Fortner Surprises Players, AU Adminstrators

Comments from Nell Fortner, Athletic Director Jay Jacobs and junior player Blanche Alverson are featured in this report on the AU coach's resignation.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn junior basketball forward Blanche Alverson said her team's head coach, Nell Fortner, caught the players off guard when she told them at Tuesday's practice that she is stepping down at the end of the season.

"I think it was just a reaction of shock," Alverson said when Fortner informed them of her decision at the end of practice.

"I don't think anybody on the team saw it coming," Alverson added. "Obviously, this year has been disappointing for us. It is hard to be upset when she is not upset. She is leaving on good terms. I think we are just shocked and trying to wrap our minds around it still."

Friends of Fortner and Auburn officials told Inside the Auburn Tigers that the decision was Fortner's and that she surprised Athletic Director Jay Jacobs and associate athletic director for women's sports, Meredith Jenkins, when she told them she was not going to coach after the final game of what has been a disappointing season.

Fortner thanks the fans after an Auburn victory.

Fortner said after Tuesday's practice she feels good about her decision.

"I want you to know first and foremost (the resignation) today is my decision," she stated. "Period. There could have not been any more shock in Jay and Meredith's face when I sat down with them and told them my desires. They have been nothing but supportive in making sure I was okay and this is what I wanted, and I appreciate that for them."

Fortner's friends said the coach is at peace with her decision. Fortner agreed. "I am just ready to do something else," she said, pointing out she has been coaching basketball for 28 years. "That is the bottom line. I am just happy that it has been accepted here by this administration. I thank them for their full support. I look forward to the next phase of my life.

"I absolutely love Auburn," the coach added, saying that she plans to continue to live in the Auburn community after she finishes coaching this season. "It has been a great place for me the last eight years and I have enjoyed every minute here."

Alverson said that the players will miss their head coach. "She just had a great impact on all of us individually," the junior said. "I have so much respect for her on the court and off the court."

Jacobs said that he has always had the "utmost respect for Nell" and how she has run the women's basketball program. The athletic director said that Auburn will begin a search immediately for a new coach.

"We will be efficient, but we will be thorough and get it done as soon as we can, but we are under no time constraints," Jacobs said.

The athletic director noted that when he met with the coach she immediately told him that she was ready to step down. "She doesn't beat around the bush very much," Jacobs said. "Before I could offer her something to drink she said, ‘I think I am done.' I can imagine what Meredith and I looked like. She already knew. The only thing I asked, ‘Are you at peace about this?' She said, ‘I am.'"

Commenting on the decision, Fortner said, "You just know when it is time. You just know. When it finally got to the point I knew, I went into see Jay and talked about it. That is just it. I can't pinpoint a certain time. It is the right time."

Commenting on the reaction of the players when she told the team, she said, "It was emotional in there. They are kids. It hits them hard and then they think about what they are going to have for dinner...We are all going to be okay."

Asked if she had any regrets that she is going out with the team playing poorly, Fortner, said, "I don't have any regrets at all. Of course, as a coach you wish you could win more, and that's probably the one thing you're always wanting to do is just win more. I have no regrets.

"We have great kids here. They are character kids. They are great in the classroom. They have made us proud on and off the floor. Yeah, if we could've had more wins, sure, that would have been fantastic. I'm most proud of the program. I think that we all, my staff how they represent the program, the kids. It's just solid, and I'm so proud of that. I know that the next coach that comes in here is going to be happy about what they're going to take over, and that makes me proud."

Fortner said she is going to push the Tigers to have a strong finish to the season.

"I haven't lost my fire," she said. "We've all dug our heels in this year and worked as hard as we can to get the most out of these players, and we'll continue to do that to the very end. I wouldn't say it motivates me any more. I'm always motivated. We'll just continue doing what we're doing and help these kids win a ball game."

Fortner Stepping Down


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