Tuberville Explains Changing Coordinators

Football coach Tommy Tuberville goes in-depth on his major decisions to replace John Lovett and Noel Mazzone as the defensive and offensive coordinators. The coach also looks back at the 2001 season and talks about his schedule for completing his new staff.

Auburn, Ala.--Tommy Tuberville said that the decisions to replace Noel Mazzone and John Lovett were two of the toughest he has ever made in his tenure as a head coach.

However, the AU coach predicts both will land on their feet. "Oh, they'll be fine," Tuberville said in an interview with Inside the Auburn Tigers. "Both of these guys are good coaches, great guys and good family people, and, you know, they'd fit in anywhere. Unfortunately, things happen. This happens in this business."

Tuberville said he hopes to have a new offensive coordinator on board by the middle of next week and said that he has had contact with several candidates, but declined to give any names. A new defensive coordinator should follow shortly after that.

The head coach said there will be no other changes on the staff. He also said that the new coordinators will definitely come from outside the current coaching staff.

Coach Tommy Tuberville

Tuberville said that the Tigers will not be making major changes in offensive or defensive philosophy. He notes that would be counterproductive because the players the Tigers have recruited are designed to fit into a multiple, pro-style offense and an attacking 4-3 defense. The coach also notes that those are styles of play that high-profile prospects are interested in being involved with because that gets them ready to try to make the jump to the NFL.

Speaking at his office on Wednsday as snow fell on the Auburn practice field, Tuberville said, "It's been tough. It's been one of the toughest (decisions) I've been around. Of course, these guys are kind of like--it's not like, you know, they work for me. It's kind of like family. And, so, we talked, they are on the same page and I'm going do everything I can for them, and always will."

Mazzone turned down head coaching posts at Louisiana Tech and Memphis in the past two years and said in hindsight he should have taken one of those jobs. When asked about that, Tuberville said, "Yes, but he'll be fine. In this business, you have to be a survivor. When you get into it the first day, you have got to understand that certain things happen for certain reasons and you have got to be able to adjust and go on with it. There were a lot of times I tried to get jobs and was turned down for jobs--always wondered why. The toughest part about this is we've all kind of grown up together. In the last seven years, everybody knows everybody's kids, and family. It's more than a working relationship. We're all friends."

Tuberville declined to name who are the top candidates for each job, but it is safe to assume that he has a good idea of who will be hired for each spot. "I've already started working on it," he said. "But most of the people I'll visit with are at the convention (national coaches convention in San Antonio this weekend). I want to try to have everything done by the middle of next week."

On hiring replacements, Tuberville said, "I like to always keep a list in case someone leaves. You know, keep a list of people to talk to. It's harder than what people think. It's hard because most people have jobs that they already want. You've got to go out and convince them that yours is better than theirs, but we'll try to get over this first. It takes a little while to get over it."

Tuberville said neither coordinator was caught off guard when he told them on Wednesday he had made a decision to let them go. "We discussed it. We discussed every year how we're doing, and what they have got to do and improvements we've got to have. And, I'll do it with the rest of these guys--just evaluate their recruiting effort. Now is the time we're going to make a move, for them and for us, because now is the time they can get a job."

Tuberville said there will be no shortage of choices for the coordinator positions. "Oh, there are a lot of people that want jobs. But you've got to find the right people. Sometimes people don't fit in to your system. I'm very particular about who I want to be around and want to work with. I'll take my time, and I won't take my time. You know what I'm saying. I'm not going to jump at the first thing, but I'm going to do what's best for Auburn. Obviously, they have got to understand recruiting, recruiting in the South, and that we're here to win a national championship."

When asked about what effect this will have on recruiting, Tuberville said, "Well, I think it's early. We'll have to do some damage control. Obviously, it probably could help some areas, and it could hurt, but it's something you have to work through."

Tuberville plans to hire an offensive coordinator who is also a quarterback coach. On defense, he said there is a possibility that there could be some coaching position shifts to accommodate the new coordinator, but added that it is too early to know. "I haven't even thought about that yet. We might could move somebody around, but just depending on who is available, who I come down and want to talk to."

Commenting on the 7-5 season, Tuberville said, "It was frustrating, but it was gratifying to know that we did accomplish some things that nobody gave us the opportunity to do at the beginning of the year. We just built up expectations. We played better at the middle of the year, and then reality set in. And we weren't a great football team, as everybody noticed. We're young, and we had a crucial injury (Carnell Williams) to a guy that was really starting to get better. But I'm proud of this year. I'm not proud of, obviously, losing to Alabama, and losing, what, four of the last five? But I'm proud that we were successful, won part of the west, and went to a bowl game.

"We played some tough football teams," Tuberville added. "Good teams. But we're dealing with repercussions from circumstances we couldn't control before we got here. That's what we're dealing with right now. Low numbers."

The new coaches will be the second and third additions to the staff since Tuberville arrived three seasons ago. Joe Pannunzio left to become head coach at Murray State. All of the other assistants came with Tuberville from Ole Miss with the exception of Joe Whitt, who is a holdover from Pat Dye's original staff. "You have got to fit in," Tuberville said. "You have got to fit in with me and all the other guys. As I did with Phillip (Lolley) and Joe. You know, I didn't hire Joe for a month. Fortunately, he was able to work with us. He fell right in there. These guys obviously won't have that opportunity to come in and have the trial-and-error deal. But I'm pretty good with people, and I can feel people out pretty good. So that's the number one thing. I look at character first. How they fit in--not just with me, but with the staff and community of Auburn, and have the same goals in mind that we have--winning it all.

Tiger Ticket Extra: Auburn fans made their unhappiness with Mazzone well known. Lovett didn't catch as much heat with his defense ranked fourth in the league this year and third in 2000, but he had detractors, too. When asked about that, Tuberville said, "Yeah, it's unfortunate. People don't understand situations. But Auburn fans are a lot better than most, I'll tell you that. Especially the loyal ones. Most of the true Auburn fans have stuck with us, understood it. I've gotten a lot more positive things in the mail, and e-mail, than negative. But you don't have that."...Tuberville said the decision to make the changes didn't come due to pressure from the athletic director, trustees, major contributors or fans. "This has nothing to do with what anybody called and told me," he said. "There was no pressure put on whatsoever. This was my decision. I took this job, and told David Housel I would always do what was best for Auburn, and that's what I've done. Unfortunately, things have to happen the way they've happened, but I think we'll all be better, including John and Noel, they'll end up in good situations, and who knows? Our paths might cross again someday."

When asked about all of the off-the-wall rumors that the team has had dissension down the stretch, Tuberville said, "Oh yeah. You're going to have all those rumors about fights in the dressing room. There ain't been no fights in the dressing room, no broken collarbones, no chairs thrown. This group right here was glad that last game was over with because of what we've put them through this year. It's a good group, hard working. They are as disappointed as anybody. They are disappointed that they've let a lot of people down."

Copyright 2002, Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine/football newsletter and AUTigers.com


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