GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- If the headline for this article immediately raised your blood pressure or has you up in arms about the mere suggestion that Will Muschamp could begin to feel some heat after the 2013 season, take a deep breath, pause for a minute, and then continue reading.
Florida coach Will Muschamp came up just shy of playing for an SEC and national title in Year 2 with the Gators.
Since the SEC expanded in 1992, the first three years at a program for a coach have been a pretty good measuring stick on how that coach will do in the future.
Of the 21 SEC titles won since the league expanded in 1992, only two have been won by a coach who did not play in the SEC Championship Game in his first three seasons as coach -- both by Phillip Fulmer.
There have been 35 coaches since expansion who have failed to reach an SEC title game in their first three years. That number includes five of the league's currently active coaches and Fulmer, who went on to win SEC titles in his fifth and sixth years at Tennessee.
Muschamp is one of those active coaches who hasn't yet hit the three-year mark, meaning he can still place his name among the elite list that either won or reached an SEC Championship Game in the first three years.
Those eight coaches have won a combined 10 national titles.
The bottom line? If you can win an SEC title in your first three years, chances are you're a pretty darn good coach.
But the flip side of that equation is also about what you'd expect.
Of the 25 coaches who didn't leave for another job and are not currently active who didn't play for a title in their first three years, only five went on to play for an SEC title later at their respective schools (Fulmer, David Cutcliffe, Jackie Sherrill, Houston Nutt at Arkansas and Steve Spurrier at South Carolina).
Meaning, if you're not playing for an SEC title in three years, odds aren't very good you'll be able to overcome some of the demanding fanbases in the SEC to last very long.
The average tenure of those 25 coaches who didn't play for a title in three years at their programs is 5.4 years.
Take away the 16-year tenure of Fulmer, the 13-year tenure of Sherrill and the 10-year tenure of Nutt at Arkansas, and the average tenure drops to 4.4 years.
The reasoning is pretty straightforward. Even if you appear to be making progress, by Years 3 and 4 fans start to grow impatient without an SEC Championship Game appearance. Any slip-ups after that are magnified and the likelihood of getting axed grows exponentially.
So where exactly does Muschamp fit on this sliding scale of recent history?
Well, after an 11-1 regular season in 2012, he might not be so bad off. One game away from playing from a national title gives him a favorable comparison to Nick Saban's second year at Alabama.
Saban, you'll recall, went 12-0 in his second year with the Crimson Tide but fell in the SEC Championship Game to Florida. The following year, his team went on to win it all in Year 3.
And looking at the list of coaches who didn't play for an SEC title in their first three years, there's really nobody who put together a second year as strong as Muschamp.
In fact, maybe the closest comparison is Ron Zook's 8-4 regular season, which left the Gators tied atop the SEC East but missing out on the SEC title game due to a tiebreaker. Even then, Zook's team lost two non-conference games to in-state rivals, which undoubtedly amped up the heat considerably following Year 2 -- something Muschamp avoided by winning big in Tallahassee this year.
So what can we make of all this?
Muschamp's in good position to put his name on that elite list of coaches in Year 3.
But, if he doesn't, the margin for error gets slim real fast. Even with a strong Year 3, missing out on an SEC title game won't sit well with fans for long. Any slip-ups after that, and the clock for Muschamp will start ticking faster and faster.
For now, Florida fans can take solace in the fact that if history is any indication, Muschamp's on track to end up on the right side of it.
Below is a complete listing of every coach since expansion in 1992 who has either won a title in his first three years, played for one, or failed to play in one.
WON CONFERENCE TITLE IN THREE YEARS
1. Steve Spurrier
Florida 1991 (Year 2)
Won an SEC title in Years 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 11. Also won a national title in Year 7. Lost in SEC title games in Years 3 and 10. Resigned after Year 12.
2. Gene Stallings
Alabama 1992 (Year 3)
Won an SEC and national title in Year 3. Lost SEC title games in Years 4, 5 and 7. Resigned after Year 7.
3. Mike DuBose
Alabama 1999 (Year 3)
Won an SEC title in Year 3. Fired after Year 4.
4. Nick Saban
LSU 2001 (Year 2)
Won an SEC title in Year 2 and an SEC and national title in Year 4. Resigned after Year 5.
5. Mark Richt
Georgia 2002 (Year 2)
Won SEC titles in Years 2 and 5. Lost in SEC title games in Years 3, 11 and 12. Still the active coach.
6. Urban Meyer
Florida 2006 (Year 2)
Won an SEC and national title in Years 2 and 4. Lost in SEC title game in Year 5. Resigned after Year 6.
7. Les Miles
LSU 2007 (Year 3)
Won an SEC and national title in Year 3. Won an SEC title but lost national title in Year 7. Lost in SEC title game in Year 1. Still the active coach.
8. Nick Saban
Alabama 2009 (Year 3)
Won an SEC and national title in Years 3 and 6. Won a national title in Year 5. Lost in SEC title game in Year 2. Still the active coach.
9. Gene Chizik
Auburn 2010 (Year 2)
Won an SEC and national title in Year 2, fired after Year 4.
PLAYED FOR CONFERENCE TITLE BUT LOST IN THREE YEARS
1. Danny Ford
Arkansas 1995 (Year 3)
Lost in SEC title game in Year 3, fired after Year 5.
2. Tommy Tuberville
Auburn 2000 (Year 2)
Lost SEC title game in Year 2. Won SEC title in Year 6. Resigned in Year 10.
DID NOT PLAY FOR CONFERENCE TITLE IN THREE YEARS
John L. Smith -- Not retained after Year 1.
Robbie Caldwell -- Not retained after Year 1.
Hugh Freeze -- Still the active coach after Year 1.
Lane Kiffin -- Left for another job after Year 1.
Dennis Franchione -- Left for another job after Year 2.
Guy Morris -- Left for another job after Year 2.
Rod Dowhower -- Resigned after Year 2.
Will Muschamp -- Still the active coach after Year 2.
James Franklin -- Still the active coach after Year 2.
Ed Orgeron -- Fired after Year 3.
Joker Phillips -- Fired after Year 3.
Derek Dooley -- Fired after Year 3.
Ron Zook -- Fired after Year 3.
Hal Mumme -- Resigned after Year 4.
Tommy Tuberville (Ole Miss) -- Left for another job after Year 4.
Gerry DiNardo (Vanderbilt) -- Left for another job after Year 4.
Mike Shula -- Fired after Year 4.
Bobby Petrino -- Fired after Year 4.
Curley Hallman -- Fired after Year 4.
Houston Nutt (Ole Miss) -- Fired after Year 4.
Dan Mullen -- Still the active coach after Year 4.
Sylvester Croom -- Resigned after Year 5.
Woody Widenhofer -- Resigned after Year 5.
Jim Donnan -- Fired after Year 5.
Brad Scott -- Fired after Year 5.
Gerry DiNardo (LSU) -- Fired after Year 5.
Lou Holtz -- Resigned after Year 6.
Bill Curry -- Fired after Year 7.
Rich Brooks -- Resigned after Year 7.
David Cutcliffe -- Lost in SEC title game in Year 6, fired after Year 7.
Bobby Johnson -- Resigned after Year 8.
Steve Spurrier (USC) -- Lost in SEC title game in Year 6, still the active coach.
Houston Nutt (Arkansas) -- Lost in SEC title games in Years 5 and 9. Resigned after Year 10.
Jackie Sherrill -- Lost in SEC title game in Year 8, retired after Year 13.
Phillip Fulmer -- Won SEC title in Year 5. Won SEC and national title in Year 6. Lost in SEC title games in Years 9, 11, 12 and 15. Fired after Year 16.
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