Auburn University today admitted that it had learned a painful lesson. No successful, established, head coach wanted the top job on the Plains. Therefore, it turned to Gene Chizik from Iowa State University whose 5-19 record through two seasons must strike fear in the hearts of fellow SEC West coaches.
I recently wrote a column suggesting that then-Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville should run quickly away from the frustrations of being the head football coach at Auburn. I did not really expect this to happen this year but, sure enough, Tuberville is no longer the head man on the sidelines at Jordan-Hare stadium.
Whether or not it was a simple resignation or Tuberville was run out of town on a $5.1 million, 14 kt gold rail, he was apparently much too vanilla for the Auburn administration and its well-healed boosters. Tuberville's stature diminished even more once Alabama lured Nick Saban from the National Football League.
I did not believe Auburn would find a coach better than Tommy Tuberville and the hiring of Chizik does nothing to change my view. Many Auburn alumni and students feel the same way.
But while their perspective is most likely out of appreciation to the coach who cleaned up the theatre following the playing of the epic, "Bowdens Gone Bad," I objectively submit that the Auburn job is simply not that attractive to any coaching prospect who would make the so-called "splash" that the Auburn power brokers were seeking.
First, Auburn will always be a regional football program despite what their loyal fans believe. The University of Alabama had a field day in 2004 proclaiming the "irrelevance" of the Auburn program on the national scene when upon going 12-0 in the regular season and winning the SEC title, the Tigers could not even manage to play for the national championship. Would that ever happen to the guys in crimson jerseys?Absolutely not.
Secondly, the Auburn program is burdened with unrealistic expectations from their fan base. Look, Auburn will always get quality players and can sustain an above average football program. However, Auburn must come to grips with the fact that they are "little brother" in the state of Alabama. The Tigers could have anyone standing on the sidelines but they would still be cast in the long shadow of their Tuscaloosa brethren.
Third, the Auburn administration and boosters simply do not allow for a stable football program. The paranoia with all things crimson has led to irrational decision making, ill-conceived hiring, and an overly inflated sense of where they rank in the college football pecking order. As long as the University is run by out of control boosters and an inept administration, the athletic department will continue to reap the "rewards" that come with short-sightedness.
Perhaps in an "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" moment, Auburn has chosen to do business the way it was done in Tuscaloosa up until a couple of years ago. That is through bone-headed hires and all-around poor judgement when simple leadership was all that was needed. Ultimately, that changed with the hiring of a football coach like Nick Saban.
Then again, big name, qualified coaches who can make a splash were willing to take a look at the Alabama job. The painful lesson for Auburn evidenced by its hiring of Gene Chizik is that when athletic director Jay Jacobs called, no big names were home.