Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Works, Mysterious Mystery Solved-style

Well, hey there Kojak! Encyclopedia Brown, how ya doing? ... Seriously guys, thanks for coming. But I think we got this one covered. College Football Resource gives Auburn fans some confidence as their team heads into 2007's Four Horsemen of the Aub-pocalypse road slate, pointing out that Tubby's teams have gone 11-1 (!) on the road the last three seasons. If that's not enough to brighten any Tiger fan's day, I'll take the liberty of pointing out that the one defeat was the accursed John V****n game. Meaning it's fair to say that Auburn was all of one field goal away from putting together back-to-back-to-back perfect seasons on the road in the SEC. Not shabby, I say, not shabby.

Nonetheless, this is my favorite part of CFR's post:
Look at Auburn's record under coach Tommy Tuberville from 2000 to 2003 for a moment. The Tigers went [records snipped]. Then, something clicked, because in the next three years, they've gone [even better records snipped]. I don't know every reason for why this happened (many aren't quantifiable) ...

Hmm ... yessirree, that change between 2003 to 2004 sure is a mystery. Something clicked, but what? Why, it's almost like Auburn went through some sort of big shake-up in the program in that time, like they installed some newfangled offensive system or possibly made some big change in the coaching staff or something, that suddenly let the offense do crazy stuff like rack up 506 yards and 31 points in Athens. But boy, I sure don't remember anything like that happening. What could it be?

Oh yeah. That's probably it.

Ellis hired; "This round's on us, boys!" say nation's JUCOs. When I started this blog, the plan was two-pronged: Birmingham-Southern and the Big South on one prong, and Auburn and the SEC on the other. I didn't expect those two prongs to ever really overlap, save for the very occasional BSC visit to an SEC gym, and once the Panthers' D-I program went the way of all flesh I would have bet not just the house but the azalea bushes out front and Little Johnny's swingset that they never would again.

But here we were this week, with Cliff Ellis, author of still the best season in Auburn men's hoops history, hired by the same program the JCCW once gleefully referred to as the Fakecocks. Small world, apparently. It's probably a good arrangement for both parties involved; Ellis gets a paycheck and his foot back in the coaching door, Coastal gets a proven rebuilder and the biggest-name coach in a potentially wide-open league.

So why has this fairly insignificant bit of news been bugging me all week? Likely because we Auburn fans remember that despite the fact that Ellis had made Auburn hoops halfway relevant again, despite the fact that he had taken AU to the Sweet 16 (and lost to the eventual champs by a single point) just a single season before he was fired (no matter what the B'ham News tells you about "leaving"), not one Tiger fan I knew wasn't delighted to see him go. The NCAA started sniffing around under his watch and later slapped AU with probation. He brought in JUCOs and questionable-character guys by the bushelful, creating headline after headline about some player or another leaving the program or getting suspended. His teams wasted more talent than they capitalized on. And when it was over, he publicly fumed and sniped at AU's decision-makers as the door hit him on the way out.

Bottom line, it would be nice if college athletics shunned guys like Ellis, who (personable as they may be away from basketball) care about precisely nothing beyond winning when it comes to the program under their guidance. Tubby's not a saint. But he's not signing JUCOs. He stands by his suspensions. Despite the New York Times' best efforts, AU has not been in the NCAA's hot water under Tubby's watch. One of these coaches I'm very glad is still at AU; one of these I hope to not hear from again anytime soon.

Speaking of hoops ... RollBamaRoll poster bamahoops asks a worthwhile question amidst the "New arena W00t!" celebrating last week ... will even $92.5 million get Auburn fans and five-star recruits to care about Auburn basketball? I think the answer is a definite, unquestioned yes. Even Beard-Eaves sold out back in the Sonny Smith era and got rockin' regularly in the Cliff Dwellers' heyday (albeit with that ridiculous curtain involved). There's just no way a consistent 20-win, NCAA-quality program doesn't pack a 9,600-seat arena and in turn become a capital-E Event--particularly since when the Auburn fan base turns to a second team right now, it turns to ... uh, swimming? But I'm still rather glad it's not my $92.5 million on the line, either.

Etc. Advertiser blogger Jay G. Tate apparently missed the part where Ben Tate averaged more per carry than any other AU RB last year ... Phillip Marshall makes Tubby's case against recruiting rankings for him ... I'm not sure I should send you to CFN and bury you under their cavalcade of ads, but for what it's worth they count down and pick the top 50 games of the year, with Auburn tilts at 48, 44, 27, and 11.

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