Confidence in Auburn?


It seems like just yesterday that we were embarking upon the 2008 season with expectations abounding. And just the other day, I was busy reporting from SEC Football Media Days in Birmingham. There was no shortage of prognosticators. I was one of them. My opinions were based upon the 2007 season, returning players and, of course, coaches.

Now we find ourselves at the end of the regular season and one coach in the West is on the precipice of a national championship and the other (besides Sylvester Croom) is without a job. Little did Tommy Tuberville know that his tenure at Auburn would be judged by the success of the $4 million dollar man across the state.

But such is a day in the life of the college football and the Southeastern Conference where winning is everything and memory spans are short.

Tuberville did nothing at Auburn in 10 years but take the Tigers to an undefeated season, garner six straights wins against Alabama (only coach to do so in Auburn history), compile an 82 percent winning percentage in his last four years and graduate 84 percent of his players during his tenure — no doubt making those that played for him better men, sons, brothers, nephews, grandsons and fathers.

But apparently, that wasn’t enough for those in charge at Auburn. There are conflicting reports as to whether he resigned or was forced out. The language of his $6 million buyout is pretty clear — $3 million to be paid 30 days after said date and $3 million one year later. And he was not supposed to receive the money if he resigned from the position.

Why then did Auburn give him a $6 million dollar golden parachute … actually ending up a little closer to $5.1 million?

According to athletic director Jay Jacobs, “It was the right thing to do.”

There are two ways to look at this, as there are always two sides (or more) to every story. And to recognize that Jay Jacobs is telling the truth, and nothing but the truth, you must also recognize that the opposite could also be true.

Was Tommy Tuberville in actuality forced to resign?

Maybe the $6 million dollar buyout was more of a parting gift than a gesture of good will.

Olive Tuberville, the coach’s mother, was even quoted as saying, “He didn’t resign; he was fired.”

She said she didn’t learn the news from media reports. Instead, she heard it straight from the man who lost his job.

“He called and told me,” she said. “He made it through (the phone call to her) pretty good. He was dreading telling the players.”

Asked if she felt her son was betrayed by the school he led to 85 wins and an SEC championship over 10 seasons, she replied, “I would say yes to a certain extent.

“This went on too long. They had their minds made up days ago, I imagine. It was tough. He didn’t know what to expect. All of his friends have stayed with him.”

And if we were to peruse the history of Auburn football for the past 10 years, we will find a certain incident dubbed in the national media as “Jetgate,” in which a prominent booster lent his plane university officials to go visit and woo Louisville coach and former Auburn offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino. Of course, the media got hold of this and the public outcry was heard across the country.

Tuberville was retained, much to the chagrin of his not-so-veiled enemies. And he responded to those critics by going undefeated the following season. And with the exception of this season, Tuberville has led the Tigers to a winning record every year of this decade.

Whatever side you choose to believe, one thing is for sure. Tuberville and those around him will land on his feet because good people always do.

The real losers here are the players and the fans. They are the ones that control the least and often are hurt the most. The majority feel betrayed by a university whose creed includes these words:

“I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.”

I ask you today, where is the respect in the handling of the resignation of Coach Thomas Hawley Tuberville?

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