Marshall: Commitment to Academics Real

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about Coach Tommy Tuberville's commitment to athletics for his football program and takes a look at the 2006 Southeastern Conference football competition plus other topics.

The news is out and spreading. The New York Times, it seems, is planning to publish or is at least considering, some sort of story about academics involving Auburn athletes.

I don't know what, if anything, the story will allege and I will not speculate. It is apparently not being written by Selena Roberts, an Auburn graduate who wrote a controversial story on Auburn chaplain Chette Williams and his ministry last year, but by Pete Thamel. At least it is Thamel who has been on campus asking questions. It was Thamel who helped write the story exposing "diploma mills" that the NCAA eventually sought to shut down.

After making numerous phone calls Sunday, I discerned irritation but no real alarm in the Auburn athletic department.

The bottom line is this: If Auburn is doing nothing wrong--and I am convinced that is the case--it has nothing to fear. Head coach Tommy Tuberville's commitment to academics is very real. Anyone who believes otherwise just needs to talk to a player who has missed a single class.

Here's what senior defensive end Chris Browder told me for a story I wrote last spring:

"When you know you have to see Coach Yox early in the morning for missing class, you are going to go to class. If your grades are good or bad, if you miss anything you get a punishment workout. There are no exceptions."

And here's what Tuberville said:

"I wasn't a very good college player, but I played because I felt like I needed to know what college players went through. College football is two full-time jobs. Academics is a full-time job and football is a full-time job. They are doing two full-time jobs for probably the only time in their lives. If they can handle that, they are going to be better people for it.

"What we try to do is create work ethic and try to get them to organize their time. Those that can handle both and are successful at both of them are going to be successful men. They are going to be good family men and good at whatever job they attempt."

I don't believe those words are bogus. I don't believe Auburn's gaudy APR was bogus. Does that mean there couldn't be something amiss? No, it doesn't. But if there is something illegal or unethical going on, I certainly have not seen it or even sensed it.

Having said all that, I believe it would be a mistake to assume what, if anything, might show up in The New York Times.

On to more light-hearted matters...

It is less than a month now before the start of two-a-days. It is just more than two weeks before head coaches and two players from each team gather in Birmingham for Southeastern Conference Media Days.

It is less than two months before Auburn kicks off its season against Washington State.

A word of caution: Preseason rankings mean the same thing as recruiting rankings. Very little. The only thing that matters is what happens on the field when the bell rings.

Auburn will certainly be picked either first and LSU second in the West or LSU will be picked first and Auburn second. I'll stick by pick of Auburn for the simple reason that LSU must visit Jordan-Hare Stadium. The winner of that game has gone on to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game in five of the past six seasons. Each time, the winning team was the one that played at home...

I couldn't help but notice Alabama running back Ken Darby's comments the other day. When talking about the coming season, he stressed his burning desire to beat Auburn over all else.

As several Auburn senior classes learned in the 1960s and 1970s, it is very difficult for players, especially those who grew up in this state or plan to live in this state, to play out their careers at either school and never win the Iron Bowl. Alabama's senior class suffered that indignity last season as Auburn won its fourth straight.

Regardless of the records, it goes without saying that Alabama will be on a mission when Auburn visits Bryant-Denny Stadium in November.

And Darby is a guy who could have a lot to say about the outcome...

Former Auburn defensive end Bret Eddins has gone into the real estate business with his father, former Auburn All-SEC defensive end Liston Eddins, in Montgomery.

The last of the Eddins boys, Bart, is on campus working toward his freshman season as a defensive lineman....

Until next time...

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