Suddenly, the Southeastern Conference has turned into Thunderdome: Two men enter, one man leaves.
Former BA intern Josh Cooper, a reporter in Alabama for the Decatur Daily, is reporting that Alabama head coach Jim Wells has retired, just a week after Florida named a new head coach in Kevin O’Sullivan, and the same day that Tennessee announced the hiring of Todd Raleigh as its new head coach. Alabama has now sent out a press release confirming the coach’s retirement.
“There comes a time in everyone’s career when they have to make decisions on what is best for all concerned,” Wells said in the release.
In 13 seasons at Alabama, Wells coached his teams to a 553-272 record, including trips to the College World Series in 1996, ’97 and ’99. The Tide was national runner-up in 1997, losing to Louisiana State, and Wells was BA’s Coach of the Year. However, Alabama missed regionals in 2001, 2004 and 2007, with a 31-26 record this spring that left the Tide on the outside looking in during the 64-team NCAA tournament.
It’s amazing to think that South Carolina’s Ray Tanner is now the dean of SEC coaches, having been at the same job since the 1997 season. Obviously Mississippi State’s Ron Polk has been around the SEC longer than anyone, but he left Mississippi State for two years in retirement, un-retired to take the Georgia job and then returned to M-State in 2002. Mississippi’s Mike Bianco actually checks in next in SEC seniority with seven seasons with the Rebels.
At least Bianco has some job security–he just signed a contract extension through 2011. But if Wells–whose Crimson Tide lost in a super-regional last year–and Florida’s Pat McMahon can’t stick around (either on their own terms or the school’s), then no SEC job is truly safe.
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