By Mike McCall
HOOVER, Ala.--Mississippi State's Dan Mullen (still feels weird to type that) and Kentucky's Rich Brooks have joined the fast-growing list of SEC coaches hoping to be spared the wrath of Tim Tebow.
The search for the guy who didn't vote Tebow to the All-SEC first team isn't really that big of a deal, of course, but this is a story that will likely keep intensifying until Lane Kiffin closes out SEC Media Days on Friday. The process of elimination is pretty fun.
Mullen and Brooks, along with Arkansas' Bobby Petrino and Vandy's Bobby Johnson, have removed themselves from the list of suspects. Petrino said, "I'm not crazy," Johnson added, "I don’t know if y’all are going to find that culprit that didn’t vote for him, but you can tell [Tebow] it wasn’t me," Mullen got a little choked up while praising his former player, and Brooks gave a similar response to Johnson.
Here's my breakdown of the remaining seven candidates, minus Urban Meyer (coaches couldn't vote for their own players).
Nick Saban, Alabama—Maybe he’s still upset about losing the SEC title. Or maybe he really likes Mississippi’s Jevan Snead. But as much as people hate Saban, I don’t see it. He’s high-profile and has shown Tebow plenty of love in the past, and he doesn’t really have anything to gain by doing it. And he’s a good evaluator of talent. And I don’t think he’s stupid.
Mark Richt, Georgia—Richt and Tebow are cut from the same cloth, and regardless of his hate for the Gators or Meyer’s timeout-calling, he isn’t the type to take that out on Tebow.
Houston Nutt, Ole Miss—Nutt was the early favorite since he has the conference’s second-best quarterback, but since he couldn’t vote for Snead, it probably wasn’t him. If it was, it means he voted for a third party and views Tebow as the conference’s third-best quarterback. Nic Harris would be proud.
Gene Chizik, Auburn—Chizik played at UF, but he’s a new guy, and he’s fighting an uphill battle in trying to win over a fan base that just waved goodbye to Tommy Tuberville. For this reason, I’m taking Chizik as the dark horse to upset you-know-who. He’d be loved by Tigers fans for it, and he can deflect some criticism by saying he hasn’t coached against Tebow.
Les Miles, LSU—Miles recruited Tebow, and by all accounts, they got along well, so I don’t think it was him. I’d put him and Saban on the same level of likelihood.
Of course, this whole witch hunt is based on us assuming that these coaches won’t do what most of them are very good at: lying in public.
So we may never get an answer, and if that happens, Kiffin is probably going to take the blame.