Marshall: Grading AU's Sports Teams

Columnist Phillip Marshall grades the performances of Auburn's intercollegiate athletic teams.

With the Board of Trustees' approval of a plan to build a $92.5 million basketball arena last Friday, the 2006-2007 athletic year pretty much went into the books at Auburn.

It was a good year for some and not so good for others. Following are sport-by-sport grades:

FOOTBALL: B-plus. It's hard to give an A to a season that didn't include any kind of championship, but Tommy Tuberville and staff might have done their best job ever. Winning 11 games with Brandon Cox and Kenny Irons playing most of the season well below full-speed was nothing short of remarkable.

Quentin Groves and his teammates wrapped up their 10th victory of the season with their fifth-straight victory over Alabama.

MEN'S BASKETBALL: C. The Tigers played for the West Division championship on the final day of the regular season. Who would have believed that going in? Of course, who would have believed that an 8-8 SEC record would share the division championship? There was definite progress in Jeff Lebo's third season. Expectations will be higher next season, and they should be.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: C-plus. Nell Fortner's youth-laden team narrowly missed an NCAA bid and made a nice run in the WNIT. They should be back in the big show at the end of next season.

Quantez Robertson and the Tigers have postseason expectations for the coming basketball season.

BASEBALL: D. Finishing last in the SEC is, obviously, unacceptable, but the Tigers made some noise against one of the nation's tougher nonconference schedules. As Tom Slater heads toward his fourth season, it's time to win.

SWIMMING: A-plus. The men and women gave David Marsh national championships in his final Auburn season. You can't do any better than that.

All-American and NCAA individual champion Hayley Piersol is one of the reasons the AU women's team repeated as national champion.

SOCCER: C-plus. Since Karen Hoppa arrived as head coach, there has been no more reliable winner other than the swim teams among Auburn sports. The Tigers won the SEC West but lost in the first round of the SEC Championship and the first round of the NCAA Championship.

SOFTBALL: D-minus. The team was decimated by losses to academic ineligibility before the season ever started. How in the world can that happen, especially to seniors? Freshman pitcher Anna Thompson showed she is a future superstar, but she didn't have much help.

WOMEN'S GOLF: B-minus. As usual, Kim Evans' team was in the nation's Top 10 all season. The Tigers uncharacteristically collapsed in the SEC Championship, but they finished ninth in the NCAA Championship after a rough start.

MEN'S GOLF: B-minus. Finishing third in the SEC was a nice accomplishment. Finishing second in the regional wasn't bad either. Not even getting into the hunt to make the cut in the NCAA was a disappointment.

WOMEN'S TENNIS: B. Tim Gray got the long-suffering Tigers a share of the West Division championship in his second season. He also led a stunning upset of No. 1 Georgia.

MEN'S TENNIS: B-minus. A third-place finish in the West wasn't bad. Neither was advancing to the second round of the NCAA Championship.

GYMNASTICS: D-plus. Despite getting to an NCAA regional, the Tigers were 6-13 overall and 1-5 in the SEC in the regular season. That's not good.

TRACK & FIELD: B. There was no repeat of the women's run to the 2006 national championship, but the men finished third. Sprinter Kerron Stewart showed herself to be perhaps the top female athlete in college sports, going .through the season undefeated.

Kerron Stewart is a good bet to compete on the Olympic stage after a tremendous college career at Auburn.

VOLLEYBALL: D-plus. It's been a long, hard climb for Laura Farina, heading toward her sixth Auburn coach. Records of 13-18 and 5-15 in the SEC aren't going to impress anybody, but Farina took over a program that couldn't have beaten some intramural teams. At least she's making progress.

EQUESTRIAN: B-minus. A year after winning the national championship, the Tigers finished second in the SEC. Nationally, they finished fourth in Hunt Seat and eighth in Western.

All in all, it was a good year, not a great one for Auburn athletics. There weren't many bad teams, but there weren't many great ones, either. * * * More copies of Phillip's book, "The Auburn Experience," have become available for purchase at a reduced price. An oversized coffee table book published in December 2004, the book features more than 300 slick pages of stories and photographs of many of Auburn's greatest traditions, teams, players and coaches in every sport. Originally selling for $69, it is available now for just $20, plus $5 shipping and handling. For orders of multiple books, there will be just one $5 charge for shipping and handling. Send check or money order made payable to Phillip Marshall to The Auburn Experience, P.O. Box 968, Auburn, AL 36831.

2007 Auburn Football Guide

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