Tuck and Run: The Tommy Tuberville Way

Ingram WorleyCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2008

I was trying to take the high road; I really was. 

I tried to handle Alabama's success with quiet pride.  I tried to sit back and enjoy the undefeated regular season and the return of Alabama football to national prominence.

I tried to relish the end of losing streaks to LSU, Mississippi State, and most importantly, Auburn, silently.

But slowly, like an approaching thunderstorm, it started to happen. 

Chatter from the Auburn faithful (see Kevin's article, "Taking Blame, The Nick Saban Way") began to emerge.  I began to hear the whispers about Nick Saban.

He is a turncoat. He is awful to the media. He blames losses on his players, not himself.  He is arrogant. He cheats. He is just plain mean.

Meanwhile, Alabama continued to pile up the wins. Tommy Bowden, executed.  Phil Fulmer, terminated. Sly Croom, booted. 

And then there was Tommy Tuberville, the most intelligent of the four.

You see, Tuberville saw the writing on the wall long ago.  He realized he had lived his moment in the sun.  A year ago, he glimpsed into the future and saw the sleeping giant beginning to stir. 

He wanted out.

He wanted out, because he knew this was going to happen.  When his Texas A&M/Arkansas plans went in the tank, the panic began to set in.

Hoping for a miracle, he abandoned Auburn's long successful offensive style, and went for the "hot" commodity, the vaunted "spread" offense.

He found a coordinator (read: scapegoat) willing to implement this new idea, and headed into 2008 as a top 10 team and a trendy pick to win the division.

What followed has been analyzed, critiqued, and regurgitated for four months.  The offense sputtered, to put it mildly.

Auburn escaped games early, winning thrillers against Mississippi State (3-2) and Tennessee (14-12).  Even though the offense exploded for 20+ points against LSU, Auburn came up short.  The wheels had come off.

Meanwhile, to the northwest, Alabama continued to win, and continued to climb up the polls.  The national media began to recognize that Nick Saban was, in fact, as good or even better than advertised.

Tuberville, now grasping, axed offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, adding to a lengthy list of assistant coaches removed from the premises. 

The change did not have the intended effect. Losses to Vanderbilt, Arkansas, West Virginia, Ole Miss, and finally Georgia had cemented the season as a lost cause.

Up in Tuscaloosa, the "process" continued to steam along.  Alabama rolled through the remainder of its schedule undefeated. Nick Saban had all but locked up the National Coach of the Year award.

The day that Tommy Tuberville had feared was upon him.  Carrying a six-game Iron Bowl winning streak into Tuscaloosa, Tuberville defiantly raised seven fingers as his team entered Bryant-Denny Stadium.

There is no need to get into the details of that day. The 36-0 dismantling of his Tigers confirmed the obvious. The run was over. He had waited too long. 

The win was more than the cap on the undefeated season for Alabama. It was more than the seventh loss for Auburn. It was symbolic in that the entire climate of football in the state of Alabama had shifted.

Tuberville knew it. 

According to Auburn's President and Athletics Director, Tuberville was "begged" to stay.  Most of the national media felt that Tuberville should stay.  He had earned too much in his ten years to be removed from his post.  

They were correct, he had earned it.

He just did not want it.

He did not want any part of what was going to happen, what had already started to happen.  He knew what was left of his legacy would forever be tarnished if he became Nick Saban's personal doormat.

He could no longer compete for the high profile recruits.  He had lost the support of the administration (if he ever had it), and support from his fan base had fractured.

In the three and a half hours at Bryant-Denny Stadium, his six-game streak was washed away.  His undefeated season was forgotten.  His conference title was an afterthought. 

In the fourth quarter, one could almost read it on his face. "Why am I still here?  I will not let this happen to me again." 

So, kudos to Tommy Tuberville, it will not happen to him again.  He played the "tuck and run" to perfection. 


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