Auburn’s head coach, Tommy Tuberville, appears to be one of the leading candidates to replace Texas A&M’s Dennis Franchione at the end of the year. Tuberville was defensive coordinator for the Aggies in 1994 and helped coach them to a 10-0-1 record.
The Auburn faithful might have reason to worry.
Auburn and Tuberville do have a bit of a rocky past. In 2003, preseason hype had the Tigers in the National Title picture, but after a disappointing 7-5 regular season, Tuberville’s status at Auburn was a hot topic.
High-ranking Auburn officials flew to Louisville to interview head coach Bobby Petrino on the night of the Iron Bowl. Once the situation was made public, it backfired. Tuberville won the Iron Bowl and the bowl game after, and went 13-0 the next season, making him the most powerful man in Auburn.
As recently as this year, Tuberville heard some cries for his head after his early season loss to Mississippi State, dropping his record to 1-2 at the time. Needless to say, Auburn has not been great to Coach Tubs, and I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten.
Word is Tommy still has a house in College Station.
So as the reality that Tuberville may be leaving at the end of the year becomes more apparent, the Auburn nation is bracing itself for what may be the second coaching change in the state of Alabama in as many years.
But who should be on Auburn’s shortlist of candidates if Tuberville decides to bolt, and what are Auburn’s chances of landing these coaches?
1. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Every Auburn fan is hoping to land the big one, much like Alabama did with Nick Saban just last year. Early rumors down on the plains have Spurrier targeted as one of the dream picks for the Tigers, and why not?
Despite the fact that two National Championship winning coaches (Steve Spurrier and Lou Holtz) have held the reigns at South Carolina for a combined nine years, the Gamecocks have only met spotty success at best and have failed to establish themselves as an SEC powerhouse.
In Spurrier’s three years at South Carolina, he has failed to win more than eight games and has lost five in each of those three years with the Gamecocks. Auburn can offer a more stable program and a stronger recruiting pool, enabling Spurrier to rise to the top of the football world once again
2. Bobby Petrino, Atlanta Falcons
Ironically, the man at the center of the controversy to replace Tuberville in 2003 is near the top of the list to replace him in 2007. Petrino would be about as close to a dream pick as the Tigers can expect.
He has proven he can coach a team to offensive supremacy, as he did while he was an offensive coordinator at Auburn and head coach at Louisville. With that said, the NFL hasn’t been everything Petrino was hoping for. From losing his starting quarterback before a single snap, to a 3-6 record at the bottom of the NFC South, Petrino has been in better situations.
Much like Spurrier when he was with the Redskins, the question isn’t whether Petrino can coach, but whether the NFL is right for him. If it isn’t, Auburn will gladly take him.
3. Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia
Rich Rodriguez was near the top of the list when the University of Alabama started their coaching search last year. Rumor had it that he would have accepted the job if it were not for the entire state of West Virginia begging him to stay.
So what's changed after a year?
If the Mountaineers win out and receive no national championship consideration, Rodriguez cannot help but consider moving to a larger and stronger conference. The Big East is getting stronger every year, however, regardless of what anyone says, the Big East still does not get the same consideration that the SEC, Pac 10, Big 10, and Big 12 receive.
It would be a long shot, but Rich Rodriguez might be lured by the high prestige of the SEC.
4. Brian Kelly, Cincinnati
Perhaps one of the more attainable coaches for Auburn, Brian Kelly has had somewhat of a meteoric rise in his coaching career. After winning two NCAA championships with Grand Valley State in 2001-02, he spent three years at Central Michigan, turning a 3-8 program into a 9-4 bowl-bound team before moving to Cincinnati.
This season, Coach Kelly and Cincinnati have exceeded all expectations, leading the Bearcats to an 8-2 record and a No. 21 ranking, including upset wins over No. 21 Rutgers, No. 18 South Florida, and No. 13 Connecticut. Cincinnati has been winning with impressive defense, and Kelly’s defensive prowess makes him a prime candidate for an Auburn team that prides itself on having one of the top defenses in the nation.
Jimbo Fisher has a long history with the state of Alabama. He was the offensive coordinator at Samford University from 1991-92, then moved with Terry Bowden to be the QB coach at Auburn from 1993-98.
After being the quarterbacks coach at Cincinnati during the 1999 season, he was hired as the offensive coordinator at LSU where he eventually helped Nick Saban lead the team to a national championship. Upon the departure of Saban in 2005, he worked for one year under Les Miles until he left to assume the position of offensive coordinator for Florida State.
Fisher was going to be offered the head coaching position at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in 2005, until the Alabama Board of Trustees, which also governs the University of Alabama, rejected the contract offer, sparking controversy around the state. Many thought the move was rejected so that Saban could offer Fisher the offensive coordinator position at the University of Alabama instead.
Fisher has had success in his coaching career and has shown that he wishes to pursue a head coaching position. He is untested as a head coach, and if Auburn wants to take a chance, Fisher would accept.