In the increasingly competitive and cut-throat SEC, a comparison to the main players in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather seemed appropriate. Just as the Five Families in New York represented the most successful criminal organizations in the country, so too does the SEC represent the best that collegiate football has to offer.
I’ve changed a couple of these roles around, but the essential message of the comparisons is the same. Behold, I give you SEC coaches and their gangster counterparts.
Vanderbilt’s Bobby Johnson as Don Stracci
Just like Don Stracci, Johnson is the head coach of an organization and they are both largely irrelevant throughout the course of the movie/season. Johnson is visible once a year—when he gives one of the bigger schools a scare—and Stracci shows up to be murdered in an elevator by Peter Clemenza on the morning of the baptism.
Kentucky’s Rich Brooks as Don Tattaglia
Similar to Johnson and Stracci, Brooks and Tattaglia represent largely irrelevant portions of the conference and movie. The Tattaglia family business is prostitution and Kentucky’s brand of football is held with similar regard throughout the SEC.
Auburn’s Gene Chizik as Fredo Corleone
Poor guy. It’s not his fault. What’s he going to do? Turn down the Auburn job to stay at Iowa State? Just like Fredo, Chizik has been tragically set up to fail due to a lack of savvy in his chosen field. It doesn’t make him a bad guy, but it also won’t protect him from hecklers at an airport tarmac, or a murderous fishing partner in Tahoe.
Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen as Enzo the Baker
We don’t know a ton about Mullen other than the success he experienced with Urban Meyer. Just as Enzo helped Michael Corleone bluff down a gang of hoodlums outside Vito’s hospital, Mullen similarly helped Meyer’s offense fend off the malevolent advances of SEC defenses. After his assist to Michael, we didn’t hear from Enzo the Baker again, and there is a good chance that we won’t hear from Mullen again either.
Arkansas’s Bobby Petrino as Carlo Rizzi
Ah, yes. The traitorous brother-in-law to the Corleone family who sets up Sonny’s murder at the tollbooths; Sounds eerily similar to Bobby Petrino’s clandestine flight to meet with Auburn about replacing his former mentor, Tommy Tuberville. Or maybe it more closely resembles Petrino’s betrayal of the Atlanta Falcon’s players and organization as he post-it noted his resignation midseason. Either way, both bear the scarlet letter of betrayal.
Ole Miss’s Houston Nutt as Moe Green
Nutt’s similarity to Green is most evident in the issue surrounding their employment. Green is insulted by Michael Corleone’s attempt to buy out his stake of the Las Vegas business. Green contends that he is the reason for the success in Las Vegas because as he put it, “I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!” But Michael believes that the success is due to the Corleone’s bankrolling of the Las Vegas operations and he asserts himself in the form of a bullet through Green’s glasses. Similarly, there is some dispute over whether the success of Ole Miss is mainly attributed to Nutt’s coaching, or Ed Orgeron’s relentless recruiting directly preceding Nutt.
LSU’s Les Miles as Don Barzini
Les Miles helms a program that is a year or two away from being a no-questions-asked top five program in the country. Just like Barzini, he’s shrewd and prone to chance taking, which may inhibit him as he battles Saban for the west’s #1 position.
Georgia’s Mark Richt as Tom Hagen
Like Hagen, Richt is laid-back, successful, and armed with a quiet confidence. Just as Richt was a refugee from the rotting FSU program, Tom Hagen was a boy from the streets with an eye infection who was rescued by Vito Corleone (don’t ignore the parallels of Richt being hired by Vince Dooley and Tom being saved by Vito. Both rescuers were legends who subsequently slipped into irrelevancy, but that’s a conversation for another day).
South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier as Johnny Fontane
Spurrier closely parallels the character of Johnny Fontane as they both are aging relics of their past success. Both stars shone brightly once upon a time: Spurrier with the Fun ‘N Gun at Florida and Fontane in the music business. Also, both dealt with megalomaniacal authority figures: Spurrier with Daniel Snyder and Fontane with Jack Woltz. They both adorn themselves with self-assured confidence, but they occasionally devolve into whininess. My dream for us this year is to have someone catch this scene on camera:
Spurrier: Oh Coach Saban, I don’t know what to do…
Saban: (Slaps Spurrier in the face) You can act like a man! What’s the matter with you? Is this how you’ve turned out? An NFL finocchio who cries like a woman?”
Alabama’s Nick Saban as Sal Tessio
Saban and Tessio share many traits: experience, street smarts, and ruthlessness. Unfortunately though, they are also failed deceivers. It was Saban 3 years ago when he repeatedly denied interest in the Alabama job….only to leave for the Alabama job. For Tessio, it was his move to hand over Michael to assassination at the hands of Don Barzini after the death of Vito Corleone. Both knew that the move they were making was the smart play, but both failed miserably in successfully executing the action.
Florida’s Urban Meyer as Don Vito Corleone
Though very different in age, Meyer is the coach most befitting Godfather status. Give the man his due: 2 titles in 3 years. He made Utah relevant and he even did business with Bowling Green. BOWLING GREEN, people. And though he is easily (and deservedly so) the most revered coach in the SEC, like Vito, one has to wonder if his grasp on the top spot is becoming a tenuous one. Just as Vito owned an extensive network of politicians and union heads, Meyer has his pick of Floridian football talent. But is his drive burning out? Just as Vito’s downfall is foreshadowed in the murder of legendary hitman Luca Brasi, will Urban Meyer’s fall follow the exit of all-everything QB Tim Tebow?
Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin as Michael Corleone
He’s young, he’s unproven, and he’s taking on a job that most people doubt he is capable of doing. Just as Michael spent time in the marines fighting the Japanese during WWII, Kiffin fought a similarly diabolical force, Al Davis. Both men followed their father’s paths into the business and both benefit from the close advisory roles held by their fathers. Finally, both ollow in the footsteps of legendary men who softened in their older age and both men are not shy about engaging their enemies.