Walker issued this statement:
"Auburn University has an established tradition of excellence in both its academic and athletic programs. Recently, I have grown concerned that the football program has been falling short of my expectations for its success.
"In my desire to provide leadership and to gain a clearer understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of Auburn's football program, I solicited opinions from a wide variety of individuals more knowledgeable about the game than I. One of those individuals was University of Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino. My discussion with him went beyond his analysis of the Auburn program and, unfortunately, resulted in an understanding that I would favor his candidacy for the Auburn head coaching position if it were to become available.
"This discussion was a mistake. By meeting with Coach Petrino, I placed him in an untenable position. I apologize to him and the University of Louisville for my error.
"I understand also that my actions have placed Coach Tommy Tuberville in an awkward and uncomfortable position. I am truly sorry this has occurred. Coach Tuberville has done many good things for our football program. The quality of athletes he has recruited has been exemplary both in terms of their athletic abilities and their character. I especially appreciate his commitment to the education of our student athletes. He has, understandably, earned the support of the Auburn faithful.
"I continue to have high expectations for all of Auburn's athletic teams, including football. Throughout the year, I expressed those expectations to the athletic director who relayed them to the football coaching staff. I want to be clear--I expect Auburn to compete consistently for the SEC Championship and to be highly ranked nationally on a regular basis. We have not achieved these goals and that has been, and continues to be, my paramount concern.
As planned, I will meet with Coach Tuberville and David Housel next week to strategize on how we meet these goals, and to ensure Coach Tuberville's success at Auburn in the 2004 season and beyond. If Coach Tuberville elects to do so, he will continue as Auburn's head football coach next year. I sincerely hope he chooses to remain at Auburn.
Once again, I deeply regret the manner in which this matter has been handled. The errors in judgment have been mine and mine alone. My goal in this series of events has been to move our University forward in a positive and constructive manner."
That announcement came less than 24 hours after Tuberville's former offensive coordinator, Bobby Petrino, took his name out of consideration for the Auburn job. He had been contacted by Auburn officials earlier this month about taking over for Tuberville following the 2003 season.
Tuberville's team finished the regular season with 28-23 victory over Alabama to post a 7-5 record. The Tigers are expected to accept an invitation to either the Music Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., to play Wisconsin of the Big 10 or to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta to play Clemson.
Housel issued this statement on Wednesday night:
"A lot of mistakes were made over the last several days, and for my part in those mistakes, I apologize. I apologize to Louisville, to Tom, to Bobby and most of all to Tommy.
"It was a process of evaluation that went awry. And I was part of that process.
"Regrettably, mistakes were made and as a result of those mistakes, a lot of people I care about had to go through some difficult times and difficult experiences. But now, we have to find a way to come together, mend the wounds, heal the relationships and move Auburn forward."
In five seasons as head coach of the Tigers, Tuberville has a 37-24 mark. With Jackie Sherrill stepping down at the end of the 2003 season, he will be second in tenure among SEC head coaches behind Phil Fulmer of Tennessee with nine seasons including four years as head coach at Ole Miss.
Tuberville's SEC record at Auburn is 22-15, including 5-3 in 2003. His 1999 team was 5-6 (2-6 and fifth in the SEC West), his 2000 Tigers were 9-4 (6-2 and first in the SEC West), the 2001 Tigers were 7-5 (5-3 and tied for first in the SEC West) and the 2002 team was 9-4 (5-3 and tied for first in the SEC West).
Petrino bowed out of the picture and apologized to the University of Louisville as well as Tuberville after it was reported that he had secretly met with Auburn University President Dr. William Walker, Athletic Director David Housel and board of trustee members Byron Franklin and Earlon McWhorter two nights before Auburn's victory over archrival Alabama.
That meeting upset Alabama governor Bob Riley, who issued this statement on Wednesday:
"As chairman of the Auburn University Board of Trustees, I believe an apology is owed to the University of Louisville for the unofficial visit by Auburn University officials last Thursday. I am extremely disappointed to learn that Auburn President William Walker, Athletic Director David Housel and two trustees flew to Kentucky to discuss the Auburn head football coaching situation with Louisville Head Football Coach Bobby Petrino. President Walker had been reported in the press as deferring any decision on Auburn Head Football Coach Tommy Tuberville's future until they met the week after Thanksgiving.
It is also difficult for me to understand why I, as chairman of the Auburn board, was not informed that a search process for a new head football coach had begun, especially considering the fact that the promised meeting with Coach Tuberville had not yet taken place. The manner in which this situation has been handled is embarrassing to Auburn University."