It was the best of times (in other columns on this topic), it was the worst of times. Which SEC West moments brought these programs and fan bases to the deepest, darkest valleys since the calendar turned to Y2K?
ARKANSAS - Bobby Petrino's workplace meddling (no, not that other thing)
The motorcycle ride, the wild affair, the trip to the hospital -- they're all memorable and burned into the collective memory, but they're not the central embarrassments of the scandal which dumped Arkansas' most talented coach since the legendary Frank Broyles, who is also the program's patriarch.
The most essential and damning component of L'Affaire Petrino was his interference in the hiring process for a job in the Arkansas athletic department. His hijacking of procedure on Jessica Dorell's behalf represented the most serious breach of ethics, a vile act which frankly should have caused Petrino to never be allowed to be a college head coach ever again. Yet, who cares about accountability if a guy can coach the bejeezus out of quarterbacks and win stacks of games, right?
OLE MISS -- "Frozen"
Hugh Freeze bothers Nick Saban. He won a Sugar Bowl. He can coach... but Ole Miss didn't know how to cheat well, a cardinal sin in the SEC. Yes, his sins aren't nearly as bad as Baylor's or Penn State's -- they're in a separate universe -- but all the backroom chortling among SEC fans when Ole Miss rose to prominence was validated by getting caught. Martin Luther said that if one is to sin, then sin boldly. SEC football historians will tell head coaches, "If you're going to cheat, cheat effectively." Ole Miss did not. Welcome to Ole Miss-ery and depression.
TEXAS A&M - The 2015 loss to Auburn
The Aggies contained so much promise as a program four years ago, but when they lost to a not-very-good Auburn team by 16 (26-10) at home in the 2015 season, it became very apparent that Kevin Sumlin was not going to turn the corner, and that his coaching star would never ascend to the highest plane. Sumlin is still on the job, but who in his right mind expects him to figure this thing out in College Station?
MISSISSIPPI STATE - the 2014 Orange Bowl
It is such a Mississippi State thing, is it not?
The program which faces more logistical challenges and obstacles than any other SEC football school not named Vanderbilt had somehow managed to become No. 1 in the whole freakin' country... and it ended the season without a division title, a conference title, a bowl win... or even the sense that it was a strong team.
Losing a close game to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl would not have carried any shame or baggage, but getting dismembered by the Ramblin' Wreck in a blowout smothered the Bulldogs in the thick gravy of humiliation. Could a snakebitten program have responded any other way to reaching the No. 1 national ranking a few months earlier?
AUBURN -- Jeremy Johnson and the 2015 season which spun off the rails
The 2015 season was supposed to be Auburn's great restoration... and proof that Gus Malzahn could home-grow a quarterback. It's true that Jarrett Stidham gives the Tigers great hope for this season, but Gus was supposed to be the head coach who could recruit and nurture a quarterback all the way to the top of the sport. This was his greatest failure, and since Gus was supposed to improve upon what predecessors Tommy Tuberville and Gene Chizik achieved, this is the most scarring event for Auburn on the field in the 21st century.
LSU -- not firing Cam Cameron after the 2015 season
It's one of the great blunders in the history of coaching staff management. Embattled coach Les Miles should have fired Cameron and replaced him with a good offensive coordinator when he was waist-deep in trouble at the end of the 2015 season. He didn't do so, which meant that athletic director Joe Alleva should have stepped in and demanded that Miles' continued employment depended on making a coordinator change approved of by power brokers in Baton Rouge.
In an ironic twist, LSU DID CHANGE COORDINATORS after 2015... but on defense. Allowing Cameron to stay on prevented Dave Aranda's defense from being part of a special team. A quality offensive play-caller could have made the 2016 LSU squad a championship-caliber bunch. Not firing Cameron wasted everyone's time, made Miles a 2016 dead duck, and prolonged the inevitable.
ALABAMA - The coach who never coached a game
The Mike Price lap dance in Pensacola, Florida, was comical for every other SEC fan base. It was the height of humiliation for a program which suffered through Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione, and Mike Shula before landing the greatest head coach this side of Bear Bryant.