Player busts are not the only thing talked about amongst football fans, but coaches as well.
While it is easy to remember the great coaches like Kirby Smart, Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier and Philip Fulmer, it sometimes fades quickly recalling coaches that were arguably a detriment to their program as far as wins and losses go.
The hiring of and poor performance of a head coach can set a program back not just years, but decades in some cases.
Here are some of the biggest head coaching busts in SEC football history
Jennings Whitworth (Alabama) – Mike Shula and Mike Dubose may be two names that come to more recent memory for Alabama fans, but Jennings Whitworth went 4-24 from 1955-1957 as head coach of the Crimson Tide, for a winning percentage of 16.7% during the three-year span.
Earl Brown (Auburn) – Earl Brown’s record during his time as head coach of the Tigers was 3-22. Barfield coached the Tigers from 1948 to 1950. While fans may remember Doug Barfield from the late 1970’s, Barfield’s winning percentage was actually 50% at the school, compared to Brown’s which was 17.2% in the three years he coached. Carl Voyes is another name that may come to mind, but Voyes had a winning percentage of 40%. By far, Brown takes the cake here as being the worst by record.
Chad Morris (Arkansas) – The Razorbacks were clicking on all cylinders before the exit of Bobby Petrino before the start of the 2012 season. And the program has never returned to the same prominence since.
Chad Morris coached the Hogs for two seasons in 2018 and 2019 for a combined record of 4-20 before being fired in 2019. Although the interim taking over for Petrino who was fired only a few months before the regular season, John L. Smith turned a Petrino led Arkansas squad that went a combined 21-5 in 2010 and 2011 into a 4-8 disaster in 2012 which many parallel to Morris despite the one-year tenure.
Tom Lieb (Florida) – More recently, Will Muschamp may come to mind for Florida fans. By record however, the 20-26 record of Lieb in his five years coaching the Gators from 1940-1945 was far worse. While Muschamp’s tenure ended with 4-8 and 7-5 campaigns, he also compiled two winning seasons during his run, including an 11-2 season in 2012. Lieb never even came close.
Johnny Griffith (Georgia) – This one is clear-cut for the Bulldogs. Jonny Griffith coaches the team from 1961-1963 with a winning percentage of just 40%. Besides Griffith, the Bulldogs have not really seen a coach that has even been considered relatively unsuccessful since joining the SEC in 1933.
John Ray (Kentucky) – While a few Wildcat coaches saw abysmal records in at least a few seasons of their tenure, they had a few positive ones as well. The difference with John Ray is while he had the abysmal records, he never had a positive one. Ray’s best season came in 1971 and 1972 with the Wildcats going 3-8 in each of these seasons. This would be Ray’s best marks as the two years prior, they had two wins in each.
So while Joker Phillips may be a name of more recent memory for Wildcat fans, Phillips at least went 5-7 and 6-7 in his first two seasons in Lexington. Ray was far from it.
Curley Hallman (LSU) – Hallman went a combined 16-28 with a winning percentage of 36%. Gerry Dinardo would follow Hallman from 1995-1999, but would have a 10-win campaign during his tenure- something Hallman never came close to.
Sylvester Croom (Mississippi State) – Sylvester Croom is a name many remember. Although Croom coached the Bulldogs to an 8-5 record in 2007, that would be his only winning season. Croom’s overall winning percentage was 36% during his five year stint as head coach of the Bulldogs.
Wade Walker coached The Bulldogs from 1956-1961 and went 22-32. Walker is a name less familiar to Bulldog fans due to the era being so long ago, but also worth noting.
Barry Odom, Frank Carideo, (Missouri) – Barry Odom was not a horrible coach, but Missouri has also been a member of the SEC since 2012, so their list of head coaches since joining the conference is short.
And you are sure not going to name Eli Drinkwitz or legendary Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel as worse than Odom whose best record was 8-5 during his four year tenure.
Dating back to the days before the SEC, Frank Carideo was a coach that had some difficult times while at the throne in Columbia. During his three years as head coach from 1932-1934, Carideo went a combined 2-23. The Tigers were a member of the Big six conference at the time.
Ed Orgeron (Ole Miss) – While Ed Orgeron is known as a players coach, and one of the best offensive line coaches in the country, the former Ole miss head coach went 10-25 in his three seasons in Oxford from 2005-2007. This was only good enough for a 28% win percentage, which had Orgeron quickly ousted.
A name less recent and close second would be Steve Sloan who coached the Rebels from five years from 1978-1982. Sloan’s best record was in his first season a 5-7. With the team never reaching the .500 mark, Sloan’s overall record while in Oxford was 20-24.
Brad Scott (South Carolina) – The Gamecocks fell on mediocre times recently under Will Muschamp from 2016-2020 before Muschamp’s firing following a 2-8 season in his fifth at the school. However, Muschamp did have a 9-4 campaign in his second year, so he is not the worst.
That goes to Brad Scott who coached the Gamecocks from 1994-1998. Scott’s best record came in his first year when the Gamecocks went 7-5. His overall record was 23-32 during the five year span, while Muschamp’s was a little better at 28-30.
Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) – Coming into the conference in 2012, the list of Aggies head coaches who have coached a game at the school is short: Kevin Sumlin and Jimbo Fisher. Many comparisons have been drawn between the two as Sumlin had virtually the same record at the school as Fisher, yet Sumlin was fired and Fisher held onto and paid even more.
By these guidelines and Fisher continuing to make the Aggies seemingly worse over time, the edge would have to go to fisher on this one as far as the biggest bust for the Aggies during their time in the SEC. Fisher went a combined 45-25 at the school which was only good enough for a 64% winning percentage.
This expectation fell way short of the salary Fisher was given and he would be ousted at the conclusion of the 2023 season, but not without a massive buyout.
Derek Dooley (Tennessee) – Butch Jones, Jeremy Pruitt and Derek Dooley would be three more recent names that Volunteer fans and SEC country would easily throw together as the trio that had them falling on hard times for a few decades. Recruiting violations, poor recruiting and performance on the field has led to a debacle since the departure of Phillip Fulmer in the early 2000’s.
With Pruitt having an 8-5 season and Jones having two 9-4 seasons, Dooley would take the cake on this one. In three years, Dooley went a combined 15-21 and failed to have a winning season.
Watson Brown (Vanderbilt) – Current coach Clark Lea is a combined 9-27 in three years and has yet to have a winning season. Although his tenure has not yet and the jury is still out, it isn’t for many who already view Lea as a bust heading into his fourth season .
Is he the biggest however? Historically by record at the school, the answer is actually no. Lea has actually compiled a 5-7 season at a school that does not boast much for impressive records on the football field. And this was a feat that previous coaches Watson Brown and Jack Green failed to achieve.
Brown coached the Commodores from 1986-1990. His best season was 4-7, and he also had three 1-10 campaigns. Brown’s overall record during his five years in Nashville was 10-45. Brown’s winning percentage was 18%.
Jack Green coached the Commodores from 1963-1966 and was not much better than Brown with a combined record of 7-29 with a 22% winning percentage.
Some of these coaches were in the midst of an already difficult period for these schools, while some were the start of the downfall. And yes, these names are typically much less recognizable than the successful ones. And for good reason.