Mike Price, Lane Kiffin & the shortest SEC football coaching tenures of the modern era – AL.com

Lane Kiffin spent just one season as head coach at Tennessee before leaving to take the USC job. He later returned to the SEC as offensive coordinator at Alabama and is now head coach at Ole Miss. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)ASSOCIATED PRESS
If Bryan Harsin fails to make it through his second season as Auburn’s head football coach, he’d add his name to a dubious list.
Since World War II, only 17 SEC football coaches have lasted less than three full seasons. They left their jobs for a variety of reasons — some were fired, some took other jobs, some resigned due to health. (We’re using World War II as a cutoff here, because coaches were much more itinerant during and before the war).
RELATED: Alabama’s 10 biggest SEC blowout victories since World War II
Here are the shortest coaching tenures in SEC football history, ranked by number of games coached. Where Harsin might fall on this list — or if he will at all — will be decided in the next several weeks.
(NOTE: This list does not include interim coaches, those that coached either a partial season or a full season. So you won’t find Joe Kines, Joe Lee Dunn, John L. Smith or Bill Oliver, among others, here).
Joe Moorhead went 14-12 in two seasons as head coach at Mississippi State. He was fired at the end of the 2019 season. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP photo)AP
17. Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State, 2018-19 (26 games)
Much like Harsin at Auburn, Moorhead’s hiring seemed curious even at the time. Moorhead was a successful offensive coordinator at Penn State, but was a Northeasterner who had never coached or recruited in the Deep South. His first Mississippi State team went 8-5, but things fell apart at the end of his second season amid player discipline problems. Beating Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl bought Moorhead some time, and he told reporters the following day “You’ll have to drag my Yankee ass out of here.” Moorhead was in fact fired after the Bulldogs lost to Louisville in the Music City Bowl, ending his two-year tenure with a 14-12 record. He’s now in his first season as head coach at Akron.
16. Billy Kinard, Ole Miss, 1971-73 (25 games)
Legendary Rebels coach John Vaught retired after suffering a heart attack during the 1970 season, and former Ole Miss All-American Frank “Bruiser” Kinard was tapped as his successor as athletics director. Kinard hired his younger brother Billy, also a one-time Rebels star, to become head football coach. The 36-year-old Kinard led Ole Miss to a 10-2 record and a Peach Bowl victory in his first season, but the Rebels slipped to 5-5 in 1972. After Ole Miss lost two of its first three games in 1973, the school fired Billy Kinard, reassigned Bruiser Kinard to a different department and lured Vaught out of retirement to finish the season. Billy Kinard latched on the next year as an assistant with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, and later coached one season on the small-college level at Gardner-Webb.
Dennis Franchione went 17-8 in two seasons at Alabama, but had the gall to leave the Crimson Tide for Texas A&M at the end of the 2002 season. (Press-Register file photo by Chip English)
15. Dennis Franchione, Alabama, 2001-02 (25 games)
Franchione claimed he didn’t know it, but he took over an Alabama program that was on the verge of being hit with crippling NCAA sanctions. The former TCU head coach went 7-5 (including a 31-7 win in the Iron Bowl) in his first season, then led a bowl-ineligible Alabama team to a 10-3 mark in Year 2. Franchione seemingly had one foot out the door early on in his tenure, and left shortly after the 2002 season finale at Hawaii for Texas A&M. That move not only earned him permanent derision among Alabama fans, but didn’t turn out well on the field either. The Aggies went just 32-28 in his five seasons, and he was fired in late 2007.
14. Steve Sloan, Vanderbilt, 1973-74 (23 games)
Sloan, a star Alabama quarterback in the mid-1960s, was just 29 years old when he was hired to lead the Commodores after one season each as offensive coordinator at Florida State and Georgia Tech. Vanderbilt improved from 3-8 to 5-6 in Sloan’s first season, then jumped to 7-3-2 with a Peach Bowl berth — the Commodores’ first postseason game since 1955 — in his second year. That drew the attention of Texas Tech, whom he rewarded with three straight winning seasons and a 23-12 overall record. Sloan then moved on to less-successful tenures at Ole Miss and Duke, and was later athletics director at Alabama and several other schools.
Guy Morriss coached two seasons at Kentucky before taking an ill-advised leap to Baylor in 2003. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Allsport)Getty Images
13. Guy Morriss, Kentucky, 2001-02 (23 games)
Like Franchione, Morriss took over a program about to get hammered by the NCAA for violations that occurred during Hal Mumme’s tenure. Morriss, a longtime NFL lineman and Kentucky’s offensive line coach under Mumme, was named interim coach in 2001 and posted a 2-9 record. Elevated to permanent head coach the following year, the Wildcats finished 7-5 (memorably losing on the final play to LSU in a game dubbed the “Bluegrass Miracle”) but were ineligible for the postseason. A Texas native and TCU graduate, Morriss left Kentucky for Baylor prior to the 2003 season. He went just 18-40 with the Bears, never winning more than five games in any of his five seasons.
12. Rod Dowhower, Vanderbilt, 1995-96 (22 games)
Dowhower hadn’t coached in college in 15 years when he took over the Commodores, having gone 5-5-1 as Bill Walsh’s replacement at Stanford in 1979 before heading back to the NFL. Along with several assistant coaching jobs, he spent two brutal years as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, going 5-24 before getting fired 13 games into the 1986 season. He seemed like a strange fit at Vanderbilt from the beginning, and went just 4-18 (with only one SEC win) in two seasons before he resigned under pressure. He was replaced by defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer, who wasn’t much more successful in five seasons on the job.
Chad Morris is one of the few coaches in SEC history who was fired after fewer than two complete seasons. He was let go late in the 2019 season after winning just four of 22 games. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)Getty Images
11. Chad Morris, Arkansas, 2018-19 (22 games)
Morris had a solid enough resume when he was hired by the Razorbacks, having been offensive coordinator at Clemson and reasonably successful in three seasons as head coach at SMU. Arkansas had made a run at Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, an Arkansas native and like Morris a coach who made his entrée to the college game after making his name on the high school level. Morris’ first Arkansas team went 2-10 and 0-8 in the SEC, losing its last two games to Mississippi State and Missouri by a combined score of 90-6. A home loss to San Jose State in the fourth game of Year 2 was the beginning of the end, and Morris was fired after a loss to Western Kentucky dropped the Razorbacks to 2-8. Morris became the rare modern-era SEC coach to not even get two complete seasons on the job.
10. Harvey Robinson, Tennessee, 1953-54 (21 games)
Robinson had the great misfortune of replacing a legend, as he stepped in when Robert Neyland retired for health reasons after winning 173 games and four national championships in 21 seasons. The Volunteers went 6-4-1 in Robinson’s debut season, then 4-6 in Year 2. That was enough for the powers that be in Knoxville to fire Robinson and replace him with former Tennessee star Bowden Wyatt, who left Arkansas to return to his alma mater. Robinson spent the next five seasons as an assistant at Florida before returning to Tennessee and working as Wyatt’s backfield coach, the same position he’d held under Neyland.
Best known for his 20-year tenure at Texas, Darrell Royal got his first college head-coaching job at Mississippi State in 1954. (AP Photo)AP
9. Darrell Royal, Mississippi State, 1954-55 (20 games)
Royal became so synonymous with Texas that many don’t realize he got his first college head-coaching job in Starkville after spending one year in the CFL. Royal’s Maroons (as they were then known) posted back-to-back 6-4 records before he left to take over at Washington. In doing so, he was the last Mississippi State head football coach to leave for another job until Dan Mullen headed to Florida more than 60 years later. Royal lasted just one year at Washington (going 5-5) before he was on the move again, this time for Texas, where he spent 20 seasons as Longhorns head coach and won three national championships and 11 Southwest Conference titles.
8. Raymond Wolf, Tulane, 1952-53 (20 games)
Wolf was in the middle of a highly successful tenure at North Carolina when World War II broke out, and he coached the legendary 1942 Georgia Navy Pre-Flight team (which went 7-1-1 and beat both Auburn and Alabama) before landing at Florida as head coach and athletics director following the war. He was fired after four poor seasons and landed a job as line coach at Tulane (which was then a member of the SEC) in 1950. Green Wave head coach Henry Frnka resigned suddenly at the end of the 1951 season, and Wolf was elevated to the head position. Tulane went 5-5 in Wolf’s first season, but followed that up with a 1-8-1 mark in 1953. He resigned the following spring to take an administrative job at TCU, his alma mater.
Before becoming an institution at Minnesota, Murray Warmath, left, spent the 1952 and 1953 seasons as head coach at Mississippi State. (Birmingham News file)
7. Murray Warmath, Mississippi State, 1952-53 (19 games)
Say this for Mississippi State — they did a good job of identifying up-and-coming coaches in the 1950s. Warmath had been a respected line coach at Tennessee and Army before being hired to his first head-coaching job with the Maroons. Mississippi State went 5-4 and 5-2-3 before Warmath was on the move to Minnesota, where he became an institution. In 18 seasons, his Golden Gophers won 87 games, a pair of Big Ten titles and a national championship in 1960 (that might not sound like much, but Minnesota hasn’t won even a conference title since he left). Mississippi State replaced him with Royal, who also stayed only two years before heading to Washington and later Texas.
6. Lane Kiffin, Tennessee, 2009 (13 games)
If the Volunteers were looking for a culture change after 16-plus (mostly successful) years of Phillip Fulmer, they certainly got it when they hired Kiffin, who’d been fired two months earlier from his job as head coach of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. Just 33 years old and even more brash than he is now, Kiffin immediately began psychological warfare against Urban Meyer’s burgeoning Florida dynasty, accusing the Gators of NCAA violations (incorrectly, as it turns out). Kiffin landed a Top 10 national recruiting class, and his team wasn’t bad on the field either, going 7-6 with three losses by four or fewer points (including a memorable 12-10 defeat to eventual national champion Alabama). Ten days after a loss to Virginia Tech in the Peach Bowl, Kiffin pulled off one of the more shocking moves in SEC history, leaving Tennessee following just one season to replace former boss Pete Carroll at USC. He returned to the SEC first as offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2014 and later as head coach at Ole Miss in 2020, and remains Public Enemy No. 1 in Knoxville.
Robbie Caldwell's raucous appearance at SEC Media Days 2010 was arguably the most memorable part of his one season as Vanderbilt head coach. He resigned at the end of the season and is now offensive line coach at Clemson. (Birmingham News file photo by Mark Almond)BN
5. Robbie Caldwell, Vanderbilt, 2010 (12 games)
Caldwell might be the most fondly-remembered one-year coach in SEC football history, but not for anything his team did on the field. He was an anonymous offensive line coach for eight seasons with the Commodores before head man Bobby Johnson resigned suddenly in mid-July 2010. That pushed Caldwell into the interim head coach slot mere days before SEC Media Days. Caldwell was a riot at the podium in Hoover, telling borderline NSFW stories about his pre-football background, including a memorable turn as a turkey inseminator. Three weeks later, Vanderbilt took the interim tag off Caldwell and made him the “permanent” head coach (quotation marks intentional). On the field, the Commodores went 2-10 overall, 1-7 in the SEC. After seven straight losses to end the season (none of them particularly close), Caldwell resigned. For the last 11 years, he’s been a mostly anonymous offensive line coach at Clemson.
4. Jim McDonald, Tennessee, 1963 (10 games)
Bowden Wyatt enjoyed initial success as Volunteers head coach, but the program slipped into mediocrity in the early 1960s and he was fired after posting a 4-6 record in 1962. McDonald, a former Ohio State star and Wyatt’s long-time assistant coach, was elevated into the head position. Tennessee went 5-5 in 1963, including shutout losses to Alabama and Ole Miss. That was enough to force McDonald out after just one season, and he was kicked upstairs to an assistant athletics director role. He was replaced as coach by Arkansas assistant Doug Dickey, who won a pair of SEC championship in six seasons before leaving for Florida, his alma mater (Dickey later returned for a long tenure as the Volunteers’ AD).
Red Drew, shown here in 1952 as head coach at Alabama, spent the 1946 season as head coach at Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide hired him after that season to replace Frank Thomas, for whom he'd worked 12 seasons as an assistant prior to his one year with the Rebels. (Alabama Media Group file photo by Yeatman King)
3. Red Drew, Ole Miss, 1946 (9 games)
Following a four-year stint in the Navy during World War II, Drew returned in 1945 to his job as an assistant coach at Alabama, where he’d worked for Frank Thomas since 1931. Ole Miss hired him away to be head coach in 1946, and the Rebels posted a 2-7 record — including a shutout loss to archrival Mississippi State in the season finale — under his tutelage. Thomas resigned as Crimson Tide coach after that season for health reasons, but remained on as athletics director. He brought his old assistant back as head coach, and Drew put mostly solid teams on the field in Tuscaloosa for the next eight years, winning an SEC title in 1953. The Rebels didn’t exactly miss him, however, as Ole Miss elevated assistant coach John Vaught into the head-coaching position. Vaught became a legend in Oxford, winning 190 games and three national championships in 24 seasons.
2. Bo Rein, LSU, 1980 (0 games)
Rein was one of the rising stars in the college football coaching ranks before he became one of the sport’s tragic figures. A standout in both baseball and football at Ohio State, he joined former Buckeyes assistant coach Lou Holtz on the staff at William & Mary (and later at North Carolina State) before landing his first head-coaching job at N.C. State in 1976 when Holtz left for Arkansas. Rein led the Wolfpack to 27 victories and a pair of bowl wins in four years before he was hired at LSU, which had forced out longtime coach Charlie McClendon following the 1979 season. Rein had been on the job in Baton Rouge less than two months when he took a recruiting trip to Shreveport via private plane in early January 1980. On the return flight, the aircraft apparently lost cabin pressure, causing Rein and the pilot, Louis Benscotter, to lose consciousness. The plane veered off course and eventually crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing both occupants, neither of whose bodies were ever recovered. Rein was 34 years old. Left scrambling for a replacement, LSU hired former Tigers football star and longtime McClendon assistant Jerry Stovall as head coach. He went 22-21-2 in four seasons before he was fired at the end of the 1983 season.
Mike Price, shown here with Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle during spring practice in 2003, was fired for off-field behavior before he'd ever coached a game. (Mark Weber/Birmingham Post-Herald)ph
1. Mike Price, Alabama, 2003 (0 games)
Unlike Rein, Price’s demise was entirely of his own making. Left in the lurch by Dennis Franchione following the 2002 season and facing major NCAA sanctions, Alabama pursued several coaches before settling on Price, who was coming off a Pac-10 co-championship and Rose Bowl berth at Washington State. The folksy, 56-year-old Price clearly wasn’t ready for the fish bowl he’d be facing as Alabama’s head coach. In April 2003, reports began to surface on internet message boards and talk radio of Price’s behavior at a charity golf tournament in Pensacola, Fla. It was eventually revealed that Price had visited a topless bar at least once during that week, and one of the dancers had apparently wound up in his hotel room and charged hundreds of dollars in room-service items to his account. Stories of Price’s socializing with students at campus-area bars in Tuscaloosa also came to light amid a university investigation, leading school president Robert Witt to fire him before he’d ever coached a game. Forced to make a coaching hire in May, Alabama tapped longtime NFL assistant (and former Crimson Tide quarterback) Mike Shula as Price’s replacement. Shula went 26-23 in four seasons before he was fired and replaced by Nick Saban in early 2007. Price sat out the 2003 season, but was hired the next year at UTEP. He had a reasonably successful nine-year tenure with the Miners, including 8-4 records and bowl bids his first two seasons. He later came out of retirement to serve as UTEP’s interim coach for the final seven games of the 2017 season.
Creg Stephenson is a sports writer for AL.com. He has covered college football for a variety of publications since 1994. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @CregStephenson.
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