Thursday, December 18, 2008


I'll start by saying this: Kevin Scarbinsky was correct the other day when he said Jay Gogue should have been at Gene Chizik's introductory press conference. If the education meeting was that important--and, frankly, as soon as we're talking about pro-ration, it probably was--the press conference should have been postponed until Gogue could make it. Dog-and-pony show as it may be, it's an important dog-and-pony show for the Auburn community, and it's not like we didn't know who the new coach was going to be by then. It could have waited.

However--and I know I'm the vast minority here and in stark disagreement with my fellow esteemed Auburn Bloggers over at Track'Em--I think this is Gogue's only real misstep during Coachapalooza. When Scarbinsky writes ...
No matter how many good things he does for the school, the success of Gogue's tenure now will be judged in large part on the success of the head coach chosen on his watch.
... I'm hoping like hell he's wrong and dead about that. The idea that the President of Auburn University could be judged by Auburn people not on what he accomplishes for Auburn University's academics but for Auburn University's varsity football team is nauseating. Gogue is the President of the University. It is not his job to hire a football coach. It is not his job to babysit the athletics department. His job is to keep Auburn University--a much, much larger and much, much more important enterprise than its football team, however easy that is for some of us, yours truly included, to forget--running smoothly and moving forward.

His job during Coachapalooza, as I saw/see it, was to make sure Jacobs didn't hire a mercenary who doesn't give a crap about our academics, and make sure the trustees didn't meddle in such a fashion that it would get us in hot water. And that's it: no recommendations, no phone calls to gauge interest, no hassling Jacobs to hurry things along. On the former point, I'd say that's exactly what he did:
I asked the athletic director to go out and look at a host of different coaches and be sure they brought back to me the one that I wanted to interview before a final decision was made.

I guess the discussions I have with him that I got to have a coach that will live within the rules of the NCAA, graduate their athletes, a coach that has a good record of off-field experiences for athletes, not only in the classroom but out of the classroom, that they’re good citizens. Those are some of the basic guidelines that I gave Jay Jacobs ...

I had a chance to sit down with Gene and his wife (Jonna) and spent about an hour with them. The kind of questions that were important to me were the academics of our students, ‘What are you going to do with kids that have verbally committed to Auburn that may not fit your scheme or whatever?‘ I wanted to make sure we honored those commitments. To me that’s important for integrity to make sure if we’ve talked to a kid somewhere and that kid is interested in Auburn that we don’t somehow lose that kid because we don’t wonder about their abilities.

He seems like a very nice gentleman. He was very forthright, very honest in his discussions. As far as X’s and O’s and football coach, I trust Jay Jacobs on that. As far as the integrity in the role and the expectations I had at Auburn, I feel good with Jay’s recommendation to me and I concurred to him that recommendation.
What else do Auburn fans really want our President to do? I guess the answer would be "cut the Trustees out of the process completely," but that's so much easier said than done. I don't see how it's possible to keep Lowder or Rane or whoever from picking up the phone and offering some, ahem, unsolicited advice to Jacobs if that's what they want to do. Sure, maybe Gogue could stand up in public and shake his fist and threaten to resign and take God knows what other measures in the face of the Board ... but is that really what's best for Auburn? More bitter divisiveness and contention in a time plagued by it, the kind that would be much more likely to cost us the services of a solid, well-liked administrator like Gogue than cause any kind of actual change on the Board? No thank you. Not worth it.

Two other things:

1. There's a lot of anger being sent in Gogue's direction for not smoothing out some kind of peace accord between Tubby and the athletic department, I guess. But again, the timeline we have is that Tubby met with the Jays and was expected to come back--thus the "moving forward under his leadership" statement and the assistants being dispatched to their various recruiting stations. Then those fateful 100 minutes happen, and everything spirals into madness. So we're talking about Gogue being available and willing to swoop in and broker something, and forgive me if I don't hold that too much against him. If you would like to because the breakdown happened on "his watch," be my guest, but again, the job of the University President is not to sit around holding the hand of the athletic department.

2. Trust me, I'm not so naive as to believe Jacobs hired Chizik without a certain amount of approval and gentle or not-so-gentle nudges in Chizik's direction from the Board. There's a reason Fail Jacobs doesn't appear without The Powers That Be backing him up. But when even Scarbinsky is telling us it's not a total strong-arm job, well, I'm a lot more inclined to believe him than certain other media commentators who feel the need to break out the toilet humor on national TV to puff themselves up. Anger at the Board? Conspiracy talk? Sure, fine, whatever. But I don't think we can say definitively that Jacobs was nothing more than a marionette this go-round. There are always strings attached, sure, but maybe one or two of them have loosened up over the years? Maybe? Just a bit? It's worth considering.

The bottom line is this: the only way the University's president fails when it comes to athletic stewardship is if the coaches are cheating, or the players aren't graduating, or the athletic department is threatening the school's academics in some fashion. Wins and losses, coaches' hirings and firings, athletic revenues--these are all the responsibility of the AD. Auburn's coaches aren't cheating, its players are graduating at an acceptable rate, it doesn't appear any accusations of anything untoward in the coaching search are going to cause SACS-style problems again--if anything, there's a growing sense the search might have been too clean, if that's possible--and, most importantly, the University appears to be moving forward under Dr. Gogue's leadership. I'm an Auburn football fan, but I'm also an Auburn degree-holder and a former Auburn teacher, and I see no reason not to support him.


rowlandoffice said...

Great post, Jerry. As an AU grad, I had the same reaction when I read that the coaching hire would define Gogue's tenure at AU. One example of his larger duties comes immediately to mind -- the university just completed a $600 million capital campaign. I'm not sure how much credit Gogue gets for that. Nonetheless, it happened on his watch, and half a billion of that jack is for academics. I would say that's a wee bit more important for AU in the long run than Gene Chizik's record against Nick Saban.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

That J.Gogue is also being castigated is merely the product of the degree of misdirected anger and frustration out there. Of course there's no logical or rationale for it; but Auburn people feel they've been lied to and left out in the cold by the "real" decision makers - people they suspect are lurking behind a (posh) grassy knoll somewhere, smoking cuban cigars, using off-color language, and laughing at them).

And whether it's the product of dementia, poor judgment, or a considerable ego that's been badly neglected and senses a long overdue opportunity to bask in the limelight, the recent comments of PAT DYE on the [name of AM radio personality that cannot be mentioned without expletives] show and elswewhere offers much support for that notion. Either Dye is suffering from grandiose delusions (again), or he is (one of) the major puppetmasters (and likely also a puppet too) in this sordid affair.