You wouldn't think after twice mounting mild defenses of The Limo Gambit the past couple of days the JCCW would have fresh angles of support ... but here's not just one but two to go alongside the "Uh, have you seen our in-state recruiting results the past couple of years? How could they not try something over-the-top?" angle covered yesterday.
1. Gene Chizik is, as the kids say (or probably don't by now), "down with it." Indoor ball caps or no indoor ball caps, demands for meticulously-kept lockers or no demands for meticulously-kept lockers, it's hard to keep thinking of the Chiznick as a dour, obsessive disciplinarian when he OK'd sending all seven of his assistants out in a limo to tour the state to the tune of "Fantastic Voyage." (I mean, that's gotta be the unofficial theme song of the trip, right? Gotta be. The image of Malzahn bobbing his head and rhyming along is too perfect.) The Limo Gambit is too splashy, too attention-grabbing, too fun for Chizik to be the SEC football's answer to Bob Knight.
A lot of people wondered aloud why Chizik would enforce a strict dress code on his players and then let Trooper Taylor coach practice in a backwards hat, and with Chizik left behind while the assistants party it up, we're getting an even clearer picture of that, I think: it's standard Good Cop/Bad Cop. Yes, Recruit X, thanks for asking, Coach Chizik is strict, and yes, you're going to have to be disciplined and work really hard ... but that doesn't mean you aren't going to be able to joke around and cut up with Coach Taylor and Coach Luper when there's time for that! If a recruit's first impression of Auburn is seven guys cruising in a stretch limo dressed like they're on their way to a backyard luau, they're not going to be quite as worried about suffering through a Communist-grade boot camp if they come to campus.
So I like the Limo Gambit from that particular recruiting perspective. I like it even better from my own personal perspective on Chizik, who's proving that he's not going to be a my-way-or-the-highway type of coach who shuts up his assistants when they come to him with wild and wacky ideas like this one. The more open-minded our head coach is--as with the hiring of a coaching-world weirdo like Malzahn--the better off Auburn will be.
2. They're in on the joke. Honestly--you think Auburn's coaches lined up for that picture on Day 1 in their bright orange shirts and, to man, thought to themselves Yeah, baby ... smooooooooth ... ?
Uh, no. These are smart guys who are well aware of what age they are. They know the Limo Gambit is over-the-top. They know it's on the silly side. I would posit they also know that it's not going to win over any recruits singlehanded. But they also know none of that matters compared to just helping them get a foot in the proverbial door. As K-Scar explains in an on-point column* that provides an excellent antidote to yesterday's Terence Moore discussion:
You think it's cheesy. You think it's undignified. You think it's un-Auburn-like, whatever that means.These are the sorts of points apparently lost on known middle-aged man Richard Pittman at ATVS, who would like Auburn's coaches to get off his damn lawn:
OK, tell the truth. You're a middle-aged man, aren't you?
See, that's the real problem here. It's the people who have a real problem with this harmless little publicity stunt.
Showing up in force and in style is about recruiting, and recruiting is about making an impression on teen-age boys.
It's not about middle-aged men ...
(M)eeting high school coaches, teachers and principals in person to evaluate high school prospects in the spring is an important but routine task. Auburn has put a new twist on it by letting everyone on those high school campuses know that the Tigers are in town.
I hope ("this sh*t") doesn't work, because the college-coach-as-pimp meme is one I'd really not like to see become viral. I'm not naive enough to be blind to the fact that lots of crazy things happen on the recruiting trail, but this is a significant step down in class from the kind of crap that Lane Kiffin is pulling ...I usually appreciate and enjoy what Richard has to say about LSU and the SEC, but in this case ... not so much. For starters, I'm not sure what sort of horrible past experiences Richard has had with limousines, but I imagine they must have been pretty severe for him to think that their use automatically signals "a significant step down in class" from falsely accusing another coach of a recruiting violation. He's correct that the majority of recruits will be "impressed without really being persuaded," but who, exactly, is claiming otherwise? Luper himself says he's not sure what impact it will have. And as for recruits turning against Auburn because of it, well, maybe like the Lord God woodpecker there's a few rare specimens of this species out there somewhere. But judging from the 16- and 17-year-old high school football players I've met in my time, the numbers that are going to be not just less-than-amused but actively "turned off" by a giant kick-ass limo, dude, pulling right up to the school! are very, very few indeed.
My guess is that some recruits will be impressed with it, most of them impressed without really being persuaded by it. They'll say, "Hey, that's kinda cool. Now let's talk about your depth chart." Some others will be turned off by it. The ones who are genuinely persuaded by the limo will disproportionately end up as prima donnas or as off-field distractions.
Lastly, no one is going to be "genuinely persuaded" by the Limo Gambit. No recruit is going to come to the end of the recruitment process, weigh Auburn against his other choices, and say to himself, "Well, everything's equal, so I would play for this other team, but that limo I saw that one day was just so damn tight I think I'll have to go Auburn, the School of Limos." We know this, the coaches know this. But even so--what's the connection between this and being a "prima donna"? Because a kid happens to like vehicles that draw attention to themselves, they're more likely to draw attention to themselves on the football field? That's some awfully flimsy armchair psychology in my opinion, and is frankly the sort of thing that's only going to be said by Scarbinsky's stereotypical "middle-aged man."
Perhaps I'm being too harsh on Richard here; he's a good blogger, no disputing that. But this is the exact opinion adopted and rehashed by non-Auburn fans all over, and though the offseason is always a time for making mountains out of molehills, the idea that this publicity stunt (and an apparently successful one at that) is somehow "an embarrassment" for Auburn is mindless, knee-jerk fuddy-duddyism at its finest. Richard writes that "this sort of thing signals that Auburn is going to become the Fabulous Freebirds of college football," and provides this pic:
Now, I don't know anything about their wrestling characters, but based on that picture alone I'd say the Fabulous Freebirds look like the sort of people who aren't above playing dress-up and acting a little crazy as long as they're having a good time with it ... and I'm going to come right out and say I'd much rather knock back a few beers with those guys than, say, John Chavis.
Yes, on some level that metaphor works. But I think that's a good thing.
*One caveat: I think K-Scar overreaches a bit arguing that Saban's de facto "no comment" when asked about the Limo Gambit should be interpreted as "I wish I'd thought of that." Maybe Saban does, but I think it's more just a case of him understandably not wanting to give Auburn the satisfaction of even a half-response.