Bad Blood: Top 10 CFB Coaching Feuds
10. Steve Spurrier vs. Nick Saban
“Why Can’t We Be Friends?” is the perfect song to play over a stadium PA system during postgame handshakes. Except when these 10 coach pairings face off. They just don’t like each other.
No. 10 on our list is the first of several pairings featuring the Old Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, who has had a reputation for getting under people’s skin.
For now, his beef with Nick Saban is really just trash talk. Perhaps expressing jealousy over Saban’s two national titles in the last three seasons, Spurrier told ESPN.com in April, “If he wants to be the greatest coach or one of the greatest coaches in college football, to me, he has to go somewhere besides Alabama and win because they’ve always won there at Alabama.”
Saban responded by joking, “I was even going to consider wearing a visor on the sidelines this year. But I was afraid I’d throw it.”
For now, this qualifies as more of a “pre-feud.”
9. Will Muschamp vs. Kevin Sumlin
Muschamp is a budding ball-buster that one of his Florida predecessors, Spurrier, would be proud of.
Sometimes it’s all in good fun, like kidding Florida State counterpart (and good friend) Jimbo Fisher about his age. Other times it can sound like he’s being an agitator, such as when he indicated that receivers coach Aubrey Hill “wanted to get out of Miami” when he left the Hurricanes to join the Gators in April 2011.
His recent dig at Texas A&M, in which he said that a visit to College Station “will be the only time you go,” can be construed as the latter. Sumlin doesn’t know Muschamp personally, so of course he fired back with, “He needs to worry about his own team.”
They’re both relatively young head coaches simply trying to show devotion to the schools that employ them. But it will be interesting to see how these two interact on Sept. 8 in College Station.
8. Steve Spurrier vs. Hugh Freeze
The Old Ball Coach strikes again.
This one is shaping up as a “Welcome to the SEC” hazing of the Rebels’ new coach. When Spurrier was asked if he intentionally put a bye week before the Arkansas game this fall, Spurrier responded with, “You think I make the schedule? If I made the schedule, Georgia’d be playing LSU and we’d be playing Ole Miss.”
Good for Freeze for standing up for himself and already giving his team bulletin board material for their 2013 matchup with the Gamecocks. (For now, Ole Miss’ 1–15 conference record the past two seasons gives Spurrier’s “observation” some weight.)
What could make this even more interesting is how Freeze responds to Spurrier’s assumption that Ole Miss needs to go after Penn State players in order to get competitive. Zing!
7. Bo Pelini vs. Bill Snyder
Who could have beef with Bill Snyder, the now 72-year-old grandpa of college football? Bo Pelini, of course.
At the end of a 2003 Huskers-Wildcats game, Pelini — then Nebraska’s defensive coordinator — chased down Snyder at midfield to chew him out and then lashed out at Snyder to the media following KSU’s 38-9 win, for what he considered running up the score.
It appeared Pelini wanted to start a fight with someone nearly 30 years older than he was. Nebraska and KSU are no longer bitter conference rivals, and both coaches have expressed admiration for one another in recent years.
But it sure seemed like Pelini hadn’t forgotten about the 2003 incident when Nebraska blew the doors off Kansas State in 2010, 48-13.
6. Mark Dantonio vs. Urban Meyer
Dantonio has grittily transformed the Spartans from “Big Ten also-ran” to “annual double-digit winner.” So when a newcomer like Meyer can come in and seemingly pluck the fruits of Dantonio’s labor, there’s sure to be outcry from East Lansing.
Dantonio reportedly initially called Meyer’s signing of Se’Von Pittman, a onetime Spartan recruit, “pretty unethical” in the sense that it would never be something OSU predecessor Jim Tressel would do.
Meyer’s response to Dantonio went for all the other Big Ten coaches questioning his methods: “Try a little harder next time.”
Dantonio said his comments was taken out of context but it sure didn’t feel that way to many. Considering the two haven’t even faced each other as Big Ten opposing coaches, this feud could just be heating up.
5. James Franklin vs. Randy Edsall
Randy Edsall’s tenure at Maryland has not been a good one. He went 2–10 his first season in College Park, which looked even worse in retrospect as he earned $2 million while seven other varsity sports programs just met their demise.
But rather than blame himself, he turns the ire to a former Maryland assistant who isn’t even in his conference anymore.
Before ultimately transferring to Wisconsin, former Terps QB Danny O’Brien was giving Vanderbilt — where his old OC at Maryland, Franklin, is now the head coach — a long look. So Edsall accused Franklin of tampering and initially barred O’Brien from transferring there.
After all, who wouldn’t want to play for a coach that ran a respectable program into the ground in one year? Or maintains petty rules of discipline for all his players, including not wearing hats indoors?
You can bet Franklin thoroughly enjoys every time a Terps fan laments that Edsall is Maryland’s head coach instead of Franklin.
4. Urban Meyer vs. Lane Kiffin
If these two had shared a conference for more than a season, we would be considering them for the No. 1 spot. As it is, we must look back longingly on 2009.
You know, the year that Kiffin blew into Tennessee and proclaimed at his press conference that they’d be “singing Rocky Top all night long after we beat Florida.” The year that Kiffin incorrectly accused Meyer of illegally recruiting Vols signee Nu’Keese Richardson.
After Meyer said Kiffin and the Vols were playing not to be blown out during Florida’s 23–13 win, this had all the makings of a WWE-like rivalry - until Kiffin bolted for USC after just one year in Knoxville.
Now they’re all warm and fuzzy. Kiffin even texted Meyer a message of congratulations when the latter was hired at Ohio State last fall. While they play nice now, you can bet Meyer would still love to throttle Kiffin on the field if given the chance.
3. Bret Bielema vs. Urban Meyer
Wisconsin’s coach was the first one to break out the pitchforks and torches when Meyer’s Frankenstein recruiting monster first popped up in the Big Ten.
Before Dantonio reportedly accused Meyer of “unethical” recruiting behavior, it was Bielema who first cited the conference’s longstanding “gentlemen’s agreement” not to go after recruits who had publicly given commitments to other schools.
“We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC in any way, shape or form,” Bielema said at the time, when he was still stinging from four-star OL Kyle Dodson’s change in destination from Madison to Columbus.
The two met and apparently smoothed things over but you can expect things between Meyer and Bielema will only get worse as Ohio State guns to knock Wisconsin off its perch atop the Big Ten the last two seasons.
2. James Franklin vs. Derek Dooley
Franklin’s attitude since taking over perennial SEC patsy Vanderbilt is that if you want to be one of the big boys, you have to fight like them.
That means not taking kindly to the coach of your in-state rival proclaiming that “the one thing Tennessee always does is kick the (expletive) out of Vandy” (after an OT win no less). That also means attributing criticisms of your recruiting tactics to the jealousies of conference rivals who didn’t qualify for bowl games.
Dooley, for his part, hasn’t responded to Franklin’s potshots. When you’re both overpaid and underachieving, you tend to keep your mouth shut.
1. Steve Spurrier vs. Dabo Swinney
After South Carolina blew out Clemson last fall, Swinney caught word of a quote widely attributed to Spurrier: “We ain’t Alabama, we ain’t LSU, but we ain’t Clemson.” His response, in a video shot for Clemson blog TigerNet.com, is now legendary.
Swinney’s choicest quote: “They ain’t Alabama. They ain’t LSU. And they’re certainly not Clemson. That’s why Carolina’s in Chapel Hill and USC’s in California and the university in this state always has been, always will be Clemson.”
This was a moving rebuttal — to something that Spurrier never said. (The quote came courtesy of South Carolina play-by-play man Todd Ellis.) Of course, Spurrier used this to futher needle Swinney: “Smart people don’t believe everything they read, and they don’t believe hearsay… I guess Dabo believed it.”
Told the quote as misattributed to Spurrier, Swinney still didn’t call off the dogs: “I think I heard today that it supposedly wasn’t said, and that’s great. That’s awful convenient on Thursday.”