope he’ll replicate the same. While Napier went 11-3 at his second season with the Ragin Cajuns and didn’t replicate that in Gainesville, his third season was 10-1, so there’s hope.
Shane Beamer (South Carolina) – At the start of 2023 much optimism surrounded the South Carolina Gamecocks program and head coach Shane Beamer, son of the legendary Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer. Surprisingly, Beamer had his worst season yet in Columbia after the team saw improvement from Beamer’s first year in 2021 at 7-6 to 8-5 in 2022. This past year, the Gamecocks digressed to 5-7. And that was with returning quarterback Spencer Rattler who threw for over 3,000 yards in 2022 and 3,186 in 2023. The offensive line was a huge issue this year for the Gamecocks however amongst other areas. So, Beamer will need to be hot on the recruiting trail and transfer portal if he wants to keep the heat off of his back for 2024. The team currently sits at 19th in the 2024 recruitment rankings.
Things can change at the drop of a dime in SEC football. With the NFL season not yet concluded, this process could accelerate into 2023, or stay put as currently anticipated. If it does stay put, these are names to watch for that are essentially in make-or-break situations to retain their jobs.