Time To Apologize And Resign

William Walker should resign as Auburn University's president.

He should do it today, before the embarrassment gets any worse for a proud institution that deserves better.

Walker, the former dean of the school of engineering who would never be confused with a football expert, has put Auburn coaches, their wives and their children through hell while hiding a dirty little secret.

Last Thursday, instead of getting ready for the Iron Bowl, Walker, athletic director David Housel and trustees Earlon McWhorter and Byron Franklin were in the Louisville area talking to Bobby Petrino about replacing Tommy Tuberville as Auburn's head coach.

Walker didn't bother to tell Tuberville. He didn't even tell Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich. While Auburn's football team was having its final practice for the biggest game of the year and families were worrying about the future, Walker was cutting a deal with Petrino to fill a job that wasn't open. Not until he was about to be exposed did Walker admit the trip had taken place. His prepared statement showed no hint of regret.

It became obvious after a 24-20 loss to Ole Miss two and a half weeks ago that Tuberville's future at Auburn was in question. Walker told several people that Saturday night's 28-23 win over Alabama wasn't enough to save Tuberville, but he didn't tell Tuberville or his assistants. They were left to wait and wonder while Walker hung around Auburn for a couple of days, then went on "vacation" in Texas.

Maybe he would have been moved by one coach's young daughter's prayer that her daddy not be fired. Maybe he would have been moved by the taunting another coach's children received at school. Maybe, but I doubt it.

Walker was disingenuous at best, downright deceitful at worst, and showed no real concern for very real pain.

Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino is shown during a practice session last season when he served as QB coach and offensive coordinator for the Tigers.

Petrino lied repeatedly when asked if he'd had contact with Auburn. I would have expected better from him. Petrino told me on the day he left Auburn less than a year ago that Tuberville was a great friend and the best man he'd ever worked for, yet he was negotiating for Tuberville's job behind his back.

At least Petrino apologized. Walker issued a statement that can only be described as arrogant. It still leaves Auburn's coaches and their families in limbo. The Auburn football program is at a standstill.

With recruiting visits set to start next Monday, Auburn coaches can't even tell prospects if they'll be around next season. Surely, neither Walker nor Housel can believe they now have the moral authority to make a decision on who will be Auburn's football coach. They are scheduled to meet with Tuberville next Monday to discuss his future. Somebody should be meeting with them to discuss their futures.

If Walker and Housel have anything to say to Tuberville, it should be an apology.

It never made any sense to fire Tuberville. A huge majority of Auburn supporters have come to that conclusion in the past week. For Walker to stand up next week and say that Tuberville is going to be fired, at the cost of $4 million, against the will of most Auburn supporters would be the ultimate in arrogance.

Auburn supporters are angry, and they should be. What Walker has done is far more embarrassing than a 7-5 record. It's more embarrassing than an 0-12 record would have been.

Jurich was angry, too, and with good reason. "I can deal with Bobby Petrino on my own campus," he said. "But the national perception of how a university leader would come into my own back yard, behind my back, is highly disturbing. Auburn University is damn lucky to have a coach like Tommy Tuberville, and they're damn lucky if he would even think about coaching that program again."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Something tells me Tuberville's chances of staying at Auburn long-term rose dramatically Tuesday night. Given the chance, he'll be a force for healing and forgiveness. He is a good and honest man.

Walker, perhaps the only Auburn president who has never been to the locker room after a game, has made it clear for weeks to people close to him that he wanted Tuberville replaced. He never had the guts to tell Tuberville to his face.

He ought to be ashamed. He ought to resign.


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