"It's been a wonderful trip and a wonderful time," Coach Tommy Tuberville said to estimated crowd of more than 10,000 fans as he showed off his Mardi Gras beads. "Six years ago December when I took the job here one of the last things I said in the press conference is, ‘We will win a national championship here at Auburn.' And we dang did it last week.
"It's been a long time since Aug. 1 when we started practices," he added. "We had a similar get-together like this after the 12-0 season and winning the SEC Championship. Then we had one more game left against the second best team in the country in Virginia Tech. When we went to the Sugar Bowl all these people were saying that we weren't supposed to be in the Orange Bowl and that we're probably not going to win the Sugar Bowl--well we obviously proved them wrong 13 times this year."
Auburn will be formally presented the Peoples National Championship Trophy on Jan. 29th and also finished number one in computer polls, but ended the season No. 2 in the AP and coaches Top 25 polls.
Before Tuberville stepped to the podium, senior defensive end Bret Eddins spoke to the crowd to thank the coaches and the fans.
"Coach Chizik (defensive coordinator Gene Chizik) won the national assistant coach of the year and I'm sure if he hadn't Coach (Al) Borges would have pulled it off," Eddins said. "And to see Coach Tuberville deservedly win the (Bear Bryant) national coach of the year--I'm not going to say who it's named after. The best team in the country should have the best coaches and we also have the best fans in the country.
"I don't think we played a single away game all year," Eddins added. "It seemed like every game, regardless of where, we were we had the most fans who made the most noise."
Many of the seniors were unable to make it because of workouts and other preparation for the NFL draft. Despite losing several players who could be selected high in the upcoming draft, junior Travis Williams said he believes the Tigers have a chance to achieve the same success on the field in 2005.
"To be 13-0, I'm loving every minute of it," the All-SEC linebacker said. "It's one of those situations you can never forget. We're going to try to do it again next year. Coach Tuberville is a great recruiter and we'll have to have a couple of players step up, but we'll have a chance to win it all next year"
Chizik has been on the road interviewing for other positions for the last week, but was in attendance Saturday to celebrate with the rest of the team.
"He'll be back," Williams said of his defensive coordinator. "I've got a great feeling he'll be back. Coach Chizik is a big part of us being 13-0 and he's the mastermind behind this defense. He's an Auburn man. He loves Auburn and we love him so I'm pretty sure he'll be back."
Auburn Mayor Bill Ham, Jr., spoke to the crowd and told everyone about a wager he made before the Sugar Bowl. Because of the friendly wager between Ham and the mayor of Blacksburg, Va., the Blacksburg City Council and mayor will be wearing Auburn jerseys at their meeting Tuesday night.
Newly hired athletic director Jay Jacobs also spoke. "Being 13-0 didn't start this year even though we're celebrating today," he said. "It started about five years ago with Coach Tuberville and the assistant coaches putting a plan together.
"This team doesn't realize yet the significance of going 13-0," he added. "They don't realize yet the bar that they'll have forever amongst themselves, nor do they realize yet the energy and enthusiasm with the class and integrity they have brought Auburn to on a national level."