Phillip Marshall of Auburn Undercover (subscription required) reported on Thursday afternoon that Auburn president Jay Gouge is "making preparations to possibly replace head coach Gene Chizik."
These preparations of a possible replacement for Chizik is not news. It was apparent in Gouge's letter to the Auburn family on Oct. 25th that he was already positioning himself to make moves in the athletic department and football coaching staff.
"In the past few weeks, many of you have contacted me, and I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to share your thoughts about the football program. I know your concerns are sincere and heartfelt, and I share many of them. As we do every year, the football program will be evaluated in an objective, thorough and professional process. "
The bigger news in the report was that Marshall's sources indicated that Gouge was planning on retaining athletic director Jay Jacobs. We have already addressed that.
The part of the story that had Auburn fans in a hullabaloo were these 12 words.
"Gogue mentioned at least one potential candidate: Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson."
Relax, Auburn fans. This is not happening.
If Gouge is going to retain Jacobs as the story indicates, he won't be the one that is making this hire. It will be Jacobs.
The new head coach will need to be an established figure that has had proven success at the collegiate level.
Watson has been successful as an offensive coordinator at Nebraska and Louisville. As a head coach it's been a different story, with Watson going 11-22 during his time at Southern Illinois from 1994-1996.
No one has come close to hiring him as a head coach ever since.
Before you ask, I do realize that Chizik was 5-19 as a head coach before being hired by Jacobs in 2008. The difference is that there was a connection there with Chizik being a former defensive coordinator. It was a much easier sell for Jacobs to make.
There are no such connections with Watson.
Jacobs would not last more than a few seconds in front of the trustees trying to explain the hiring of Watson. I like to picture it going something like this.
So why would Gouge even mention Watson's name?
A common theory is that this is a smokescreen to do some behind-the-scenes negotiating with another name. Another theory is that Gouge is trying to show that he will not yield to pressure from the trustees and other external influences.
The smokescreen is probably the more accurate hypothesis. By floating a name, attention can be diverted from whoever the real candidate is.
However, as it stands now, there is not a coaching vacancy at Auburn. It does appear that the wheels are in motion for there to be one in the near future, though.
But if and when there is a vacancy, it will not be filled by Watson.