He's Fallen And He Can 't Shut Up

Phillip Marshall discusses Auburn football, baseball and basketball in his Thursday column.

I wish Terry Bowden would be quiet.

Knoxville News-Sentinel reporter Mike Griffith called Bowden earlier this week to ask him about the recruitment of former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin. What he got was a withering blast at Rodney Garner, the former recruiting coordinator at Auburn and Tennessee who is now at Georgia. Bowden essentially labeled Garner a cheater. He said Georgia coach Mark Richt should "phase him out."

Garner fired back, as most of us would if someone questioned our integrity and said we should be fired. He said Bowden "better watch out" and alluded to drugs and infidelity. It was ugly, very ugly.

I won't debate the truth of either man's words, except to say that Garner has never had a serious NCAA problem. That's really not the point. The question here is why. Why did Bowden feel the need to say such things to a reporter? Why can't he let go almost four years after he coached last football game at Auburn?

Bowden has made a successful new life for himself as an analyst for ABC sports, but he seemingly remains bitter about his contentious departure from Auburn midway through the 1998 season. He rarely passes up an opportunity to criticize those he believes were his detractors, frequently making thinly veiled references to rules violations.

Coaches get fired every year. It's part of the business. Most go with dignity, put it behind them and move on. Why Bowden has been unwilling or unable to do that is a mystery. I like Terry Bowden. I really do. I think he did a remarkable job in his early years at Auburn. I think he let things slide badly, but probably deserved another year to turn things around. But I also believe that he made a terrible mistake in walking out on his players when things got too hot. He could have stayed through the end of the 1998 season. He chose to leave in a huff.

With every outburst, Bowden only makes himself look worse. The fact is, if he knew Garner or anyone else was breaking rules, he committed a violation when he signed the affidavit coaches are required to sign every year saying they know of no unreported violations in their programs. Auburn has moved on. I wish Bowden would move on, too. Instead, he continues to sling mud. He ought to stop and see who it is that's getting dirty.

NEAR MISS IN HOOVER

It was game that was a throwback to the days of wooden bats and flannel uniforms in college baseball. Auburn's Colby Paxton and LSU's Lane Mestepey hooked up in a memorable pitcher's duel Wednesday at the Hoover Met. Paxton made one mistake and LSU's Sean Barker hit that mistake for a two-run homer in the fourth inning. LSU didn't get another hit, but Auburn hitters never did solve Mestepey. He got out of a jam in the seventh when two errors gave Auburn a chance to score and gave up a run in the eighth. Otherwise, he was all but unhittable.

Auburn came to play. There were several terrific plays on defense. Mestepey, who has now pitched shutouts in three of his last five games and last two in a row, was just too good. The sophomore left-hander doesn't throw hard, but he throws a variety of nasty pitches with outstanding control.

Auburn plays for its tournament life today in its fourth game against Arkansas in seven days. A win would solidify the Tigers' NCAA regional hopes. Despite confidence expressed by head coach Steve Renfroe that a regional bid has already been earned, a loss would make for a long weekend before the regional field is announced Monday.

There is little hope that there will be a repeat of last year when the SEC got a record eight teams in the field. The number most frequently heard here is six. My guess on the lucky six: South Carolina, Alabama, LSU, Florida, Auburn and the winner of Thursday's Mississippi State-Georgia game.

HARRINGTON'S DECISION

Adam Harrington's decision to make himself available for the NBA draft was greeted with disbelief and even ridicule. But those who know about such things aren't laughing. Auburn coaches say Harrington has gotten positive feedback from the NBA. Former Auburn coach Sonny Smith says he believes Harrington can play in the NBA.

"The kind of range he has, the way he can jump, he's pretty dang good," Smith said. "Some guys actually are better suited for the NBA than playing in college."

Harrington has said he will not hire an agent and will return for his senior year if is draft status does not look promising.


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