Marshall Column: Hall of Fame Performance

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about David Marsh, an Auburn football coach and the baseball Tigers.

Auburn swim coach David Marsh is at nine national championships and counting, the latest coming last weekend when the women made a remarkable final-day comeback to nip No. 1 Georgia in its home pool and win their fourth in five years. The men will go after their fourth straight starting Thursday in Atlanta.

And Marsh still isn't in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

Marsh, at least, has been on the ballot the last couple of years, which was long overdue. But he still hasn't been elected. That, to say the least, remains puzzling.

Marsh's nine national championships are the most won by any coach in any sport at any level in state history. No, it's not the same as Bear Bryant winning six football national championships at Alabama. Winning the swimming national championship is not the same as winning one in football, basketball or baseball. Only a limited number of schools actually commit the resources to really try to win swimming championships.

Football, basketball and, to a lesser extent, baseball championships bring massive amounts of exposure for the schools and programs that win them or even compete for them. Auburn got far more attention for going 13-0 and not winning the football national championship than it will get for all the swimming championships it ever wins. Programs and athletes become nationally famous. Championships in those sports mean a flood of money. Swimming, no matter how successful, only costs money. Swimmers can become famous because of the Olympics. Outside of swimming circles, national renown isn't available for college swim coaches or their programs.

Auburn's swimmers celebrate their national title on Saturday night in Athens, Ga.

The same is, of course, true of gymnastics and every other non-revenue college sport. That's just a fact of life. It does not diminish in any way the remarkable story that is Auburn swimming.

There are numerous athletes and coaches who should be in the Hall of Fame and aren't, but Marsh stands alone.

The questions must be asked again:

How is Alabama gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson, with four national championships, in the Hall of Fame if Marsh isn't? News outlets across the state tend to give much more attention to Alabama gymnastics than to Auburn swimming. Why? I don't have an answer to that one either.

How is former Alabama swim coach Don Gambril, whose career high point was a No. 2 finish, in the Hall of Fame if Marsh isn't?

The list could go on. If I had an explanation, I'd offer it here. But I don't.

Former Auburn coach Joe Ciampi, a pioneer in the growth of women's basketball, will be inducted in May. So will former football players Lionel James and Buddy McClinton. All are deserving. But Marsh should be there, too.

Moving on...

It was an emotional and uplifting night at the Marriott at Grand National.

Last Saturday, some 400 people turned out for the first Sydney Gran Foundation Gala, an event to raise money for gravely ill children at Children's Hospital and to celebrate the life of Sydney Gran.

Sydney, the daughter of Auburn running backs coach Eddie Gran and his wife, Rosemary, died last May 31 a day short of her sixth birthday. She was born with an affliction that caused her brain to stop developing six months before her birth. She wasn't expected to live six months. She never walked or spoke, but she touched so many lives.

For all who know Eddie, Rosemary and their other three daughters, the faith and strength they showed throughout Sydney's life was truly an inspiration. They are determined to see to it that good comes from Sydney's suffering.

Sydney spent many days of her short life at Children's Hospital. Eddie Gran says he saw a need for gravely ill children and their families. Even before Sydney died, the Sydney Gran Foundation was formed.

Saturday's event, after expenses, raised more than $100,000.

"Unheard of," said Drake Nunn, a fundraiser for Children's Hospital and the former president of the Huntsville-Madison County Auburn Club.

The turnout was a tribute to Gran and his family. Among those in attendance were former Auburn stars Jason Campbell, Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown, Carlos Rogers, Dontarrious Thomas, Spencer Johnson and Kendell Simmons. Deuce McAllister, who played for Gran at Ole Miss, was also there. The players, all of whom play in the NFL, brought along memorabilia to be auctioned for the Foundation.

Eddie Gran is shown with former Tiger Carlos Rogers.

The money that was raised will do incredible good for ill children and their families.

Ten months after her death, Sydney Gran continues to make a difference in people's lives...

The Auburn baseball team put together its best performance of the season Sunday. Behind freshman Evan Crawford's dominant pitching, the Tigers beat No. 9 South Carolina 7-1 to salvage the final game of their three-game series.

There was some frustration, because they really should have won Friday night, which would have meant winning the season's first SEC series. But Sunday's victory was a badly needed shot of confidence.

With first-year players in key roles, particularly on the mound, second-year coach Tom Slater knew this would be a difficult season. But he said from the start his team should improve with each passing week and even with each game.

The Tigers are 11-12 overall, a disappointment to everyone within the program. At the same time, they have victories over No. 2 Florida State and now over No. 9 South Carolina.

Whether this team can bounce back and put Auburn in postseason play for the 12th time in 14 seasons remains to be seen. Whether it happens or not, the future of Auburn baseball is bright..

Until next time...

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