Writer’s note: Once again, I will issue the disclaimer that I am an Alabama fan. For some, this will disqualify my opinions on the recent events in Auburn. What you will find, however, is that my feelings may vary slightly from what you hear from most Tide supporters.
Does it get any better than this?
Alabama has regained control of football in this state. Alabama ended the six-year drought with a 36-0 blasting in Bryant-Denny, a place where we had previously failed to win a game against our most hated rival. The Western Division championship was locked up with three games to play. On top of this, the Auburn program is in a state of turmoil, teetering on the edge of the toilet, threatening to fall in.
I was initially disappointed with Tommy Tuberville’s exit. With his finger-raising, cartoon t-shirt wearing, disrespectful antics, I wanted a few more shots at him before he was sent packing.
One beatdown would have to be enough.
When the Auburn coaching search reached national punchline status, I thought that the apex had been reached.
Then, the brass at Auburn chose to bring in Gene Chizik and passed over a seemingly more qualified Turner Gill.
Then on top of everything else, the most recognizable Auburn alum issued a statement that blamed the hire on racial profiling. The publicity, to put it mildly, was not good.
Normally, when the national media chooses to drag the despised Auburn Tigers through the mud, I can’t get enough.
However, after a few hours to digest these happenings, I tried to see the big picture.
None of this is good for the state, the conference, or the region as a whole.
I will put my personal feelings on the hire aside for now. If one wanted to look at it with absolutely no bias, an argument for Chizik could be made. With the resources of a big-time program, the man can obviously run a defense. His record as coordinator at Auburn and Texas speaks for itself. Without a doubt, his run at Iowa State did not improve his reputation. But how much can you really judge from that?
Gill, on the other hand, has done everything right in his brief stint as a head coach. He has taken a Buffalo program from the cellar of college football to a conference title.
On the surface, especially from a national perspective, this seemed like a no-brainer.
As much as I would like to think that the powers that be at Auburn were just dumb enough to make the worst hire imaginable, common sense says that they had to have reasons:
1. Chizik has successful ties with Auburn and with the conference. I can see that experience as an advantage for him.
2. No one that I know actually witnessed the interviews. It is possible that Chizik was more impressive behind closed doors.
3. Buffalo to Auburn is a huge jump, both in expectations and pressure. Maybe Gill was not ready.
I would like to believe that these factors were the ones used when making the decision. If the worst you hear is actually true, Auburn is truly in a sad state.
If you listen to "experts" like Charles Barkley, or any of the numerous talking heads at ESPN, you believe that the passing over of Gill was based solely on race. If this is true, than this will not be seen nationally as an indictment of Auburn’s program only. It will be seen as deep-rooted racism that still exists in the deep South.
People will bring up Alabama’s passing over of Sylvester Croom for the disaster of the Mike Shula era. I think we would all like to forget about that.
From an Alabama fan’s perch, I do not see Auburn’s downfall as a victory. If this hire is the massive mistake that it has been made out to be, it probably indicates the beginning of a lengthy Alabama winning streak in the Iron Bowl. This will surely spill over into recruiting within the state and outside of it as well. Alabama will benefit.
While the Alabama fan in me would like nothing more than to face an Auburn team that is routinely 3-8 coming into the last game, though, the SEC fan in me knows that this will not really benefit anybody. A bad Auburn team is bad for business.
I will not pretend that I am "that" Alabama fan that roots for Auburn in every game except for the Iron Bowl. Quite the opposite is true. In fact, I spent the better part of the Auburn-Tennessee game trying to think of ways that they could both lose. I couldn’t come up with anything.
Believe it or not, my hope is that Auburn did make the best possible hire. Beating them when they are at their best is a whole lot more fun then beating them when they are in the tank. Therefore, I will choose to believe that Auburn hired the best man for that job.
Anything less than that forces me to admit things that I am not ready to come to terms with. Anything less than that will force all of us to rethink issues that should have been settled ages ago.