Letdowns in Key Games Doomed Tommy Tuberville

Doug CaldwellCorrespondent IDecember 3, 2008

I am sure that some people who read the headline on this are ready to hear me blast away at the now former Auburn football coach. That is not what I am going to do by any means. But I do think that the time was now for Auburn and Tuberville to part ways. 

Tommy Tuberville had a great run as the head football coach on the plains as his 85-40 record in 10 seasons would indicate. He was a class act, ran a clean program, and molded the Auburn Tigers into perennial contenders in a conference that seems to get more competitive by the season.

He had a 7-3 record against arch rival Alabama. Finished second n the BCS in 2004 following a 13-0 season. The Tigers had many memorable wins during the Tuberville era, as the coach held a 5-2 record against top-five opponents the most notable of those victories coming in 2001 when the Tigers defeated Steve Spurrier and the No. 1 ranked Gators in a game that I was lucky enough to attend.

The legacy that Tubby will leave at Auburn is no doubt a great one. One could argue that his 10 years at Auburn were quite possibly the best 10 year run in Auburn Football history. But it seems as though it was what Tuberville had done (or hadn't done) in recent years that began to sour fans and more importantly boosters. 

Everyone knows the Tuberville stats of success as there are quite a few. But following a disastrous 5-7 season, one that saw Auburn begin the year ranked in the top 15. This year's debacle was only the icing on the cake and the writing was all but on the wall that Auburn needed to make a change.

Here are several key games in recent years that I believe sealed Tubb's fate as the Tigers coach:

Lets go back to 2006. The 5-0 No. 3 ranked Tigers had gotten off to a hot start and were a week away from hosting top 10 Florida when the unranked Arkansas Razorbacks came to town.

The relatively unknown Houston Nutt ball club pounded Auburn to the tune of 27-10. The Auburn defense was gashed on the ground giving up 279 rushing yards. Arkansas was starting a true freshman quarterback (Mitch Mustain, who only attempted 10 passes in the game) and one had to wonder how the Auburn coaching staff would be so under-prepared for the Razorbacks' game plan.

This embarrassing loss at home killed Auburn fans who had national championship aspirations. Needless to say Tuberville went on the next week to beat a top-five Florida team but this Arkansas loss was not easily forgotten.  

Fast-forward to later in the 2006 season. It's mid November and the Tigers had won every game since the flop against Arkansas. Auburn, sitting at 9-1 ranked No. 5 and alive and well in the BCS race, welcomed unranked rival Georgia to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

An 11:30 AM start in the rain proved to be another classic Tuberville letdown as the Bulldogs went back to Athens 37-15 winners. Again the Tigers showed up unready to play as a true freshman Matthew Stafford went 14-20 for 219 yards and a TD. Georgia also had the ground game going, rushing for 227 yards in the game. This while Tubb's squad could only muster 171 yards of total offense as Brandon Cox threw four INTs.

Ask any Auburn person and they don't like to lose to Georgia but this loss stung more than usual. 

These two losses coincidentally enough were both morning home games. Games which Auburn should have won but both times the Tigers were dominated by a less talented foe on their home turf. You can excuse these losses however you would like but in the end the coaching staff had to be blamed. 

Auburn finished the 2006 season 11-2 but did not make it to Atlanta due to both losses coming within conference and Arkansas' continued success. The Razorbacks represented the SEC west in the Georgia Dome. 

Let's move on to 2007. The Tigers began another promising season ranked in the top 20. And after opening the year with a victory over Kansas State, Auburn faced an unranked South Florida squad at Jordan-Hare. This game was a close one but the Tigers yet again fell to an unranked opponent at home losing to the Bulls 26-23 in overtime.

Tuberville followed the South Florida loss with yet another loss at home to Mississippi State, as the Tigers started the 07 campaign 1-2. Tommy circled the wagons went on to upset Florida in the swamp and finished the season 9-4.

But again Auburn fans were left to wonder where their program would be if Tuberville would win the games he were supposed to.

During both the 2006 and 2007 season major concerns about the Tigers ability to score points developed. Tuberville addressed this concern by firing then OC Al Borges after the 2007 regular season.

Enter Tony Franklin, "offensive guru" and spread extraordinaire, along with a Peach Bowl victory and expectations were yet again high for the Auburn Tigers coming into 2008.

A preseason ranking of No. 13 and a 3-0 start again had Auburn fans dreaming of the Georgia Dome and a potential BCS bid. A Week Four loss to LSU followed two weeks later by Auburn's first loss to Vanderbilt since 1955 and the wheels were beginning to come off.

Sitting at 4-2, Tuberville found himself in a familiar spot. Although in the past this is where Arkansas Tommy would pull a rabbit out of his hat and upset Florida or reel off five straight victories. But there was no such magic this season.

As after the Vandy loss Tubbs told OC Tony Franklin (his prized off-season acquisition) to walk, only to see his injury-ravaged and confused football team finish 1-5 in their last 6 games, which included a third straight loss to Georgia and a 36-0 drubbing at the hands of Saban's crimson machine.

All of that brings us to now.

There are not enough adjectives to describe how terrible the 2008 Auburn Football season was.

5-7 is just unacceptable for a coach that is being paid just over 3 million dollars per.

In this day and age of college football, it really is all about 'what have you done for me lately' and Tuberville didn't have a good answer for this season's extremely poor performance. No where to be found were the scapegoats of days past like Borges or Franklin. Tuberville finally had step up and take the hit that in the past he was always able to avoid. 

It can be said that Tuberville would still be employed had Alabama not gone a perfect 12-0 and on the verge of a potential national championship. But Alabama's meteoric rise to the forefront of college football seems to have only hastened something that Tommy Tuberville had coming to him for sometime now.