P aul Finebaum answered a few questions about the state of football programs at the University of Alabama, Auburn University, the Louisiana State University, the University of Florida and the University of Tennessee. Finebaum believes Alabama stands alone in college football, that Auburn is better off under Coach Gene Chizik than it was during the final days of Tommy Tuberville, that LSU remains an important program under Les Miles, that Florida is “going nowhere” under Will Muschamp and that Tennessee football is a “train wreck.”
Here is the Q&A with Finebaum about the state of these SEC football programs relative to where they were four years ago.
Q: Is Alabama football better off today than four years ago?
Finebaum: “Yes, and maybe better off than it has ever been. That is a sacrilegious statement to make, and I only covered Coach Bryant’s last two years, but I really don’t know if Alabama has ever been more important in football.
“I may read this in a couple of days or weeks and wonder why I said what I just got through saying. Even Alabama in the mid-60s had other peers. I think Notre Dame was on the same level, Penn State, Texas and depending on the year, maybe Oklahoma. Alabama always had major competitors.
“I think, right now, Alabama is really standing alone in college football. If you say what is the most important program it is Alabama. If you say who is the most important coach it is Nick Saban. It is not like there is a debate. Even back then, as great as Coach Bryant was and I make no bones he was the greatest coach in college football history, but there were other people in the conversation, Ara Parseghian in the 60s, Bob Devaney, at other points Joe Paterno. Is there anyone else in the conversation right now? The answer is no.”
Q: Is Auburn football better off today than four years ago?
Finebaum: “I’d say Auburn is in better shape. Auburn four years ago was hemorrhaging. It had a paper tiger as a leader; it had someone who had checked out three or four years earlier. I think (Gene) Chizik is respected by a lot of people. There is reason to debate whether he will be overly successful, but I don’t think there is any debating the program is in better shape today than it was under Tuberville.”
Q: What about the some other SEC teams is LSU football better off today than four years ago?
Finebaum: “I think so, but I don’t think that is an easy answer to make. I think four years ago, they were in a transitional stage coming off a national championship and you really didn’t know where they were going. I think LSU is still a very prominent program under Les Miles as hard as it may be to believe. I think they are better off, yes.”
Q: Is Florida football better off today than four years ago?
Finebaum: “No, Florida is woefully worse off. Four years ago, Urban Meyer pretty much had the most important program in the country going, and now I don’t think Florida is going anywhere under Will Muschamp.”
Q: What about Tennessee?
Finebaum: “Tennessee is a train wreck. I hear from various people at Tennessee all the time, and I don’t think anyone believes Derek Dooley has a clue and I don’t think anyone believes Derek Dooley will be there in a year.”
This is part of our Q&A series with Paul Finebaum. You can read other installments including Finebaum’s thoughts on the decline of reporting and how many reporters get their leads from message boards like Tider Insider.