The SEC Coaching Carnage - Tuberville Fired
Former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville
Former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville
Posted Dec 3, 2008

The hits just keep on coming. Auburn's Tommy Tuberville was the latest SEC coach to be shown the door. Did the sudden rise of Alabama have anything to do with it? Was it the one bad year? The SEC coaching carnage continues, and Pete Fiutak wonders why anyone would want the hassle.

Tuberville Out At Auburn

The SEC coaching carnage continues

By Pete Fiutak   

Okay, so Charlie Weis comes up with the worst year in the long and storied history of Notre Dame football, bounces back with a mediocre year and an offense that can’t get a first down against USC until late in the third quarter, and he’s granted immunity on the island.

Tommy Tuberville put together a program that’s just four years removed from being on the wrong end of the mother of all BCS national title debates, had won five bowl games in six years before this season, and had beaten arch-rival Alabama six years in a row, an eternity in this series, and he’s fired after losing to a Tide team that’s No. 1 in America and a game away from playing for the national title.

Welcome to the SEC. Coach at your own risk.

Phil Fulmer had Tennessee in the SEC championship game last year. Last week he was carried off the field while Lane Kiffin was busy seeing how he looked in Dreamsicle orange.

Sylvester Croom took the SEC’s most impossible coaching situation, next to the Vanderbilt gig, and made Mississippi State more than just competitive with a solid 8-5 2007 and the first bowl appearance since 2000. His team struggled this year with no offense and an injured defense, and he “resigned.”

Next year at this time we’ll know if Notre Dame was right or wrong by letting Weis get one more year with the guys he put in place and helped develop over the last two years. If he was in the SEC, he wouldn’t have gotten that same shot.

Just ask Ron Zook, David Cutlcliffe, Houston Nutt, Mike Shula, and Ed Orgeron what it’s like to build up an SEC program only to have it all taken away as someone else comes in and dances with your date. There’s no question that Urban Meyer and Nick Saban are elite head coaches, but they had a seriously good foundation to work with when they took over at Florida and Alabama, respectively.

Zook, for all his faults, was a masterful recruiter, leaving the shelves stocked for Meyer. Saban’s start recruiting classes are putting this year’s Tide team over the top, but it was Shula’s players who were the steady rocks throughout this year. It was Orgeron who put together, arguably, the nation’s best defensive line at Ole Miss, and Nutt was able to reap all the rewards this year. And while all those cases are what makes coaching in the SEC second to being an Alaskan crab fisherman on the list of world’s most hazardous jobs, Tuberville was canned for not having the weapons stockpiled. He was canned to stop the bleeding before it got out of control.

It’s not that Auburn doesn’t have any talent to work with, it’s that there’s a 400-pound Crimson Tide elephant in the room that’s on the verge of becoming USC East with a who’s who of five-star recruits beating down the door to play in Tuscaloosa. The rest of the five-star guys are going to Gainesville.

Call the firing of Tuberville a preemptive strike, and while it might not be fair to axe a guy who cranked out 85 wins in 10 years in the SEC, it was a sign that Auburn realized it had to do something to combat the Alabama problem before it became out of hand.

There was also the issue of not handling the assistant coaching mess all that cleanly. John McCain got better press from the suspension of his campaign to handle the first bailout deal than Tuberville got after firing offensive coordinator Tony Franklin midway through this season. The offense went from stagnant to non-existent after Franklin left, while the team lost six of its last seven games with the one win coming against Tennessee-Martin. Meanwhile, Alabama was blowing out Georgia and Tennessee.

Of course, had Auburn upset Alabama, Tuberville would be a god on The Plains at the moment. Knee-jerky, bad things happen when you lose to your rival (cough, Ron Prince, cough). Notre Dame was able to realize that USC is on another plain and that it’s not fair to compare Irish to Trojans at the moment. Auburn saw the 36-0 loss to Alabama and realized that it can’t avoid the seismic momentum shift from happening without doing something drastic. They don’t talk about the USC – Notre Dame game 365 days a year in South Bend.

So now the question becomes this: if you’re an A list head coach, which Auburn will presumably want as an upgrade to Tuberville, how much money will it take to beat your head against the wall for the next five years while the Alabama juggernaut keeps on rolling?

No one worth his salt can take the Auburn job and say he needs three years to build the program back up. No one will get hired at Auburn if he says he can’t beat Alabama next year. No one with any type of coaching brand name will take this job without an iron-clad clause with a big payout in the event he’s fired after losing four Iron Bowls in a row.

Meanwhile, Tuberville will be a hot name. While Fulmer might be seen as a retread after being Mr. Tennessee all his life, Tuberville’s name was thrown around for the Clemson job before Dabo Swinney got the nod. Tuberville will soon get a decent job again, and he’ll quickly find that life is sweeter when the expectations aren’t unattainable.

It’s not Auburn, it’s the SEC, and it’s Alabama. All those ready to volunteer to be thrown under the bus, please step up.