Shane on the AU situation

Will the real Tommy Tuberville please stand up?
By Shane from Centerpoint

The recent flip-flop decision by Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville to fully endorse offensive coordinator Tony Franklin one day and fire him the very next is embarrassingly indecisive at best. Suddenly, a man known as the Riverboat Gambler – because of his cool decision-making under pressure – appears to be losing control of his program and possibly his career.

Tuberville told the media the firing was about production only. Then he proceeded to talk about how the move was important for the players. Uncharacteristically, after the Vanderbilt loss, players were allowed to openly critique Franklin’s play calling, and regardless of Tommy’s denial, it is apparent that major infighting among the assistant coaches has occurred.

Interestingly, for the first time in memory Tommy did not allow his coaches to speak to the press after last Saturday’s debacle in Nashville.

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All signs point to outside pressure. It seems like the people who sign Tubby’s checks sent him a message that he better win or else. Truthfully, Tuberville looks and acts like a man who’s been threatened. Undoubtedly, the “Tigers Unlimited Fund” boys and others in power are interested in winning more than just a State championship every year.

Besides, the Auburn family would be in denial if they said that Nick Saban’s success hasn’t greatly affected their thinking about the direction of the Auburn football program. Actually, most analysts believe Tubby went to the spread as a counter measure to the Saban recruiting machine.

Is Tuberville a dead man walking? Does he know this is the end and is he already forming an exit strategy? Did Tommy fire Franklin in a desperation move to garner support from the same fans that saved him from “Jetgate”? Will his loyalty to his long time assistants eventually cost him his job?

It’s been said that people in high places really like Butch Davis, Steve Spurrier, and Boise State coach, Chris Petersen. Unless Tuberville pulls off a miracle and defeats Georgia and Alabama back-to-back, names like these may begin to surface.

Everybody with half a brain knows that this marriage between Tubby and Auburn has been bad since the end of the 2003 season. Many of the same factors that affected the situation (Jetgate) are still in play. Some of the major movers involved have been silent, waiting to pounce at the precise moment. Lately, Tuberville is proving to be an easy target.

Recruiting is the life-blood of College football. Coaches must be trusted and respected by potential scholarship players. Does Tubby really think his sales pitch will be believable after waffling so badly on Tony Franklin and the spread offense? Can anyone blame a recruit for doubting his sincerity? Most of all, will Tommy even be around to coach them?

The War Eagles have gotten themselves in a certified quagmire. Media types, like talk radio king Paul Finebaum, will make a soap opera out of the entire situation. The problem for Auburn is that this story overshadows anything they are actually doing on the field. Finebaum will literally make his living off of the drama created by one man – Tommy Tuberville. The negative attention brought on the Auburn program by this radical move will make each loss feel like another nail in Tubby’s coffin, especially after Finebaum is through dicing it up on the airwaves.

At some point in this self-induced cluster the “fire the coordinator routine” will cease to work as an excuse. Somebody who counts will realize that the man in charge is responsible – at least that is how it works at most schools. Maybe it’s different at Auburn.

In fact, it will be interesting to see who is gullible enough to be the next offensive coordinator (whipping boy) at Auburn. He would be wise to look at the numbers. He would be the 6th in the 11th year of the Tuberville era. He should also remember that Tommy would probably modify the plan he brings in. If it fails – well, we know what happens.

Across the State, Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide are quickly becoming the national darling and getting the immediate respect of pollsters from every major outlet – something Auburn and Tuberville couldn’t in 2004. This is important because Bama’s success seems to be pushing Auburn toward change.

When you get right down to it, Tuberville doesn’t treat his coordinators that much different than his bosses treat him – when things go wrong they act as blameless as he does. Unless someone down there steps up and demands accountability and is accountable themselves, things will continue to spiral out of control. One thing is for sure, since Tubby has been at Auburn, the more things change; the more they stay the same.

Will the real Tommy Tuberville please stand up?

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