Can all the talk be true? Is Tommy Tuberville really playing the rest of this season to save his job? That was the question posed to Tuberville by a reporter following Saturday's loss to Arkansas. It's a question that continues to be asked today on radio shows and message boards across the internet. And it's not coming just from our neighbors to the North. Some Auburn people are actually floating the idea.
Clemson's firing of Tommy Bowden yesterday will only intensify the talk here in Alabama. Both programs started the season ranked in the top ten and both have seen their conference title aspirations and bowl hopes all but eliminated. To compare Tuberville with Bowden is simply ridiculous; but for many, facts never get in the way of a good story.
I was critical of Tuberville releasing Tony Franklin last week in the middle of the year. Many of you agreed with me and an equal number didn't. I thought the alternative was worse than Franklin staying on-board until the end of the year. After Saturday night, we're probably just splitting hairs. Either way you cut it, it's bad.
Tuberville has tanked for the second time in six years. Despite not having a proven quarterback, the Tigers were expected to make its first trip to the SEC Championship Game since 2004. The schedule and returning starters all played into Tuberville's favor.
Franklin's offense was supposed to produce more plays from scrimmage and leave opposing defenses gasping for breath. Rod Smith and Robert Dunn were expected to compete for the title of "Second Coming of Terry Beasley" or at the least rival Frank Sanders. It was a calculated risk that failed badly. It's a move that threatens Auburn's heralded recruiting class and leaves fans wondering where the team goes from here.
Plain and simple: Tuberville has laid an egg. Make that a big, fat Ostrich egg.
With that said, it's preposterous for anyone to even suggest that Tuberville should fear for his job. What if I told you in late 1998 that Tuberville would post a 7-2 record against Alabama (including six straight), a 5-4 record against Georgia and a 4-4 record against LSU? Let me also add that he would finish in the top 25 for five of the last six seasons.
And don't forget that little run in 2004 where he ran the table in the SEC and came within an eyelash of a national championship. Had he not recruited so many quality running backs, Auburn would likely have its third Heisman Trophy sitting in the Athletic Department.
If promised all that way back on November 28, 1998, would you have taken it? If promised that, I would have thought I'd died and gone to heaven. What has changed?
What has happened to some Auburn people? What has happened to the Alumni who pull the purse strings on the Plains? Do they not see what the rest of the fans and alumni see? We all know the rocky history between Tuberville and athletic director Jay Jacobs. We all remember Jet Gate and Bobby Lowder's role in the fiasco.
If you believe that's water under the bridge, you're sadly mistaken. Under normal circumstances this season would be just a bump in the road. With Tuberville it's much more. I still believe Tuberville would be sitting in Fayetteville, Arkansas, today had it not been for the $6 million buyout in his contract and the support of everyday Auburn fans.
Don't be surprised to see Jacobs work with Tuberville to release him from his buyout and negotiate with another school at year's end. The Jet Gate crew finally has an opening and you can bet they will jump on it.
Auburn fans are in danger of losing its most decent and honorable coach since Shug Jordan. Yes, this season is ugly. Tuberville has struggled. But the good far out weighs the bad. Tuberville has earned the right to be called an Auburn man. Now it's Auburn's turn to defend him.