Thursday, December 04, 2008

Good Morning, Auburn

Wake up, Auburn! It's about 8 a.m. CST Thursday morning. Do you know who your head coach is?

Before moving on to the business of the day--profiling Auburn's alleged and maybe-not-as-alleged coaching candidates--obviously we need to wrap up some of the news and reaction from yesterday. And because I can't think of any organizing principle for this, here, have a list:

1. When the story broke, the knee-jerk reaction I expected from the nation's punditry and the majority of Auburn fans--to the former's ignorant shame and the latter's loyal credit, as unfair as that seems--was that Jay Jacobs and the Auburn Board were about to wind up the butt end of a thousand stupid, impatient, ungrateful, meddling bumblers-type portrayals. To date that's pretty much been the case.

As I essentially said yesterday, I think that's unfair at this point, seeing as how if the Auburn admin and Tubby came to an impasse over what to do with his current staff, it's not like Jacobs and the Board would have had a lot of options. Leaving things status quo after Auburn's worst season in 10 years was never an option.

But in trying to cut that criticism off at the pass, I don't think I emphasized enough yesterday how much this outcome truly saddens and disappoints me, because it did. I liked Tubby. I think he did a phenomenal job. I think we are all in agreement on this: He deserved better.

Yesterday I wrote "If this was ultimately the administration's decision, I won't endorse it. But I can respect it for being forward-looking enough to see the handwriting on the wall," which prompted the following comment from reader Charlie I completely cosign with:
I disagree a lot with this, because Auburn already has an image problem regarding loyalty to a coach. It makes the school less appealing to potential hires and it will make people quicker to jump when another opportunity arises (not just in football -- across the athletic department).

Let's say Tuberville has lost his fire, and he's not the same coach he was before, and next season is a six or seven win mediocrity, and then he gets fired. Would that be so much worse?
No, it certainly would not. You give me a choice right now between Tubby coaching his way to 6-6 next year and the current fracture within the Auburn family and scalding media portrayals outside, and I take the former every single time. As I've said before: regardless of how 2009 might have turned out, giving Tubby a chance to do better was the right thing to do.

Assuming that the weeklong peace talks were not just a fait accompli intended to gauge Tubby's willingness to accepting a reduced buyout, I can accept what happened yesterday. But let me make clear: I'm not happy about it. Tubby was a good man and a good coach. It should not have ended like this.

2. All that said, I've seen an awful lot of comparisons between the current situation and 2003's, and I think I need to state this as plainly as I can:

2008 MAKES 2003 LOOK LIKE 2004.

I went back into the NCAA's stats database to build on my earlier look on Auburn's yearly net yards-per-play (offensive yards-per-play minus defensive yards-per-play allowed), so I can now give you Tubby's entire tenure laid out in easily digestible statistical form:

1999: -.6 (4.40/4.99)
2000: +.5 (5.25/4.72)
2001: +.04 (5.33/5.29)
2002: +1.1 (5.84/4.78)
2003: +1.1 (5.66/4.66)
2004: +1.6 (6.4/4.8)
2005: +1.0 (6.0/5.0)
2006: +0.6 (5.5/4.9)
2007: +0.3 (4.8/4.5)
2008: -0.2 (4.6/4.8)

In other words: this is not like bouncing back from 2003 at all. This is like going forward from 1999, like starting the rebuilding process all over again. When you hear media critics haranguing Auburn for deciding to "start from scratch," remember: Auburn would be starting from scratch in 2009 regardless of who's the head coach.

3. The most important bit of reporting the guys on the Auburn beat can produce over the next couple of days, in my oh-so-humble-opinion, will be a complete report on what happened in those meetings between Tubby and the Jays ... so I'm a little surprised we seem to get our first taste of it on page 2 of an article detailing the reaction from the "Auburn family":
Auburn trustee Paul Spina said Tuberville and Auburn officials had reached an agreement for him to remain as head coach on Monday, but that by Wednesday it was Tuberville who had changed his mind.

"He met with (Athletics Director) Jay Jacobs on Monday and said he (Tuberville) wanted to start over and fix it, and they talked about who he could go after for assistant coaches," Spina said. "Then he went home (Tuesday), and called Jay and said, `Let's have lunch.' They weren't supposed to meet until after lunch.

"But at lunch, Tommy said he'd talked with (his wife) Suzanne and she wanted him to get out of the business. And Tommy said, `If Auburn will take care of me, that's what I'd like to do.'"

Spina said it was at that point that Jacobs and Auburn President Jay Gogue agreed to work out a satisfactory resignation package for Tuberville.

"These are Tommy Tuberville's terms," said Terry Henley, a former Auburn running back. "His and his family's terms. He wants to stay in Auburn."
If this is true--and while Spina and Henley obviously might have an agenda, it would take some serious cojones to lie this bald-facedly--a lot of the barbs sent Jacobs' (and Gogue's) way over the last 24 hours by Auburn fans need to be retracted. I'm afraid I can't share Jay's anger with the Auburn admin; I wish it had worked out differently, but I'm just not convinced at all Auburn's leadership is deserving of this kind of animosity. (Unless, of course, they hire Petrino, at which point: open season.)

4. Seriously, spare me the crocodile tears.

5. The recruiting class is going to shatter. But coaching transitions are hell on that front whether they happen today, next year, or the year after.

6. One thing that hasn't changed though all of this, courtesy of the Pigskin Pathos:

Lowder still blows.

The JCCW starts breaking down the candidates to become Auburn's next head coach soon.


J.M. said...

Will you consider renaming the "Season of DEATH" to the "Season of DEA ... IT'S STILL MOVING! STAB IT'S BRAIN! Whew. I think we're safe in here ... wha? NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!"?

Schatten said...

Don't think those were crocodile tears. I'm sure you've listened to all of Saban's pressers and read all of his pre- and post-game interviews, right? He legitimately means what he says about the work that coaches and players and students put into each and every game. Always has. He didn't become Lord Dukku to your Emperor Palpatine overnight...because the simple fact is, he's not.

On the field? As a recruiter? Yes, mercenary as charged, and that's the way it's supposed to be. But you can genuinely dislike a team, but still be respectful of their work and their preparation and their players and their's called a rivalry in the purest and best sense.

Jerry Hinnen said...


Schatten: I won't say you don't have a point. You do. Saban has consistently praised Tubby's work at Auburn and always been very respectful in public, and maybe he ought to be given that same respect by Auburn fans like me.

Then again:

1. I can't stay rational when it comes to him. I can't. Sorry. We all have our blind spots. He's mine.

2. Out of the public eye, even his own players apparently "don't know how much he [expletive] hates" Auburn, so forgive me if I don't take him at face value.

3. It's in his best interest to portray Auburn as a bad job, lest they hire someone who'd be able to compete with him.