Tommy Tuberville: Mr. Popularity

In recent years Tommy Tuberville has been a hot name in college football coaching circles.

Auburn, Ala.--Whether it is for job openings that are real or imagined, like clockwork every fall in recent seasons Tommy Tuberville's name is featured on hot lists of top Division I college football coaches.

This fall, with Dennis Franchione's job reportedly in jeopardy at Texas A&M, Tuberville's name has been mentioned often as a potential candidate to take over the head coaching assignment in College Station where the Auburn head coach spent one season as the defensive coordinator in 1994. On Monday, officials at Texas A&M issued a statement denying media reports that Franchione is out at the Big 12 school.

Tuberville used his coordinator position at Texas A&M, and before that at Miami, as a springboard to his first college head coaching job at Ole Miss, a position he held through the 1998 season before moving to Auburn to take over for the 1999 season.

Tuberville has an overall record of 103-52 as a college head coach and is 78-32 at Auburn going into this Saturday's road game vs. 10th-ranked Georgia.

At his weekly press briefing on Sunday, Tuberville cut off a question from a reporter before it got fully asked about the coach's potential interest in another job by saying he isn't interested in discussing that subject, particularly with his team's upcoming rivalry games on the horizon vs. Georgia and Alabama. Tuberville has repeatedly said whenever his name has been mentioned as a potential candidate at Texas A&M, LSU, Miami, Arkansas or even with the Dallas Cowboys what he is interested in focusing on is doing a good job for Auburn.

Tuberville is currently in the third year of a seven-year contract that he worked out with former AU president Ed Richardson following AU's 13-0 2004 season in which Tuberville swept virtually every national coach of the year award. That contract started at two million dollars per year and has increased $200,000 per year. If Tuberville wanted to leave Auburn, and there is no indication that is the case, it would cost $6 million to get out the contract this year and next, $5 million in 2009, $4 million in 2010 and $3 million in 2011.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs and new president Jay Gogue are expected to meet with Tuberville after the season to discuss possible changes to his current contract. In his previous contract negotiations a major point of emphasis for Tuberville was making sure his assistant coaches were one of the top paid groups in the SEC and that there was a continuing commitment to upgrade football facilities, something that has been on-going since he took over the program for the 1999 season. Those items will likely to continue to be of prime interest to Tuberville when the coach meets with Jacobs and Gogue.

Tuberville (right) watches football practice with Ralph Jordan Jr., the president of the Auburn University Alumni Association, who is the son of Auburn Hall of Fame football coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan.

Auburn has not had a head coach leave the university to take a head coaching job at another university since 1929. John Floyd, who was an interim coach for the final four games of the 1929 season after George Bohler was fired by President Bradford Knapp, took over as head coach and athletic director at The Citadel. Floyd was 0-4 as the temporary head coach for a team that finished 1-8.

The Tigers will play their oldest rival, the Georgia Bulldogs, on Saturday in Athens before closing the regular season at home two weeks later vs. archrival Alabama, a team that has lost five straight contests to Tuberville's teams.

Alabama, which lost Franchione when he left Tuscaloosa to take his current job at Texas A&M, fired Mike Shula after the 2006 season and hired Nick Saban, making him the highest paid college coach in the country at $4 million per year to try to catch up with Tuberville's program, which is tied with LSU at 46-16 for the best SEC record this decade. Florida is third at 44-18 followed by Georgia at 43-19, Tennessee at 41-20, Arkansas at 30-31, Alabama at 30-32, South Carolina at 30-33, Kentucky at 14-47, Mississippi State at 13-48 and Vanderbilt at 9-52.

Saban's statement on his arrival in Tuscaloosa about working 365 days a year to try to dominate its in-state rival is posted prominently in the locker room for the Auburn football players to see it on a daily basis. No player on the current Auburn team has lost a football game to the Tide.

Auburn officials say privately that they believe that at least some of the speculation about Tuberville as a candidate for other jobs is coming from interests of the University of Alabama who see the successful Auburn coach as a major obstacle in the way of Alabama's attempt to move back into the upper echelon of the SEC in football winning percentage.

Tuberville says he and his Tigers are focused on one of their biggest challenges of the season as Auburn travels to face the 7-2 Georgia Bulldogs, who are ranked 10th in both major polls this week. Tuberville has a 5-3 record as head coach vs. the Bulldogs going into Saturday's contest.

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