AU briefing: What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? More than you think.

When you start hearing names for a potential coaching search and the season isn’t close to over, it carries enormous meaning. It can mean the boosters of a school are planning a Dennis Franchione-type move and are already talking behind the scenes.

Or in the case of Auburn, you have name dropping carried out to undermine and build confidence. Big names undermine Tuberville’s popularity with the masses. Who wants Tuberville when you could have (insert Super Bowl/BCS National/Conference champion name here.) And it builds fan confidence that a coaching change would be a positive thing.

When you hear fans chattering about Butch Davis, there’s more to it than just wishful thinking. Fans are having a conversation with themselves trying to justify the firing of Tommy Tuberville.

We all know the background of Tuberville’s feud with Auburn’s leadership. Tuberville’s job was saved during Jetgate by public opinion. And we have to watch public opinion closely to gauge what is happening now.

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The two names bounced around over the last two weeks are highly suggestive of what’s happening inside the Auburn family.

Last weekend Davis name was being dropped by Auburn fans. The name was filled with red meat for Auburn fans. Davis had success rebuilding the Miami Hurricanes and coached in the NFL. Davis also spurned Alabama.

You can’t underestimate the psychological importance of that to the Auburn fan base worried about Nick Saban.

One Auburn fan told me Butch Davis was the one name Nick Saban feared.

(Anyone who believes that doesn’t understand Nick Saban—Saban isn’t obsessed with what others do. He’s obsessed with what he does—what he can control.) But it says a great deal about what Auburn fans want in a coaching hire.

This weekend a new name du jour surfaced—Will Muschamp.

On the brightest college football stage, Muschamp helped the Texas Longhorns upset top ranked Oklahoma.

Muschamp is highly respected, and while not an Auburn man has done an impressive job. He brings intensity. I doubt he’d go duck hunting during recruiting season.

The common theme of these names? They provide things Tuberville doesn’t. In Davis, fans would respond to Nick Saban. With Muschamp, fans would get an answer to Tuberville’s complacency.

It’ll be fun to watch the coming weeks for what new names surface.

The last days of Tommy Tuberville are unfolding on the Plains. Rightly or wrongly, (and I happen to think at this moment wrongly) the momentum for a coaching change is rolling like a snowball down a hill—can Tuberville do anything to stop it?

Watch the names. They’ll tell us all we need to know.

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