Marshall: Expect Whitt to Stay at AU

Phillip Marshall discusses the future of long-time AU linebacker coach Joe Whitt.

Auburn, Ala.--As I got into my car in Baton Rouge early Thursday morning for the drive home, I knew that David Gibbs was about to resign and become the Kansas City Chiefs secondary coach.

No big surprise there. The non-coaching parts of being a Southeastern Conference coordinator never seemed to agree with Gibbs.

As I headed east on Interstate 12, my cell phone began to ring. The calls weren't about Gibbs or about the good fight Auburn's young basketball team had put up at Pete Maravich Assembly Center the night before. They weren't about the glittering recruiting class that Auburn had signed up the day before.

They were about Joe Whitt.

I'll confess that my relationship with Joe Whitt goes much deeper than reporter-football coach. I have known Joe since 1980, when I was the sports editor of The Montgomery Advertiser and he was an assistant football coach at Lee High School.

Over the years, we've shared joy and pain about families, jobs and just life in general. We've shared laughs and we've shared tears. I cherish the times I have spent in his office just talking, maybe about football and maybe not. The younger generation in my profession might frown on it, but Joe Whitt is my friend, has been for more than a quarter of a century and always will be.

The calls I got Thursday morning were disturbing. I was hearing that Whitt would not be coaching Auburn football again. I had talked to him earlier in the morning, before the calls started to come. I could not get him again.

Back in Auburn, I was in reporter mode. I told my editors at The Huntsville Times that I might have a very significant story. I was trying diligently to find out what was happening. Tommy Tuberville was out of town and couldn't be reached. I still couldn't get Whitt. I talked to maybe a dozen people, many of whom offered speculation but not much more. Finally, after 11 p.m., I gave up, messaged my office and told them I would have no story.

That brings us to Friday morning. I still don't know the whole story. In fact, I know very little of it. But I know more than I did last night.

I can say without reservation that Whitt has no plans to leave Auburn University. That does not, however, mean that he plans to continue a college coaching career that started when he joined Pat Dye's staff in 1981.

Coach Whitt is shown with Travis Williams, one of many over-acheiving players who learned from Whitt in his 25 years at Auburn.

Whitt's accomplishments in his coaching career are well-known. He has recruited and coached some of Auburn's greatest players. He has been a friend and confidant to generations of Auburn players and a magnificent representative of Auburn University.

He is as honest as any man I have ever known. When Joe Whitt looks you in the eye and tells you something, you can take it to the bank.

The only major disappointment he has as he looks back is that has never realized his dream of being a head coach. He wanted that very badly. It's hard to get there without being a coordinator first, and he truly was disappointed each time there was an opening and Tuberville went another direction.

The rumors and speculation are running rampant this morning. It is obvious that a change of some sort is coming for Whitt. What that change is will be revealed in the days ahead.

I don't know all the details, but I know this: Whatever road Whitt is getting ready to follow is one of his own choosing.

What Whitt has already done is amazing. For an assistant coach to stay one school for 25 years, through four head coaches, is almost unheard of these days. When we did an interview a few days before the Capital One Bowl, Whitt expressed his love for Auburn.

"I think, hopefully, my love for Auburn is manifested in what I do," Whitt said. "I really do think there is a lot of respect for experience and age and having been here. I don't know of a kid on this football team that, when I walk past, they don't show some kind of respect. I appreciate that very much."

Whitt has earned that respect.

We'll all know soon what his future plans are. Rest assured, on the field or off, those plans include Auburn University.

Until next time...

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