Time For David Housel To Do The Right Thing

Phillip Marshall writes about his long-time association with Auburn's athletic director.

When I first met David Housel, he was an intern at The Birmingham News, an Auburn senior getting ready to graduate with a degree in journalism. I was a teenage copy boy, a position that no longer exists at most newspapers in this computer age.

David and I struck up a friendship. I went with him once on the kind of assignment interns often get--a story on two foxes that visited a lady's back yard at dusk every day. A few years later, I started my career as a sports writer at the now-defunct Huntsville News. David was the news editor. He was and is one of the more talented writers I have known.

We each rented a room in an old Huntsville house. Our rooms were upstairs and the owner, a sweet old lady named Mrs. Richardson, lived downstairs. I'll never forget his sheer delight when Auburn routed Alabama 49-26 in 1969. Over the years, we have laughed together and cried together.

Through David's time as assistant ticket manager, as a journalism instructor, sports information director and finally athletic director, our friendship continued. David's wife, Susan, and I went to high school together at Shades Valley in Birmingham. She, too, is a dear and cherished friend.

I hope those friendships continue today and for as long as we live.

I don't know who made the arrangements for the infamous Nov. 20 airplane trip to interview Louisville coach Bobby Petrino. I don't know if David was told to go, if he chose to go or if he set up the entire thing. The truth is, it doesn't really matter.

David Housel became athletic director at Auburn on April 1, 1994.

There's no doubt that David would give anything if he could go back to that day and not do what he did. Life doesn't work that way. He got on that airplane. He has admitted he knew no one at Louisville had been informed. He has admitted he wanted to use the Colonial Bank airplane instead of an Auburn plane because he didn't think it would be as easily detected. He knew Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville knew nothing of what was going on and knew that Tuberville believed he was in his corner.

That trip and the events surrounding it have set off a firestorm among Auburn people like I have never seen. They are embarrassed, hurt and angry. And they have a right to be.

I've said before that I believe everybody on that trip--President William Walker, David and trustees Earlon McWhorter and Byron Franklin--ought to resign. I haven't changed my stance on that.

The Board of Trustees will have to deal with Walker and with their own if those people don't do the honorable thing and step down. But the hard truth is this was an athletic department issue, and David is the athletic director. He should have told Walker and the rest that it was wrong, that it was not the way things are done. He should have told them the timing--two days before the Iron Bowl--was unacceptable. If they said they were going anyway, he should have refused to go. If it meant losing his job, he should have lost his job.

Instead, he has lost what I know is the most important thing to him--the respect and admiration of Auburn people. He lost a friend in Tommy Tuberville, who should not be asked now to work side by side with the man who participated in a clandestine effort to bring him down. David will never again be viewed by Auburn people as he was viewed before Nov. 20. There is one way and only one way he can regain at least a measure of what he once had.

He can stand up, say what he did was wrong, say he is going to do what is best for Auburn even if it is personally painful, and step aside as athletic director.

It isn't just what he should do. It's what he must do. It's the right thing--for himself and for the school he loves.


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