Tuberville's Tigers accepted a bid to play Penn State on New Year's Day in Orlando, Fla., at the Capital One Bowl, something that Housel says he is happy to see. It is a third straight bowl trip for the Tigers and a second New Year's Day bowl for Tuberville at Auburn. Last year, the Tigers appeared to be headed for a New Year's Day Bowl date, but an injury-induced late-season slump kept them from winning the SEC West title outright and sent Auburn to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.
"Since Tommy has been here, we have won or shared the SEC Western Division title three straight years," Housel notes. "To me it shows that what happened at the end of last season, losing those four out of the last five games, was not indicative of where this football program is. We felt that all along. We said that all along.
"Going to a New Year's Day bowl two out of three years, that is what you aim for. Obviously, you want to be in the big (national championship) game, but reports of the demise of Auburn football and Coach Tuberville were greatly premature in the last season."
Tommy Tuberville (left in cap) checks out the scene as the Tigers take a break during preseason practices back in August.
Tuberville's Tigers will head to Orlando with an 8-4 record to face a 9-3 Penn State team that finished 5-3 in the Big Ten. In his fourth season at Auburn, Tuberville's Auburn record is 29-19 after arriving on campus in a major rebuilding situation. The coach is expected to have his strongest team in 2003 with nine starters due back on offense and eight back on defense.
This year's team has shown flashes of brilliance. The Tigers have played three Top 10 teams and won two of those games. Penn State, which is ranked 10th in both major polls, will be number four.
Housel says he is excited about Auburn's future and adds that Tuberville is a major part of that future. If the head coach wants to make changes in his contract that nets him approximately $1.2 million per year, Housel says that will be something to seriously consider. "We always review contracts at the end of every year," Housel notes. "In your major coaching contracts, it is called for." The athletic director notes that he hasn't discussed any specifics with Tuberville. "I need to talk to Tommy about that," Housel says. "I want to let him have some input. There is no doubt that he has done a great job. A lot of people were ready to write his epitaph and the epitaph of Auburn football last year."