A Look At What Could Happen In 2004

Phillip Marshall writes about college football coaches, SEC basketball, AU's leadership and more in his opinion column.

Rambling on a cold Saturday…

If I have learned one thing in the past two months, it is to give little credence to anything Auburn president William Walker says.

He gave differing reasons on back to back days for the infamous trip to talk to Louisville coach Bobby Petrino. He issued a statement one day saying he was surprised and disappointed that SACS put Auburn on probation and told the University Senate the next day that he expected it. When pressed, he said the first statement was because they didn't have much time to come up with a press release. Those are just two of numerous examples.

It's a bit harsh to call someone a liar, but Walker's words speak for themselves.

Walker's latest statement came Friday. He decided he needed to respond to Internet rumors that Housel was on his way out as athletic director.

Walker called Housel a "valuable member" of his administrative team and said Housel has his full support. He said he expects Housel to be "our athletic director for a long time." Housel issued a statement saying he had no plans to resign. Take both of those statements for what they're worth, and that's not much.

When Housel goes, and my guess is that will be in a matter of weeks or maybe months, it won't be a resignation. It will be retirement. If Walker survives to serve out his term as Auburn president--and that is far from certain--it will be because the Board of Trustees is nervous about making a change at the top while trying to get through the SACS review scheduled for next month and the year of SACS probation.

It's unconscionable that no one has been held accountable for the clandestine trip and the lies that came after it. I truly believed at least some of those involved would have, by now, put Auburn's interests ahead of their own and resigned. I was wrong.

BIG MONEY, BIG PROBLEMS

There was a time when almost all coaching searches at big-time schools focused on experienced head coaches. As Nebraska has found to its dismay, it isn't so simple anymore.

The Cornhuskers were turned down three times before settling on out-of-work Bill Callahan. Their very public flirtation with Arkansas' Houston Nutt was both surprising and amusing.

Ol' crocodile tears made out like a bandit, getting a big raise and long-term security from Arkansas. But that didn't answer the real question. Why in the world did the Cornhuskers want Nutt so badly in the first place?

The answer is they wanted someone with experience as head coach at a big-time school, and there aren't many coaches who fit that criteria and are available. Contracts are so lucrative and buyouts so large that hiring away a successful coach can be a big problem.

A case in point: Four of the last six BCS championships have been won by coaches who had not previously been head coaches in Division IA.

Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer (1998) was a Vol assistant before becoming head coach. Bob Stoops (2000) was an assistant at Florida before moving to Oklahoma. Larry Coker (2001) was an assistant at Miami before becoming head coach. Jim Tressell (2002) was head coach at Division I-AA Youngstown State before moving to Ohio State. In addition, Pete Carroll, who won a share of the national championship at USC this season, was not even coaching when the Trojans came calling.

LOOKING AHEAD

Less than two weeks into 2004, here are some pretty worthless guesses at some things you might see or not see in the year ahead:

Duke will win yet another college basketball national championship… Mississippi State will win the SEC West and Kentucky will win the East and the overall championship…The SEC will get six NCAA Tournament teams, including Kentucky, Mississippi State, Florida, Vanderbilt and LSU…The sixth bid will go to Auburn, Alabama or Tennessee…In football, LSU will be a huge favorite to repeat as SEC champion next season but won't do it… Southern California will win an undisputed national championship.

Until next time…


Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories