Coaches Left To Twist In The Wind

Phillip Marshall takes a look at the football coaching situation.

I hope Auburn president William Walker enjoys his Thanksgiving vacation. It's not likely that most of Auburn's football coaches and their families will enjoy theirs.

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville--and by extension his assistants--was left to twist in the wind last week as speculation swirled about his future. He's still twisting in the wind this week. Will he return? Will he not? Nobody at Auburn seems to be in any hurry to answer that question.

And that is indefensible.

Tuberville doesn't have to worry about his future. If he is fired next week, he'll get a $4 million going away present. It's the assistants and support people who are left to wonder what their lives will be like next week, the week after, the week after that.

And the man who can resolve this doesn't have time to be bothered. He's going on vacation.

It's amazing that this is even an issue two days after Auburn and Tuberville beat Alabama for the third time in four seasons. It's amazing that it's an issue about a coach who has winning records against Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. That's five of Auburn's six regular opponents. He's been to the SEC Championship Game. He's beaten the No. 1 team in the nation and five other Top 10 teams in his five seasons at Auburn. He's won or shared the West Division championship three times

More importantly, he's done it with class and dignity. There has been no hint of scandal and there won't be. He's recruited good people who go to class, graduate and don't embarrass themselves or their university.

He's done all that, but ill winds are blowing. He would have had no chance of keeping his job had he lost to Alabama last Saturday night. He won, but it seems unlikely at this point that winning was enough.

It doesn't take a football expert to look at this season and see what went wrong. Tuberville is prepared to deal with the problem, and given the chance, will fix the problem. Does it make more sense to do that or to tear the whole thing down and start over? The answer seems obvious to me, but what do I know? It also seems obvious to me that dealing with this issue is more important than going on vacation for Thanksgiving.

Walker's office is being inundated with emails and telephone calls. Some significant contributors are wondering why Auburn needs their money if it can afford $4 million to buy out the contract of a coach who has won and done it in the right way.

If Tuberville is fired, who will take his place? Bobby Petrino? Jimbo Fisher? Gary Patterson? They are all good coaches and good men, but which of them can even come close to matching Tuberville's resume? What available coach can? What is it about any of them that convinces anyone they will build a better program and win more games than Tuberville has won?

Across the state, Alabama has serious problems. The Tide doesn't have a very good football team this season and will have even less talent and less depth next season. The real impact of NCAA sanctions is just starting to hit.

But suddenly it is Auburn's program that seems in turmoil. It is Auburn that is talking about firing coaches.

I think making a change would be a mistake. I believe a large and growing majority of Auburn people believe it would be a mistake. Maybe Walker is prepared to make the call and take the heat that will go with it.

But to go away on vacation, stay silent and leave Tuberville, his assistants and Auburn people to wonder for a week or more what is going to happen is not only ill-advised, it is flat out wrong.


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