Messing With An SEC Football Icon

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about Auburn and SEC football as well as Tiger baseball.

Noted in passing. Were I on the University of Georgia Board of Trustees, I'd have some big questions about President Michael Adams' judgment.

For starters, the basketball program is a national joke because he insisted on hiring Jim Harrick to be the coach. Not surprisingly, Harrick acted the same way at Georgia he has acted at other places. Harrick lost his job and Georgia's reputation took a serious hit. And now Adams has shown Vince Dooley the door, telling him June 30, 2004, will be his last day as athletics director. Are you kidding me?

Dooley is an icon at Georgia. He brought the Bulldogs a national championship in 1980. He is respected throughout college athletics. And it didn't take long for Adams' decision to have an impact. Herschel Walker, the most famous player in Georgia history, quickly resigned from fund-raising for the school. "I'm resigning because of my loyalty to Coach Dooley," Walker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Coach Dooley called and asked me to be on the committee. Now I'm going to step down."

A poll conducted on the AJC's website asked readers if they agreed with Walker's stance. The response was overwhelmingly in support of Walker--3,715 agreeing and 78 opposing. There's no doubt Georgia has been through some embarrassing episodes recently, but none was as embarrassing as the Harrick saga. And Adams has no one to blame but himself for that one. Adams fancies himself a reformer, though it's difficult to see a really committed reformer hiring Harrick to coach his basketball team. Maybe he wants to hire an athletic director who will impress his buddies on the Knight Commission. But he has ignited a firestorm now. It's more than a year before Dooley, 70, is scheduled to go into forced retirement. It'll be interesting to see if Adams is still around to make it happen. I wouldn't put the odds at much better than 50-50.

BASEBALL FRUSTRATION

There can be little doubt that Auburn's baseball team missed a golden opportunity. That became even more obvious when Southwest Missouri State swept Auburn Regional champion Ohio State in the Columbus super regional over the weekend to earn a trip to the College World Series. Maybe SWMO would have done the same at Plainsman Park, but I'd say it's doubtful. The Buckeyes' shaky pitching staff survived the weekend at Auburn, but couldn't get it done at home.

The bottom line for the Tigers is that an offense that had been inconsistent for much of the season finally caught up with them when it mattered most, and they inexplicably played one of the worst defensive games of the season when everything was on the line against Ohio State last Sunday.

What a great accomplishment, however, for Southwest Missouri State. It was the No. 4 seed in Lincoln and won that regional, then went on the road and beat Ohio State and is now headed to Omaha for the College World Series.

ONE MAN'S OPINION

For what it's worth, which isn't much, here's my guess at how the SEC football race will shake out in the coming season.

WEST: 1. Auburn, 2. LSU, 3. Ole Miss, 4. Arkansas, 5. Mississippi State, 6. Alabama (ineligible for championship).

EAST: 1. Tennessee, 2. Georgia, 3. Florida, 4. South Carolina, 5. Kentucky, 6. Vanderbilt.

EXPANSION AHEAD?

With the Miami, Syracuse and Boston College apparently set to leap from the Big East to the ACC, there has been talk of possible expansion of the SEC. Virginia Tech would be a good addition. And Clemson has always seemed like it would be more at home in the SEC than the ACC.

My guess, though, is that SEC expansion is years away if it is coming at all.

WHAT QB QUESTIONS?

I find it puzzling that so many preseason prognostications label junior quarterback Jason Campbell as an Auburn question mark. From where I sat, Auburn's season turned around last season when Campbell became the starting quarterback.

The Tigers lost just one game he started, and that was the heartbreaker at the hands of eventual SEC champion Georgia. He directed wins over Alabama and Penn State, both Top 10 teams at the time, and came off the bench to spark a spectacular comeback against Florida. What more was he supposed to do? Until next time...


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