By Shane from Centerpoint
With the kick-off of the 2009 college football season less than 70 days out, most of the questions that remain for the stateâ€™s â€œpowerhouseâ€ universities â€“ Alabama and Auburn (sorry Troy and UAB) â€“ are about to be answered on the field of play. I would suspect Crimson Tide fans are anxious to see if Alabama head coach Nick Saban can produce a championship this year. Meanwhile, Auburn Tiger fans donâ€™t know what to expect. Theyâ€™ve been left with a team coming back from a losing season that is void of depth and talent. They have a new head coach (5-19) and completely new system, and they face the specter of being trapped in the recruiting â€œtriangle of deathâ€ between Saban, Meyer, and Richt. The main question for Tiger fans has to be, â€œHow did we get this deep in the hole?â€ In my opinion the Auburn family can point their fingers directly at one man â€“ Thomas Hawley Tuberville.
One thing is for sure, intentional or not, Tuberville got the last laugh. He left Auburn in a confusing mess while he drove off into the sunset with over $5 million. Tommy set himself up well by using contract savvy and left the very same people who tried to overthrow him in 2003 (see Jet Gate) with no cards left to play.
Itâ€™s now pretty clear for most that Tuberville basically lost a great deal of his passion for coaching â€“ especially his love for Auburn football â€“ during those excruciating weeks after the 2003 campaign when his career and everything else he had built was threatened with destruction. It is also now evident that he held a grudge over the deal.
The experts preach that recruiting is the most important aspect of fielding a competitive team every year. Signing the best players year after year creates an advantage on the gridiron.
Tuberville mustâ€™ve taken a hunting trip for the last three or four years when other SEC coaches were courting the â€œblue-chipâ€ players, because he left nothing down on the Plains. In fact I think that, when his lazy attitude toward recruiting manifested itself on the field last year, Auburn fans were embarrassed.
I also think Tubbyâ€™s lame recruiting effort is the main reason he got fired â€“ not that he cared. However, if he truly set out to destroy Auburn from the inside he should be elated because his plan worked to perfection. On the other hand, if those athletes he put on the field last year are the best he can sign, he is one lousy coach.
I agree that what the â€œJet Gateâ€ people did to Tuberville is classless, and they actually inflicted heavy damage to Tiger recruiting with that entire fiasco themselves, but Tommy hit Auburn with his own form of a â€œdeath-penaltyâ€ that might take four or five years to reconstruct.
The damage was never more evident than when the Auburn Family â€“ who held a six game winning streak over main rival Alabama â€“ had to watch the Tigers get manhandled by a Tide team with far superior athletes.
This year the Tide is rising, loaded with talent, speed, and depth. Across the state, Auburn is desperately trying to find some way to rebuild the program, regain national respect, and restart a winning tradition. Iâ€™ve got a feeling the damage Tuberville left in his wake will take years to overcome.
â€”Shane writes a weekly column for the Call News and the Capstone Report.