John Clay: Bad-boy coaches earn place on SEC's watch list

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJuly 21, 2012 

Tennessee Florida Football

Florida head coach Will Muschamp, right, argues a call with a referee during an NCAA college football game against Tennessee in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)


At the league's football media days this past week, Steve Shaw, the SEC's director of officials, put a certain segment of the population on notice.

"We have great coaches in this league and we don't think there will be anything here for us," Shaw told the assembled. "But I think nationally we've all agreed that any time the coaches' behavior on the sideline is demeaning to the game we have to deal with it. And we will."

Now why in the world would anyone think SEC officials might want to monitor the sideline behavior of the coaches?

OK, so last season there was the post-game, nose-to-nose confrontation between Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, the two men having to be separated — Georgia head coach Mark Richt helped with prying the two apart — after Georgia beat Vanderbilt 33-28 in Nashville.

Objecting to the tone used by Georgia players during the game, Franklin went looking to rant at Richt, only to encounter the hot-tempered Grantham, who entered into an argument with the Vandy head coach himself.

This wasn't Grantham's first bout of sideline controversy, either. In 2010, the Georgia assistant was caught on camera making choking gestures at Chas Henry, as the Florida kicker lined up for a possible 37-yard game-winner in overtime. "You're gonna (bleeping) choke," Grantham yelled. Henry made the kick anyway.

Those cameras are pesky things. Last season, they caught Florida head coach Will Muschamp peppering the officials with profanities during the Gators' 17-6 loss at Auburn when he thought the officials missed Auburn roughing up Florida punt returner Chris Rainey.

"You guys ain't got no guts, man," screamed Muschamp, surely much to the chagrin of the UF English Department. "Throw the flag. Be a (bleeping) man."

The next week, Muschamp uttered a mea culpa of sorts, "I'm just apologizing for the language, nothing else."

Nick Saban issued an apology in 2010 after those pesky television cameras caught the Alabama head coach administering a rather hard slap to the butt of then-backup quarterback AJ McCarron in the fourth quarter of a win over Mississippi State.

"A tap on the butt is a sign of encouragement," Saban said on his radio show. "I was intense, but I was not angry with AJ. He didn't have a problem with it. We were laughing about it the next day."

The cameras also caught Derek Dooley in a post-game celebration after his Vols squeezed out a 27-21 win over Vanderbilt last year, exclaiming, "The one thing that Tennessee always does is kick the (bleep) out of Vandy."

Excuse me, Coach, but you won in overtime.

Then again, if the officials are really going to monitor the coaches' sideline behavior this season, those orange pants might earn Dooley a 15-yard penalty.

In truth, however, the new "monitoring" emphasis is one year too late in one regard. No coach could burn an official's ear like former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, who in some cases would go after the opposing coach.

In his final SEC game, Petrino was seen firing obscenities at Les Miles when he thought the LSU coach was running up the score in a 41-17 Tigers win. Of course, this is the same Petrino who needlessly ran up the score on Kentucky in his first game as Louisville's coach back in 2003. Never mind. When given a taste of his own medicine, Petrino barely shook Miles' hand afterward.

Ah, but Petrino's successor at Arkansas is none other than John L. Smith, the same coach who called his players "girls" after Louisville lost to Kentucky in 1998, who told his team at halftime of a bowl game he was leaving for another job, and who as head coach at Michigan State got into a controversy for a halftime interview in which he angrily said, "The kids are playing their tails off and the coaches are screwing it up."

SEC officials, have those yellow flags ready.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog:

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