Interim success: Some temp coaches get results

Friday, November 17, 2017, Vol. 41, No. 46

As Tennessee’s interim head coach following the dismissal of Butch Jones, Brady Hoke is entrusted with the task of making the best of a bad situation.

With only two games remaining on the Vols’ schedule, Hoke doesn’t have time to put his own stamp on the program. Instead, he’ll try to hold things together while using the system Jones installed in games against LSU and Vanderbilt.

The best-case scenario for Hoke is that UT wins those two games and qualifies for a lower-tier bowl. Even with a fast finish, there is little reason to believe that Hoke will be viewed as a possible full-time successor to Jones.

Being an interim or acting head coach often is a thankless job. Some are better at it than others. Here is a list of the top five interim or acting head coaches in the SEC over the last quarter century with their schools, the seasons and their records:

Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee, 1992, 3-0

When John Majors underwent heart bypass surgery during preseason practice, Fulmer was the obvious choice to fill in. Fulmer had been on the staff for 13 years and had worked his way up to offensive coordinator. The Vols quickly went 3-0, including victories over Georgia and Florida.

Majors returned to work the morning after the win against the Gators. It was a move that divided the coaching staff and the fan base. After two more victories, UT lost three straight games and Majors was informed of his ouster, effective at the end of the regular season.

It turned out that Fulmer’s performance as acting head coach served as preparation for his elevation to head coach, a role he assumed for the bowl game. Including his 3-0 record as acting head coach, he compiled a 152-52-1 record at UT and won the 1998 national championship.

Ed Orgeron, LSU, 2016, 6-2

Les Miles already was on thin ice at LSU before a poor start in 2016 led to his firing, with Orgeron taking over on an interim basis. Orgeron already had experience in the role. He was head coach at Ole Miss in 2005-07. In 2013, he was interim coach at Southern Cal after Lane Kiffin was fired during the season. He went 6-2 at USC that season.

Orgeron duplicated that 6-2 record after taking over at LSU. When Jimbo Fisher made it clear that he was not leaving Florida State for LSU, university officials settled on Orgeron as the head coach. His Tigers are 7-3 this season.

Matt Luke, Ole Miss, 2017, 5-5

Talk about making the best of a bad situation. Luke took over after the dismissal of Hugh Freeze amid scandalous accusations prior to this season. After a 2-0 start, the Rebels lost five of six games but rebounded with victories over Kentucky and Louisiana to get back to .500.

Luke has managed to hold things together despite the fact that Ole Miss is not eligible for a bowl game due to self-imposed sanctions. Who knows? If the Rebels beat rival Mississippi State in their finale, Luke might get strong consideration for the job on a full-time basis.

Joe Kines, Arkansas, 1992, 3-6-1; Alabama, 2005, 0-1

After losing the ’92 opener to The Citadel, Jack Crowe was fired by Arkansas athletics director Frank Broyles. The keys were handed to Kines, a decorated defensive coordinator. He managed to win three SEC games, which was no small feat given the situation.

Kines also served as interim head coach for the Independence Bowl game when Mike Shula was ousted at Alabama in 2005.

Jim Chaney, Tennessee, 2012, 1-0

A number of coaches have stepped in between the end of the regular season and a bowl game but Chaney had the unenviable task of taking over when Derek Dooley was fired at Tennessee with one game remaining in the 2012 season.

Chaney did just fine. The Vols closed the season with a 31-17 victory against Kentucky. Beyond that, Chaney deported himself well by handling the duties of the head coach on Senior Day.

– David Climer