Our inaugural ranking of the SEC’s most obnoxious fans was presented in 2008, and much has changed over 24 months. Mississippi State has switched coaches. Auburn has switched coaches. (Then again, when doesn’t Auburn switch coaches?) Tennessee has switched coaches twice. Kentucky’s coach quit. Vanderbilt’s coach just quit. Florida’s coach quit and un-quit.
Amid such flux, it’s only fair that our rankings don’t remain static. Indeed, I’m proud — actually, I’m not sure if “proud” is the proper word — to note that our new rankings are completely different. Not one of the 12 positions has gone unchanged, which says … well, I don’t know what it says. But there we are.
A note: I asked for your input the other day, and I have taken your thoughts under the deepest advisement. Indeed, the results of our little poll are included herein. But I must stress that these are my rankings, and I’m a neutral. (Full disclosure: I’m a graduate of Kentucky, which hopes one day to start a football program.)
Oh, and I probably should mention that I attended my first SEC game in 1969, covered my first SEC game in 1976 and have seen a game at every SEC stadium. Meaning: I might be an idiot, but I’m a well-traveled idiot.
And with that, I hereby unveil the 2010 rankings of the SEC’s most obnoxious fans. In honor of our previous champion, fans of the new title-holder are required by executive order to wear jean shorts for the next two years.
12. Tennessee (No. 7 in 2008, No. 4 in 2010 AJC.com poll): Purely a sympathy vote. The formerly Big Orange has seen itself massively devalued from within. It has a lousy AD who hired the brat Lane Kiffin, and now this program is in a world of hurt. (In a display of bravery, the lousy AD just canceled a series with North Carolina) Put simply, I feel sorry for Tennessee fans. They deserve better than ham-handed Mike Hamilton.
11. Vanderbilt (No. 10 in 2008, No. 10 in 2010 AJC.com poll): It’s never a good sign when a coach quits a month before summer camp convenes, but that’s what Bobby Johnson did. He did it because he was tired of losing. Johnson is a fine football man who stands as Vandy’s best coach in the past quarter-century. He went 12-52 in league play. Imagine having to watch that every season, world without end.
10. Kentucky (No. 11 in 2008, No. 11 in 2010 AJC.com poll): Big Blue football rooters didn’t do anything obnoxious these past two seasons. Big Blue rooters save the obnoxious behavior for basketball, a sport for which they have no peers regarding exess. They’ve only moved up — or down, depending on your point of view — to No. 10 because I happened to feel really sorry for Tennessee and Vandy.
9. Mississippi State (No. 12 in 2008, No. 12 in 2010 AJC.com poll): Backers of the maroon Bulldog believe Dan Mullen can win more than his share of games. If so, it would only trigger the scariest words in the English language: More cowbell!
8. Ole Miss (No. 9 in 2008, No. 9 in 2010 AJC.com poll): I can handle Rebel fans most years, but occasionally they’ll get all geeked up and start sounding like Georgia or South Carolina folks. (“This is finally our year! This time for sure!”) For the Rebels, last season was such a time. Naturally, they went 4-4 in SEC play, including an egg-on-the-face loss to Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. And now coach Houston Nutt, who’s nutty, has allowed quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to walk on despite having been kicked off the Oregon squad and having pleaded guilty in separate incidents. Nutt has promised “zero tolerance” regarding Masoli. Me, I anticipate more egg on the Ole Miss face.
7. South Carolina (No. 6 in 2008, No. 7 in 2010 AJC.com poll): I keep thinking the Gamecocks are going to be really good this year. I also keep wondering what will happen with their fans — who have thought the Gamecocks are going to be really good every year since ‘92 (and I mean 1892) — are finally proved right.
6. LSU (No. 8 in 2008, No. 5 in 2010 AJC.com poll): Here’s where you and I disagree the most. I’ve always considered a trip to Tiger Stadium a treat. Then again, I don’t sit in the stands, an experience I’ve been led to believe is most challenging. But I will tell you this: The best scripted moment in all of college football is when the Golden Band from Tigerland and the Golden Girls conduct their pregame march to midfield. Beats Ohio State’s “Script Ohio” six ways to Saturday.
5. Alabama (No. 4 in 2008, No. 3 in 2010 AJC.com poll): Being old enough to have seen Alabama under the Bear, I dreaded the thought of the Tide rising again to eminence. In the ’70s and ’80s, there were no worse fans. (Except maybe Kentucky basketball fans, and even then it was a coin flip.) But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the relative moderation that has accompanied Bama’s latest national championship. Maybe this has to do with Nick Saban, who never crows and is never satisfied. Whatever the case, I offer this relatively benign ranking as a thank-you.
4. Georgia (No. 3 in 2008, No. 2 in 2010 AJC.com poll): If it’s possible to have sympathy for folks who take pride in trashing their own campus, I have some sympathy for Dawg-lovers. Because I think every Georgia road game this autumn is going to be off the hook. I think this because of Damon Evans and red panties.
3. Arkansas (No. 5 in 2008, No. 7 in 2010 AJC.com poll): It wasn’t enough that Hog fans ran off Houston Nutt and welcomed Bobby Petrino as a conquering hero, not the sinking-ship-deserting rat he was. But now apparently you have to pass a loyalty test to work for an Arkansas radio station. (Reporter Renee Gork was fired after wearing a Florida hat to a press conference; being Petrino, he noticed and objected.) And Hog fans reacted as if her dismissal was a good thing. Where’s Edward R. Murrow when you need him?
2. Florida (No. 1 in 2008, No. 1 in 2010 AJC.com poll): I know, I know. It takes effort not to put the hated Gators — and they’re hated in every SEC outpost, not just Athens, Ga. — at the top of anything involving the word “obnoxious.” But I have to confess: I never understood why everybody hated Tim Tebow. He was a really good player who seemed like a really good guy. If he played for Georgia or Alabama, would those fans have not similarly lionized him? But if you’re asking me to defend jorts … well, that line I will not cross.
1. Auburn (No. 2 in 2008, No. 6 in 2010 AJC.com poll): Because Tiger fans still worship at the tainted feet of Pat Dye. Because they run off coaches on a whim. Because they’ve grown as arrogant as Alabama backers without one-tenth the justification. Because they’re still whining over the national championship they didn’t win in 2004. Because the world’s worst fan — the Montgomery banker Bobby Lowder — is an Auburn man. And because I would pay money (though not a lot) to see Bobby Lowder in jean shorts.