AU Still Looking for Tuberville's Replacement

The last time the Tigers selected a head football coach, the choice caught many by surprise. Will that be the case again a decade later?

Auburn, Ala.--When Tommy Tuberville was hired away from Ole Miss after the 1998 season, it was a surprise choice that had been in the works well before it was announced. Ten years later Auburn is in another coaching search, this time to replace Tuberville, and Tiger fans are wondering if their new head football coach will be a surprise pick again this time.

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Auburn's athletic director, Jay Jacobs, who has not announced a timetable for bringing the new head football coach on board, may interview more candidates before the Tigers are ready to name their choice. Jacobs has not comment on who has or has not been interviewed or considered to replace Tuberville.

Veteran head coach at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier, has denied interest in the job when asked about rumors that surfaced that he could be a candidate to coach at his third SEC school after getting his start in the league at his alma mater, Florida.

Regarding the Auburn rumors, Spurrier said on Thursday, "Yeah, I heard that. There's nothing to that. Amazing how some of this stuff gets started." He also said, "That one jumped out of nowhere. I know where my future in coaching is, and that's South Carolina."

A recent name added to the mix is Tulsa head coach Todd Graham, whose 10-3 team is putting up huge offensive numbers. Tulsa will close the season in the GMAC Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile on Jan. 6th vs. Ball State. Ball State is coached by Brady Hoke, another coach that Auburn has shown interest in to replace Tommy Tuberville.

At the GMAC coaches press conference on Wednesday in Mobile, Hoke confirmed he had been interviewed by the Tigers and said he was honored to be considered by a program of Auburn's caliber.

Graham didn't deny he had been interviewed by Auburn, but noted he didn't want to discuss the job vacancy.

People familiar with the search say that former Auburn assistant coach Rodney Garner, who is assistant head coach at the University of Georgia, interviewed for the position this week. Garner played football for Pat Dye in the 1980s at Auburn. Georgia head coach Mark Richt said that he believes Garner would make a good head coach for the Tigers.

Rodney Garner

Garner, an 1990 Auburn graduate who is from Leeds, Ala., coached at AU from 1990-95. For the Tigers, he served as recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach and also worked as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. In 1996-97 he worked at Tennessee coaching offensive tackles and tight ends before moving to Georgia in 1998, where he has worked with the defensive line.

Another former Auburn player recruited by Dye, Patrick Nix, is the offensive coordinator of the University of Miami Hurricanes under head coach Randy Shannon. Nix's name is in the mix for the vacant job, too.

Patrick Nix

Nix, a 1995 Auburn graduate, has been offensive coordinator at Miami the past two seasons. Before that he was coordinator from 2004-06 at Georgia Tech. He also coached at Tech in 2002-2003 after one season at Samford.

In 1999-2000 he was head coach at Henderson State in Arkansas and and got his start as quarterback coach at Jacksonville State from 1996-98 near his hometown of Attalla.

Among the group of coaches who have Auburn ties and have been mentioned as candidates are former AU coordinators, Will Muschamp and Jimbo Fisher. Both are currently head coaches in waiting. Fisher, speaking to the Montgomery Quarterback Club this week, said he really enjoyed his time at Auburn, but noted that he is happy at Florida State and added that neither he nor his agent has not been contacted about the Auburn job by Auburn.

Muschamp, who is defensive coordinator at Texas, has been promised the head job there when Mack Brown retires. At FSU, Jimbo Fisher is the offensive coordinator who is also handling many of the other duties of a head coach for veteran head man Bobby Bowden. Texas head coach Mack Brown said that Muschamp is not going to be leaving Texas for Auburn and Muschamp has told coaches he is staying in Austin.

Both Fisher and Muschamp were high-profile assistants for the Tigers.

While Nix, Garner, Muschamp and Fisher are well-known to Auburn officials and both have in-depth knowledge of the university from their time at AU, one of the more interesting candidates has no ties to Auburn. Turner Gill, the head man of the University of Buffalo, has not coached in the southeast, but that hasn't prevented him from getting an interview for the position.

Turner Gill

The former star player and assistant coach at Nebraska has already done his formal interview with AU officials in New York City. College coaches and officials were in New York City for the College Foundation Foundation's annual meetings and award ceremonies this week. The meetings normally attract a large number of head football coaches from around the country so it was a target-rich environment for Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs to discuss the job vacancy with a variety of coaches. Former Auburn head man Tuberville is one of the coaches who attended the festivities in New York City.

Gill has seen Auburn play in person. He brought his first Buffalo team to Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2006 where the Bulls fell 38-7, but kept the game close in the first half, trailing just 10-0.

Brady Hoke of Ball State led his team to a 12-0 regular season mark and the first Top 25 ranking in BSU history, but saw the dream of a perfect season ended as Buffalo defeated the Cardinals 42-24 in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game on Friday night. Hoke has also coached at Jordan-Hare Stadium. His 2005 team was routed 63-3 by the Tigers.

A popular name with Auburn alumni is Paul Johnson, a successful head coach at Georgia Southern and Navy before taking over at Georgia Tech this season. Johnson is widely respected in the college coaching community. After doing an impressive job with the Yellow Jackets this year, including a victory over Georgia to close the regular season, look for Tech to try to fend of advances of potential suitors. Johnson is taking his team to Chick-fil-A Bowl where Auburn defeated Clemson last year. At the bowl's press conference on Sunday, Johnson refused to discuss the Auburn job opening.

Another first-year coach at his school, Houston Nutt of Ole Miss, has already capitalized on speculation he was a candidate for the Auburn job by landing an improved contract in Oxford. A coach farther west, Texas Tech's Mike Leach, has expressed an interest in Auburn while renegotiating his contract with the Red Raiders. It is not certain if he will return to Lubbock, but his next stop isn't expected to be in Auburn.

Among the many names mentioned as possibilities for the job are the sons of two College Football Hall of Fame coaches.

Derek Dooley posted a 5-7 and 7-5 in his first two seasons at Louisiana Tech.

Derek Dooley of Louisiana Tech is the son of former Auburn multi-sport athlete and assistant coach, Vince Dooley, who was one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Georgia. The younger Dooley is considered a coach with promise and from several sources interviewed for the vacant Auburn job on Monday night.

Skip Holtz of East Carolina is trying to follow in the footsteps of his father, Lou, now a television football analyst. A popular name for coaching searches, Skip Holtz is considered a strong candidate for the vacant Syracuse job. Buffalo's Gill has also been mentioned as a candidate to rebuild the Orange program.

Gary Patterson

Another out of the region coach whose name has been mentioned as a potential candidate is TCU's Gary Patterson, who reportedly interviewed for the Auburn position on Thursday.

His name has come up as a candidate for openings in recent years, but he has been in charge of the Horned Frogs since taking over for the final game of the 2000 season and is credited with making his team a power in the Mountain West Conference.

Whoever ends up as Tuberville's replacement, whether it is a well-known candidate or a surprise pick, will take over a team that finished 5-7, its first losing season since 1999. That was also the last season the Tigers didn't go to a bowl game.

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