An Auburn Perspective on Ducks, Tigers and Mea Culpas from the BCS Championship
To all of those who were outraged and in shock when Gene Chizik was hired as head football coach—and despite the revisionist history displayed by many, we were legion—it’s time to admit that maybe judging the Auburn coach on his short history of non-success as Iowa State may have been either premature or misguided. I was as guilty as any.
Chizik masterfully steered his team, his coaching staff and the fanbase through tumult and drama—both on and off the field—that would have derailed a lesser man. His performance in 2010 was the stuff of legends. No argument here that he did an amazing job of keeping the entire Auburn family focused, and that by his sheer force of personality coerced every last one of us to go all in.
To all of those who pretend today that they were confident that Chizik could do in two years what neither Pat Dye nor Tommy Tuberville could do in 22 years combined and what Shug Jordan could do only once in 25 seasons, it’s time to stop kidding yourself. Only the freakishly optimistic—the kind who predict a perfect season every season and then crow to the rafters on the rare occasions when it comes to pass—can claim to have called it.
They’ll call it again next year. And the next. But that’s okay. You need those guys on the wall.
To every Oregon fan who brayed “Roll Tide” during three days in Arizona, congratulations. You lost to Auburn twice.
To every Alabama fan who cawed rooster crows prior to the SEC Championship Game and then frittered away his or her money on green and gold “Roll Ducks Roll” t-shirts, congratulations. You lost to Auburn three times.
To the Big Ten official who picked off Zac Etheridge on 4th-and-5 in the fourth quarter, allowing Oregon receiver D.J. Davis to skate to the Tiger 11 after a 29-yard pickup, congratulations. Your pick was the best play by a representative of the Big Ten conference during the bowl season.
To anyone who has ever written a scathing commentary on the influence banker Bobby Lowder allegedly has over the Auburn football program, here’s an idea for you. Take a look at Creepy Uncle Phil Knight and the tentacles he has intertwined in the Oregon football program. It’s not enough that he treats the team like his own set of poseable action figures (formerly known as dolls), even though he clearly borrows clothes from his sister’s Barbie Fashion Fest collection.
No, Creepy Uncle Phil is alleged to have a direct line to the sidelines, alleged to call plays, said to oversee private practices definitely engineered the ouster of former coach Mike Bellotti and the hiring of current coach Chip Kelly and removed an athletic director who wasn’t following his orders and had him replaced by a man without a college degree.
There’s your undue influence, although you’re more likely to see the national media pursue an expose on Santa Claus than you will see them take a long hard look at Creepy Uncle Phil and his day-glo uniform combos.
Speaking of creepy, if you know where to find one, please pick up a dictionary and hand it to Pete Thamel of the New York Times. Look up the word “obsession”, Pete. Your singular fixation on all things Auburn has exceeded the bounds of journalistic interest and extended several miles into what can best be described as perverted stalking.
In the real world there would be restraining orders in place. We all know the connections including who owns your paper and others, but your obsession is sick. Turn your sour yellowish glare on any other institution and see if it can withstand your scrutiny as Auburn has.
While you’re looking in the dictionary, check out a couple of words for your friends Pat Forde, Joe Schad and Thayer Evans. Try “hysterical’ and “credibility” and “source.” Now use them in a sentence: “Unless you have multiple verifiable sources, please refrain from hysterical commentary or you yourself will have no credibility.”
Being first with a story is only worthwhile if you get it right. Far too often—and not just in the breathless Auburn reporting you three vomited out this season—you clowns don’t get it anywhere close to right. Your “sources” sometimes make you look so foolish; one wonders if they aren’t sitting around laughing at you as you make fools of yourselves.
To all the Auburn fans who have endured equal doses of heartache and joy over the last 30-plus years, this season was sweet vindication.
It soothed the long-held ache that remained from a 1972 season that saw Auburn beat Alabama, finish 11-1 and still not earn the SEC title because the Tide played one more SEC game that season.
It lifted the should-have-been champions from 1983 on its shoulders.
It eased the disbelief of a 1988 Tommy Hodson miracle that denied Auburn a chance at a weak Notre Dame team with the title on the line.
It diminished the spurious exclusion of the 1993 team from championship contention due to probation when other schools—Alabama in 2009, for instance—were not similarly excluded.
And it vindicated the undefeated 2004 Tiger team.
Based on the unarguable domination of the SEC in the BCS era that team in retrospect clearly deserved at least a shot at the brass ring.
To the Alabama fans who were perplexed last season when the entire Auburn family didn’t line up behind your quest for the BCS title as a matter of state pride, the question today is where were you this year? We know the answer to that. Rushing down to CVS to get your “13” hats while they have them on clearance for $3.
You demanded our support last season and painted those who didn’t jump on your bandwagon as traitors to the state. Curious. Auburn’s bandwagon was noticeably absent of Bama fans as it rolled to Glendale. Traitors. We liked it that way.
To Pat Dye, who started this long train to the top of the mountain, God bless you. Thank you for your faith, passion and love since you became a part of the Auburn family in 1981. You led Auburn out of the desert of despair. It’s a shame that timing and the whims of fortune kept you from standing on this national championship stage yourself. Those of us who know Auburn history know we would not be here today without you.
To Tommy Tuberville, who gave Auburn 10 great years and brought now legendary Auburn men like Kodi Burns, Mario Fannin, Lee Ziemba, Ronnie Brown, Jason Campbell, Carnell Williams, Courtney Taylor, Marcus McNeill and hundreds of others to campus, God bless you as well. The 24 seniors who paved the way to this championship are Tigers because you and your staff recruited them. You will always hold a special place in Auburn history.
To those who insist on taking shots at Tuberville, ignoring his successes, focusing on his flaws and minimizing the impact he had on the program, you should take a look at where Auburn was when he arrived and where Auburn went under his leadership. Historical perspective isn’t a bad thing. Get some.
To Kodi Burns goes the undying admiration of Auburn fans everywhere. In you is exemplified what it truly means to be a team leader. You put Auburn ahead of yourself and were rewarded with a championship. How fitting that you scored your only receiving touchdown of the season in the biggest game of the year.
It is so easy to credit Cam Newton. He deserves every accolade thrown his way. His combination of speed, size, savvy and unbridled joy changed Auburn football forever. A year ago it was said that if nothing else, Gene Chizik had made Auburn football fun again. Cam seized that fun and made it his own. No other player, particularly one of his immeasurable talent, ever embraced the Auburn fans as Newton did. And they loved him right back.
On a side note, Cam is reminiscent of another junior college athlete who made an indelible mark on Auburn before leaving after one season. Rudi Johnson arrived at Auburn in 2000 after a stint at Butler Community College. Auburn coaches were actually recruiting another player, discovered Johnson and quickly turned their attention to recruiting him. Sound familiar? Newton was discovered by Auburn coaches during a recruiting trip to see one of his receivers.
Johnson’s one season at Auburn was spectacular. He rumbled through, over, around and past the rest of the SEC. In Tommy Tuberville’s second season, Johnson led the SEC in rushing, powered the Tigers to the SEC Championship game and earned SEC Player of the Year honors. It was the beginning of a long and successful run for Tuberville and the Tigers. Newton’s star blazed even brighter than Johnson’s and his ultimate prize was exponentially greater, but the parallels are obvious.
Johnson opted to leave Auburn after one season. Newton will now do the same, officially declaring his intent on Thursday. Johnson went on to NFL success with the Bengals. His early departure from Auburn was credited as a significant factor in the recruitment of Carnell Williams, who became one of the anchors of Tuberville’s best teams in 2004. It remains to be seen whether Newton's brief, shining time on the Plains will have the same lasting effect.
To every Alabama fan who whipped out “Got 13” as if it were some magical kryptonite that would ward off what Auburn has accomplished, guess what? It doesn’t. It won’t. It can’t. Because you don’t. Your hallowed magic number is a fantasy dreamed up by former Alabama Sports Information Director Wayne Atcheson, who arbitrarily yanked a number out of thin air and added it to the Crimson Tide media guide. It was never true, but some of you latched on to that as if it was the Holy Grail.
Why Atcheson chose that number and not some equally ridiculous total like “durfteen” (kudos to iCarly) is the only real mystery here. If Acheson had tossed out eleventy thriven kobullion as his numerical pick, you’d see a ton of houndstooth laden merchandise adorned with ETK+ boldly emblazoned on it today. For amusement, here’s a link to Brother Wayne’s shameless confession.
To the decrepit Oregon fan at the sidewalk café who kept trying to trip Auburn patrons with his cane? People saw you. You and a flock of others like you are the reason many Auburn fans left Arizona determined to cheer for Beavers, Trees, Huskies and Bruins against your team in the future. People like you are why many of us will put aside our regional differences and support a Bayou beatdown when LSU travels to Uncle Phil’s Camp for Day Glo Children to open next season.
Here’s a hint to Oregon fans. When your team has a signature win under its belt (and we’re not talking just this season, we’re talking historically); when your team isn’t staring at a 2-7 bowl record over the last nine seasons with the only wins coming in the Holiday Bowl and Sun Bowl; when you’ve beaten a handful of top 25 teams in the same season, then maybe you can run non-stop smack. Until then, perhaps you could tone it down a little.
Here’s another hint to Oregon fans. Get some new cheers. Shouting “Ooooooooo” through your hands and then chanting “Let’s Go Ducks” is weak and grows repetitive. Like Virginia Tech (which only has the hokey pokey and the “Let’s Go Hokies, clap clap clap-clap-clap" cheers) you need some better material if you’re going to be on the big stages. Come up with three or four different options to break the monotony.
To the Oregon fans who tried to explain the great fan atmosphere at Oregon games, were you aware you were cooking on a Foreman Grill? In the south, gameday grills are the size of your Prius. Burgers aren’t made of carrots and beans. Animals have to die in order to make a real burger.
To the Oregon fans who boasted about consecutive sellouts of their home games, do you know what you call 55,000 people at an SEC stadium? A spring game.
To the Oregon fans who boasted about their awesome Pac-10 schedule, do you know what people in the South call games against Portland State, New Mexico, Washington State and Arizona State? Homecoming 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
To the Oregon fans and players who think you beat yourselves in the championship game, congratulations. Add another team to the list that would beat the Ducks. So far we’ve got Auburn, LSU, Florida, Alabama, Oregon and maybe Arkansas, Mississippi State and South Carolina.
To the poor guy who decided to play a drinking game during the replay of the BCS Championship and down a shot every time Brent Musberger or Kirk Herbstreit said the words “tempo” or “speed” during the broadcast, please enjoy the flowers sent to your hospital room. When you passed out with five minutes still remaining in the first quarter and fell to the floor, we were all a little worried. Thirty-seven shots is a lot.
To the Oregon fan who wondered aloud why the Ducks looked so slow against Auburn and why receivers and backs were consistently run down from behind, here’s a hint for you: It wasn’t the turf. It wasn’t the hideous shoes. It wasn’t a mirage.
Despite all the talk, all the hyperbole, your team just isn’t that fast relative to the SEC. Auburn’s Onterrio McCalebb was just as fast as any of the Duck backs and he was, amazingly, bigger than most. In the SEC we combine size and speed. It’s a lethal cocktail. Auburn was just as fast or faster at every position on the field. On top of that, the Tigers were significantly bigger.
To John Canzano of OregonLive, who wrote a snarky pregame article in which he denigrated Auburn fans for their accents, apparel and faith in their team, here’s a nice steaming cup of shut the hell up. Hope you enjoyed the game. Hope you left for the restroom in the third quarter and returned to find your Ducks still sitting on 11, having failed to move a mountain with their “quickness.”
We. Just. Don’t. Get. It? No, John, we do. It’s you who were without any get. Uss’n ol Auburn fayuns hope you get it loud and clear today, ya heah? War Eagle, Johnny boy. War Damn Eagle. Hope you didn’t mind hearing it a few times as the victorious Tiger fans departed.
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