The Right Man To Be AU's Athletic Director Is...

Phillip Marshall gives his opinion on the search for the athletic director's job and writes about the 2004 AU football Tigers.

The question has been asked numerous times since last Tuesday. Why in the world would Donald E. Powell, the chairman of the FDIC, want to be the athletic director at Auburn?

I have no answer for that one. Obviously, Powell is a very accomplished man. He was appointed to his job by President Bush and oversees a huge government operation. But he has no experience of any kind in athletics. Maybe, as athletic director, he would recognize his own shortcomings and reach out for help. And maybe he wouldn't. Is it worth the risk? I really don't think so.

Quality candidates are not beating the door down for the Auburn job. Why? One reason is that there is the perception that the Auburn athletic director might not be left alone to run the department. This time, it has nothing to do with Bobby Lowder. It's about interim president Ed Richardson.

Since last spring, Richardson, for good or bad, has micro-managed the athletic department like no president I've ever seen. I imagine it would be hard to find another president at this level who got involved in the hiring and firing of a baseball coach. He has said he has to show SACS he's in charge, but SACS has no problem with the athletic director running the athletic department. At most universities, that's the way it's done.

I hope Richardson is telling candidates that they will be allowed to make their own decisions. If he isn't, the pool is going to remain very small.

But whether the pool is large or small, the best candidate has already been identified. It's Mike Kolen.

Kolen, one of the great linebackers in school history, played eight seasons with the Miami Dolphins. He is an Auburn man through and through. At the same time, he has no connection to any of the problems of recent years. He has built two successful businesses. He wants the job badly and has the support of a large majority of former Auburn players.

More importantly, Kolen, a financial planner in Birmingham, is a man of unquestioned character and integrity. He is compassionate, yet tough-minded. He understands athletics, understands business and understands people.

The other candidates mentioned all have great qualities as well. Jay Jacobs, the associate athletic director for development, is also a loyal Auburn man of unquestioned character and integrity. At another time, he'd be the man for the job.

Though I believe Jacobs to be his own man, he would be viewed by many as more of the same. This decision needs to create unity and not division. Plus, Jacobs is in an extremely important position as the man in charge of fundraising for the athletic department.

Jacobs' time will come. From a personal standpoint, there is no one I'd rather see as Auburn's athletic director. From a realistic standpoint, it would probably be better for Auburn and better for Jacobs if he waits a little longer.

Vince Dooley is an interesting candidate. A day after Dooley issued a statement saying no one from Auburn had contacted him, Richardson, incredibly, called him out in an interview with the Opelika-Auburn News by saying at least three people had called to tell him of Dooley's interest.

Dooley, who will be 72 next month, was hurt and angered when he was forced out as Georgia's athletic director. He has said privately that he would like to return to his alma mater and help calm troubled waters. He would also like to rub Georgia president Michael Adams' nose in the dirt. Obviously, Dooley would be a temporary solution, albeit a good one. Is that what Auburn needs?

Auburn needs Mike Kolen.

SCRIMMAGE IMPRESSIONS

Like last week, it's hard to know what to make of Friday evening's scrimmage. So many front-line players were watching from the sideline, that a meaningful evaluation from a team perspective is all but impossible.

I did leave with some distinct impressions:

*There is more depth on the offensive line than I can remember. Even in the Dye years, Auburn rarely played more than six to seven offensive linemen. Look for two full groups to play in most games in the coming season. That much depth up front is rare in college football.

*Brandon Cox, if he can stay healthy, will be an All-SEC, maybe even All-America, caliber quarterback. Offensive coordinator Al Borges says he's never been around a more accurate passer. He also says, however, that Cox isn't ready yet to take over the offense.

*Carl Stewart will be an outstanding running back when his time comes.

*Wide receiver James Swinton, who received little attention when he signed out of Tucker, Ga., could be the biggest steal of the recruiting class.

*If quarterback Jason Campbell takes what he's done on the practice field into the season, he'll have a breakout year.

*Montae Pitts has improved dramatically over last season at cornerback.

*It's easy to see why safety Tony Bell was rated by many the top recruit in Alabama. He'll be getting significant playing time by season's end.

*Tim Duckworth is going to be a great one on the offensive line. He might be pushing for a starting spot as the season goes on.

POTPOURRI

Band practice: If Jordan-Hare Stadium looks a little ragged when the season opens on Sept. 4, there's a reason. Richardson caused consternation among some in the athletic department by decreeing that the band would be allowed to use Jordan-Hare Stadium for practice. At Friday night's scrimmage, if you looked closely, you could see the lines where the band had marched in a three-hour practice. As they continue to practice there, it'll become more noticeable.

An impressive lady: Among the most delightful people I've talked to in a long time is Nikki Borges, wife of Al Borges. A sports marketing professional herself, she has some terrific insights into her husband in an upcoming article in Inside The Auburn Tigers magazine.

Another Eddins: The top prospect in the state for the upcoming recruiting year will probably be Trinity-Montgomery tight end Tommy Trott. He has Auburn ties through his father, Marvin, a former Auburn center. He has Alabama ties through his mother. He is considering both schools but could also end up going out of state.

Trott's teammate, defensive lineman Bart Eddins, is already penciled in by many as the top prospect in the Class of 2006. The last of the three sons of former All-SEC Auburn defensive end Liston Eddins and his wife, Nancy, Bart is about as close a lock for Auburn as you'll ever find. He's a terrific athlete and a class act, just like the rest of his family.

Until next time…


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