A Boost For Auburn's Football Program

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about the Auburn football program.

It was a resounding vote of confidence from those who matter most.

When former president William Walker and athletic director David Housel say they support head football coach Tommy Tuberville, it rings hollow. Their credibility was shot when they climbed on the airplane for a trip to Louisville in November. Besides, no one would mistake either Walker or Housel for a football expert.

But the three young men who stood to be counted Wednesday know what Auburn football is really about. They know Tuberville and his assistants. They know what their coaches are like on the field and they know what they're like away from the spotlight. And they passed up hundreds of thousands of dollars to return to Auburn and play for those coaches and to be part of the Auburn football program for one more season.

In a matter of months, tailbacks Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and cornerback Carlos Rogers could have been driving fancy cars and have had hefty bank accounts. Instead, they chose their coaches and their teammates over the glitz and glitter of the NFL.

It doesn't often happen that way in college football these days, and it's easy to see why. Turning down hundreds of thousands of dollars can't be easy. I don't believe I could have done it at 20 years old. Heck, I don't believe I could do it at 54 years old.

That Williams, Brown and Rogers did that speaks volumes for the experience they've had as Auburn football players.

It was the first dose of really good news Auburn football has had in a while. A disappointing season, followed by the distressing actions of Housel, Walker and trustees Earlon McWhorter and Byron Franklin, followed by SACS probation, followed by recruiting defections have cast a dark cloud over Auburn's football program.

More good news for Auburn football and Auburn people in general came on Friday. Walker's hold on his job appeared to be getting more tenuous by the day and on Friday he announced his resignation. Every time he opened his mouth he made matters worse for himself and the school he purported to lead. He seemingly has no concern about telling one story one day and an opposite story the next. His arrogance knows no bounds. Walker has operated out of public view for much of his time as president, but the glare of public scrutiny exposed him as anything but the kind of man who should lead a major university.

Now that Walker is gone, Housel won't likely be far behind. Maybe then the real healing can begin.

Last season was distressing for everyone--coaches, players, fans. But the return of Williams, Brown and Rogers should make obvious what those close to the Auburn football program already knew. Tuberville and those who work for him do things the right way. You can fool fans and the media with words, but you can't fool players. They know who cares and who doesn't.

On the field, the Tigers will have yet another chance to make a splash next season. The schedule is much more reasonable. The toughest of the Southeastern Conference opponents--LSU and Georgia--must come to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Will it happen this next season when it didn't happen last season? Only time will tell, but the chances got a lot better last Wednesday afternoon.

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