Out At Auburn
The SEC coaching carnage continues
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
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
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.