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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Auburn Coach Deserves Better

There is nothing wrong with an employee wanting to leave his employer if they feel their hard work has gone unrewarded. Therefore, I applaud Tommy Tuberville’s decision to resign as head coach of Auburn University’s football team. The man arrived on the plains of Alabama with a difficult job of restoring a program that had spent the majority of the 1990s under the handicap of NCAA probation. His first few years were met with initial disapproval among the Tiger fan base for his mediocre 1-2 record against the hated Alabama Crimson Tide. By the time the 2002 Iron Bowl arrived, Tuberville was forced to achieve victory or face the ax from the Auburn Athletic Department. He staved off possible termination for one more year with a 17-7 victory. Even with his third Iron Bowl victory over the hated Tide in 2003, Tuberville was still faced with the knowledge that his then athletic director (Hausel) and Auburn super-booster Bobby Lowder had flown a private jet to Louisville, Kentucky to court Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino. His 28-23 win fended off the momentum of the leaked courtship of Petrino and awarded Tuberville another season has head coach of the Tigers.
In the face of constant job insecurity and dealing with management that seemed determined to terminate Coach Tuberville, in 2004 the Riverboat Gambler (nickname coined for his gutsy coaching decisions) tallied a 13-0 record along with a #2 ranking in the country. Unfortunately, Auburn would not be awarded its first national championship since its 10-0 1957 season. Nevertheless, Auburn would go on to win three more Iron Bowls for a total of an unprecedented six victories in a row over arch-rival Alabama.
Most employees would be awarded a mulligan for a 5-7 2008 season after taking a program to such unchartered waters, yet Tuberville was quickly forced to meet with his current athletic director Jay Jacobs to discuss the state of the program and getting Auburn back to national title contention. Why should a coach with the 4th highest winning total in program history have to explain his worst season at Auburn? The great former Tiger football coach Pat Dye never even produced an undefeated season on the plains.
The fact is Tuberville has always had to coach with one foot out the door. It seems that the Auburn community has always been looking for reasons to part ways with the head coach rather than praise him. Sure, Tuberville is heavily compensated with a $3.3 million annual salary but he was never granted elite status among the pedestal of Auburn coaching greats. Instead of focusing on Tuberville’s six straight Iron Bowl victories or having the most road victories in the SEC conference among active coaches, Auburn faithful began to focus on a supposed fear of being overtaken by the new Nick Saban regime in Tuscaloosa.
In 2008, no grace was given to Tuberville for developing an entirely new offensive philosophy under former Troy State head coach Tony Franklin. In fact, the pressure from the fans and university was so great; he was forced to abandon the institution of the spread offense halfway into its inaugural season. A coach with 85 wins in eight years should be allowed more leeway to tinker with his football strategy. Jacobs may have voiced to the media that he was shocked of Tuberville’s resignation at the end of the regular season but I think he was quite aware of why his coach felt under appreciated and decided to find an employer who appreciates his coaching acumen. If they wanted to keep Tuberville, you would think there might have been more overtures from the AD or a salary increase, yet neither has been publicly stated.
There is no doubt that Tuberville is a prestigious defensive mind. Looking at the pitiful defensive progress of Gene Chizik at Iowa State and Will Muschamp at Texas (both former Auburn Defensive Coordinators) more aplomb should be granted to Tuberville for the outstanding defense played at Auburn for the past decade. The man’s defensive genius, smashmouth offensive philosophy, and insight to the fertile southeastern recruiting ground would make him a prime target for any fledgling Big Ten or Big 12 program.
Any individual would leave for a new job if they felt their management lacked such faith in their talent even though they were producing results. Tuberville just got fed up over the whole situation and decided to move on before his employer attempted to further tarnish his reputation. He knew he would get a nice $5 million severance package and took it. He also knows he will be a highly sought after coaching commodity and won’t be on the unemployment line for long. So, he made the logical decision and has begun to look for a happier job environment where his career can grow. As for Auburn, they have now forged a reputation as a tyrannical workplace that ridiculously high standards, with minimal job security and is a distant second to its rival competitor (Alabama) in resources, wealth, and historical success. Good luck with your applicant pool.
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