Candidates For Coordinator Posts

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about the dismissals of Noel Mazzone and John Lovett and looks at possible replacements for the coordinators.

College football is a tough business, often an unforgiving one.

Noel Mazzone and John Lovett knew that already. They know it for sure now. Everyone who didn't sleep through the day knows by now that Mazzone, who was Auburn's offensive coordinator, and Lovett, the defensive coordinator, resigned Wednesday. They were the first casualties of a promising season gone bad.

Some posters on this site and others celebrated.

Before you celebrate too much, you might want to think about how Taylor, Grayson and Alexandria Mazzone, the children of Noel and his wife, Patricia, felt when they went to school this morning.

Before you celebrate too much, you might want to think of John Lovett's wife, Carol, who has watched her husband work so long and so hard, give so much of himself to Auburn's football program.

Before you celebrate too much, you might want to think how it feels to be Noel Mazzone, so respected that he was offered and turned down head coaching jobs the previous two seasons. You might want to know what it feels like to be John Lovett, who once drove an 18-wheeler but spent 20 years climbing through the ranks to be Auburn's defensive coordinator.

Before you celebrate too much, you might wonder how it would feel to lose your job because a teen-age kid didn't perform the way you wanted him to perform. If you've ever had teen-age kids, you know how hard it is.

I don't question head coach Tommy Tuberville's decision to make a change. It's his call and he made it. For one who prides himself on being his assistants' friends as well as boss, it was, as he said, "as tough as it gets." The Mazzones and the Lovetts love Auburn and love Auburn people. That some would use football as a reason to launch personal assaults on men they've never met and aren't qualified to judge is, at best, disgusting.

I, like most who watch, am not qualified to evaluate coaches. I could say the last three games reflected badly on Mazzone's and Lovett's performances. I could also say that nine wins last season and wins over Florida and Georgia this season reflect very positively on the same two men. I am saddened by their departure, not because two football coaches are leaving, but because two friends are leaving. The relationship between coaches and reporters is often adversarial, in many places downright bitter. But to know Mazzone or Lovett was to like and respect them--as men and as professionals who put all they had into their jobs.

I'll miss them both.

It's amazing how quickly things can change. On the night of Oct. 13, when Auburn had just beaten No. 1-ranked Florida at Jordan-Hare Stadium, who would have believed it would come to this? Who could have predicted Carnell Williams would get hurt just as he had taken the Auburn offense on his shoulders? Who could have predicted the defensive line would be so beat up that Kwesi Drake, a walk-on who had never played a snap at defensive tackle, would be in the rotation in the Peach Bowl?

Excuses? Call them that if you will. I call them facts. But life goes on and the program goes on. After a tearful staff meeting, other assistants went about their jobs Wednesday, a little sadder and a little wiser about the realities of the game that is their livelihood.

The attention turns now to who will replace them, who will run Auburn offense and defense next season. Tuberville has never faced more crucial decisions.

The offensive coordinator will be one of three candidates: Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Bob Petrino, University of Toledo offensive coordinator Rob Spence or University of Miami quarterbacks coach Dan Werner.

My guess? It will be Petrino.

There appear to be four candidates for the defensive coordinator;s position, though that could change. In the picture now are former Vanderbilt head coach and long-time NFL assistant Woody Widenhofer, Denver Broncos safety coach David Gibbs, Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads and Central Florida defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. I wouldn't hazard a guess on that one. All are imminently qualified.

Whoever the choices are, they won't be miracle workers. They'll be at the mercy of many things over which they have no control--injury luck, schedule luck, just the bounce of the ball. If those things go their way, they'll be heroes. That's the way of the college game.

Mazzone and Lovett will land on their feet. They'll get good jobs because they are respected in their profession.

Both said they had no hard feelings for Tuberville, their boss and friend for the past seven seasons. Now he'll just be a friend.

Tuberville made the decisions because he thought they were right. That's his job. But it's no cause for celebration.

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