Navigating The Bumps On The Recruiting Trail

Coach Tommy Tuberville discusses the recruitment of Auburn's 2004 football signee class.

Auburn, Ala.--Coach Tommy Tuberville admitted the road to signing day 2004 for the Auburn football Tigers was not exactly a smooth one.

He says that trying to get past several major obstacles to bringing in a strong class was a challenge for the Tigers this year.

The AU coach says the stability issue was something the staff dealt with the final two months of recruiting after the news broke of plans by AU officials to replace Tuberville as head coach prior to Auburn's victory over Alabama to close the regular season.

Tuberville notes that the nationally publicized story made recruiting more difficult as did a report in December from the university's accreditation agency putting AU on a one-year probation for failure to follow recommendations on how the university should be governed and managed.

"It was a big factor through the last two months of recruiting," the coach says of the SACS accreditation issue. "It was used against us quite frequently. There were several things. Obviously, the SACS thing was on all of the parents' minds. The coaches did a good job of explaining the SACS situation. Obviously, when you get into something with probation on it, it gets used several different ways against you in recruiting. Someway it got used in athletics, on which it has no bearing on. When you are dealing with recruiting, you are going to have to deal with those type of things."

Tuberville walks into a December meeting with former president Dr. William Walker.

Tuberville wasn't fired and actually got a contract extension after the 2003 season. Meanwhile, AU president Dr. William Walker, who was heavily involved in plans to possibly bring Louisville's Bobby Petrino back to AU as head coach, re-signed under pressure. Walker's resignation in January probably helped the Tigers on the recruiting trail, but Tuberville says the issue of whether or not he was on the hot seat never went away.

"One other thing that was used quite often against us was job security--that our job security was in jeopardy," he says "As I told the recruits, there is not a coach in the country that does not go year by year. You can have all the contracts you want to, but if you win games you can continue to stay as coach. If you don't, you're gone. And nobody in our conference or in the country is any different.

"We feel like we worked through these very well and came through with flying colors," Tuberville adds. "I think we are very fortunate to have this group committed to us and stay with us and decide to come to Auburn for several reasons. Number one, they come to get a good education. We have a great product here to sell."

Tuberville added that the football tradition also helped as well as the university's name recognition.

Immediately after the Petrino story broke, recruiting went into a major slump. The Tigers didn't snap out of it until after their bowl trip to Nashville.

"We had a lot of commitments up until late November," says Tuberville, who adds, "The majority stayed with us...Once we got to January, everything started picking up."

He notes that when Auburn was able to get prospects on campus for official visits, the current players and university officials did a good job of recruiting. Because of that the coach says the Tigers signed a class that features a lot of good players, including some who could provide immediate help for the 2004 team.


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