After reading the story earlier today, I simply couldn’t believe my eyes. The headline on a message board read, “Tuberville fired.” Auburn has officially fired head coach Tommy Tuberville and will owe him around $6 million to buyout his contract--$3 million within the next thirty days and an additional $3 million within one year.
I still can’t believe it. I’m feeling a combination of anger and sadness about the firing. Angry at the Auburn administration and athletic department for firing a coach who was so loyal to his University and sad a day like this has come in college football. I’m sad that it’s come to the day that a coach can rattle off eight straight winning seasons in the SEC and the second he has one losing season—he’s canned.
In 2003, Auburn’s former president(William Walker) and former athletic director(David Housel) flew to Louisville with two Auburn trustees—Byron Franklin and Earlon McWhorter—on November 20th to discuss the Auburn job with Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino. This was two days before the Iron Bowl—the annual showdown between Auburn and Alabama. The meeting took place without three key people knowing about it: Tuberville, the Louisville president, and the Louisville athletic director. Auburn ended up defeating Alabama and finishing 8-5 that season after a bowl victory in the Music City Bowl. Tuberville ended up being retained after news of the “secret meeting” became public and support from Auburn fans poured in from all directions.
William Walker then met with Tuberville shortly after, apologized to him and said he hoped he would choose to remain at Auburn. Tuberville displayed unwavering loyalty to the program in deciding to stick with the Tigers and an administration that had clearly stabbed him in the back. "Everybody has shed a lot of tears, and right or wrong, everybody's learned from this," Tuberville said."Dr. Walker said he made a major mistake, and we talked about it," he said.
I realize that the current athletic director at Auburn(Jay Jacobs) has no connection to the situation, but how in the world can you justify firing a head coach who was not only loyal his program, but also happened to be one of the most successful coaches in college football?
During his ten seasons at Auburn, Tuberville only had two losing seasons! Those happened during his first year(1999) and his last(2008). He won 85 games in 10 seasons and led the Tigers to a SEC championship and undefeated season in 2004. In 2004, the Auburn Tigers finished 13-0 and won the SEC championship, but were left out of the BCS national championship game—in what will forever be known as one of the biggest screw jobs in college football history. Auburn still defeated Virginia Tech 16-13 in the Sugar Bowl that season, and Tuberville piled up the hardware: he was named Coach of the Year by the AFCA, the Associated Press, and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
In 2006, his Tigers posted huge victories over two top 5 opponents who later played in BCS bowls, including the BCS National Champion Florida Gators. Under Tuberville the Tigers had recently dominated their series with heated in-state rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl, winning six straight games in the rivalry until losing 36-0 on Saturday. The loss was Auburn’s worst defeat in the series since losing 38-0 in 1962.
Tuberville is not only one of the best game day coaches in America, he’s also one of the finest recruiters in all of college football. Known as “The Riverboat Gambler” for his aggressive play-calling style on 4th down, very few coaches have the level of game day smarts that Tuberville is blessed with. His coaching staffs at Auburn were always among the best in going out and landing recruits that fit their style of football. Some of the best players in SEC history played at Auburn under Tuberville’s watch: who will forget the dazzling running back tandem of Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown or the tremendous growth of quarterback Jason Campbell throughout his career? One of the most feared linebacker tandems in college football history suited up for Tuberville—Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas. Who will forget the likes of Carlos Rogers and Junior Rosegreen roaming the gridiron in the secondary for Tuberville? That’s not even mentioning the fearless running style of former Auburn great Kenny Irons, who seemed to explode through the line of scrimmage with a rare fire and energy. Linebacker Tray Blackmon has had a few problems off-the-field, but the kid has NFL talent written all over him if he can stay out of trouble. Last year the Tigers landed an excellent class once again, defensive back T’Sharvan Bell appears to be a future star on defense for the Tigers.
Over the past few years, Auburn’s players have always played with a high motor and played with a high level of intensity. I think a lot of that can be contributed to Tuberville’s coaching staff and their ability to prepare the Tiger football players for game day. His teams always played with a passion and intensity that made Auburn football a beautiful thing to watch.
Beyond the gridiron, Tuberville also did an excellent job in teaching his players to give back to their respective community. He required his players to spend a day at the Storybook Farm, an equestrian-based program offering free therapeutic care to children with debilitating illnesses. He also hosted several charity golf events for the Auburn University Marching band and many other organizations.
Unfortunately for Tuberville, none of that matters. In the graveyard of coaches in the SEC, it’s about winning now. If you don’t, you will pay the price. Just ask former Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin—who was in just his seventh game of implementing the spread offense for the Auburn Tigers before he was canned (including the 2007 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl). Franklin was fired by Tuberville because he knew that if he didn’t get things turned around in a hurry, he was next on the chopping block.
In the end, I think it was the “Riverboat Gambler” and his willingness to gamble which eventually sealed his fate. Changing up Auburn’s offense was a pretty risky proposition—especially with two inexperienced quarterbacks under center in Kodi Burns and Chris Todd. I still can’t believe how outrageous it is that Tommy Tuberville was fired, but in the graveyard of the SEC I guess it isn’t too hard to believe.