Walking off the field Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, Tommy Tuberville had the look of a man who knew his best days on the Plains were behind him. A 36-0 beat down at the hands of an in-state arch rival will etch a look of despair on the face of any coach.
Tuberville must have been pondering the quick turnaround in the fortunes of the two football powers in the Heart of Dixie.
In the 52 weeks since these teams met in 2007, Auburn saw its once promising 2008 season turn into a nightmare while Alabama snapped a six-game losing streak to Auburn, advanced to the SEC Championship game, and claimed the No. 1 ranking in college football.
After all, this time last year many of the Alabama faithful were complaining that the hire of Nick Saban was the biggest waste of money since Kevin Costner made "Waterworld."
My, how things change. The fans and alumni of Alabama have long ago abandoned any maddening notions of Saban's worth, but the Auburn faithful have come to resemble a frustrated child stuck with an unwanted gift that cannot be taken back.
The so-called Riverboat Gambler had the good fortune to be at Auburn while Alabama played musical chairs with head football coaches. He has compiled a tidy 85-40 record in 10 years at the helm, but unfortunately for Tuberville and Aubies everywhere, the arrival of Nick Saban has brought home the fact that the Crimson Tide own the state of Alabama and are the program on the upswing.
Tuberville oversees a solid football program. He is great with alumni, an asset to the school's fund-raising efforts, and a fairly good motivator and recruiter.
The cold hard truth for Auburn, however, is that he is not in the same league with Saban on game planning and the x's and o's of football. Saban can also recruit circles around Tuberville.
If Auburn is content to play for Chick-Fil-A Bowls and Music City Bowls, Tuberville is a safe bet.
And given the possibility that Saban will return to the NFL, Auburn might be wise to wait out Saint Nick and allow the Alabama administration to inflict damage on the football program. The Capstone crusaders certainly have an impressive track record when it comes to self-destruction.
Auburn cannot fire Tuberville. It would be a fiasco and would scare off any credible applicant who might be willing to replace Tuberville. After all, it is a pretty high standard when 8-4 (Tuberville's average the past four seasons) gets you fired. It gets you Coach of the Year at most schools.
To avoid this nightmare scenario, the Auburn power brokers may want to encourage Tuberville to look at openings at Clemson or any other schools that will be opening soon.
The Riverboat Gambler could get a job that doesn't involve being consumed with the ultra-successful Nick Saban and the Auburn administration would have no blood on its hands like it did with the "Jetgate" scandal.
The bottom line is that if Tuberville chooses to stick around, he is only buying himself a year or so. Auburn is unlikely to close the gap with Alabama anytime soon, let alone gain on Florida or Georgia. Taking the money and getting out now is best for all involved.
If not, Tuberville had better get used to calling out to Auburn-Opelika airport determine the whereabouts of "Lowder One."
Jet fuel is at its lowest price in four years.