Think of Auburn Football in the past decade. Tommy Tuberville and his 85 wins will be the first thing that comes to mind. The 2004 undefeated season, the six straight wins over Alabama, and seemingly turning Auburn into an SEC contender in his second season.
Sure, he had some huge wins, and yes, he was a fan favorite, but is that still the case? If you look at the mess he may or may not have intentionally left, I don't think so.
You can't say Tuberville didn't try, because the man is a great football coach. He'll be back in coaching before you know it. Even up until what I have seen since his resignation/firing debacle, I was a big fan of his.
Let's take a trip down memory lane back to 2003. Tuberville loses three SEC games in a row—and prior to the Alabama game, the old Auburn powers at be decided it would be a good time to look for a replacement for Tuberville.
Obviously, this did not go go so well. He barely managed to keep his job after the scandal known as "Jetgate" went public.
This would cut deep into any coach. Auburn went 8-5 that year, beat Alabama for the second straight season, and won their bowl game. Everything about "Jetgate" was unjustified.
Jump forward a year. In 2004, Tuberville had an array of talent, yet no one truly knows what he would do with it. All he could be thinking was "I'll show you."
He responded with an SEC Championship, a perfect season, and a Sugar Bowl victory—despite missing out on the National Championship game.
After that, Auburn posted some quality victories, but never enough to get back to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.
In their closest attempt, 2006, they were throttled by Arkansas and Georgia, despite being heavily favored in both games to finish second in the SEC West.
2006 was where the problems began to surface. In my opinion, this was Tuberville's best recruiting class in his time on the Plains.
Take a stab at how many of those players are left on the roster. That would be 16 of the 29 players that Tuberville recruited.
It only gets worse from there. 2007 led to 14 of the 30 still playing. His 2008 class had a grand total of 12 out of 29.
12 players are left from his last recruiting class at Auburn. Granted, not all of his recruits qualified, and some went to junior colleges, but these numbers are pathetic.
After Nick Saban's first year at Alabama, he made it clear that he planned to change the way things had been going for the Crimson Tide.
In 2008, Alabama dominated the state in recruiting. Any big recruit that considered Alabama and Auburn, it seemed Tuberville laid down and virtually handed them to Saban.
His prized pieces of the 2007 class—Kodi Burns and Enrique Davis.
Burns still hasn't panned out quite like we thought he would. That happens, and there's still time for Burns to turn it around. Enrique Davis—he'll be lining up for Tuberville's former team, the Ole Miss Rebels this fall.
One of his biggest pickups in 2008 was a four-star quarterback out of Georgia, DeRon Furr. Seeing Kodi Burns as the quarterback of the future, and seeing Furr's athleticism, Tuberville moved Furr to the defensive side of the ball.
One fall practice later, Furr found himself headed out of town after a fight that spiraled out of control.
How do you let one of your top recruits just walk out the door? Let some upperclassmen get into a fight with him on the field, and let the situation transpire into something bad enough that the kid wants to transfer.
Furr is now a first-string safety at Memphis. We sure could use him now.
Enter Gene Chizik. Not the fan's choice for Tuberville's replacement, and maybe not anyone's choice but AD Jay Jacobs. His track record as a head coach, 5-19, only seemed to justify that. In hindsight, it has been a steal of a hire so far.
I've preached time and time again how Chizik, given time, will right the ship at Auburn. He even has some of the pieces to do that as soon as this year.
I don't know if he necessarily knew that he would be inheriting a team that wouldn't even fill out a complete roster for his first season. It was out of his control, so his staff hit the recruiting trail with a passion and effort that was not evident towards the end of the Tuberville era.
There's always the chance that Tommy Tuberville had no clue things how badly things would get. Looking at the recruiting statistics though, he had to have seen this coming.
Questions will continue to be raised since these depth concerns will surface all season. Was it Jetgate that set him off? Did Tommy Tuberville leave this mess on purpose? Did he give up after the 2004 season? Maybe he did, maybe he didn't.
That's for you to decide. I'll never blatantly judge a man's character—certainly not one whom I had so much respect for during the last decade. Looking at the facts, though, it's not pretty.
After he resigned, Tuberville claimed he was still an Auburn Tiger, and that he was even going to stay on with the University in some capacity.
Right now, the only thing he gets to see is the mess he left on the Plains.
Chizik has done a great job of cleaning up what he can, but there's only so much he can do right now. With a solid recruiting class or two, the Tigers will be back to where they need to be, and maybe even above where they once were.
When someone commits to something as passionately as this new Auburn staff has, results come quicker than expected.
One things for certain though...I don't see Tuberville and Chizik conversing over a cup of coffee anytime soon.