Football is back! Tomorrow kicks off Gene Chizik's first spring practice on the Plains. For those of you planning to skip work or leave a little early to catch a glimpse of the action, well forget about it! Following a trend that started last football season under former coach Tommy Tuberville, Chizik has decided to keep the doors closed on all of the sessions except A-Day on April 18th.
As you will remember, last season Tuberville put a lid on public consumption of practice early in the regular season and never wavered. If my memory serves me right, this is the first time in many years that spring practice has been closed the entire time. Obviously, Chizik has his reasons; but with the excitement of a new staff and questions around who'll start at quarterback, it's mighty disappointing to only get one glimpse of the team.
Look for this spring to be more mental than physical, as players on both sides of the ball learn new philosophies. Auburn will practice every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday leading up to A-Day. They'll hold a final practice on April 19th following the open scrimmage.
If you missed Friday night's home NIT win over Tulsa, you really missed some good basketball. I've caught some grief from my Alabama friends over being so into the tournament. I must admit, I'd probably feel the same towards them if the roles were reversed. I've always thought the NIT was a stupid idea. With 64 teams already in the Big Dance, why do fans need a second one with 32 more schools? Boy was I wrong.
The big knock on the New York based tournament is that teams are essentially fighting over who's the 65th best team in America. It's real easy to dismiss the tournament as nothing more than that. But basketball fans know that in reality, only the top 32 or so teams get in the NCAAs. The remaining slots are made up of lap traffic that is nothing more than speed bumps on the way to the Sweet 16.
Take my word for it. If you show up Tuesday night to see Auburn take on Baylor in the quarterfinals you won't be sorry. I can't guarantee a win, but I can promise two quality teams on the court. A win over the Bears means a trip to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Final Four. There are a lot of NCAA Tournament teams that now wish they had that option.
"I told them that we want to go to New York," said Jeff Lebo said. "These country boys have never been to New York. It'll be a nice treat for them, but we've got some work to do yet."
Over the weekend, I ran across something on Ebay that's kind of sad. A jewelry dealer has former Auburn great Harold Hallman's 1983 SEC Championship ring up for auction. The former defensive end passed away in December 2005 at the age of 43.
The seller says he acquired the ring from Hallman's twin sister. If the story is true, you have to assume his family is having financial problems or they wouldn't otherwise part with the ring. When I came across the listing, it just made me sick to my stomach. I can only imagine how the family struggled with selling one of Hallman's prized possessions to a jewelry broker.
As a kid, I loved Hallman. I can recall talking with him during fan day one season and I can still see that big smile on his face. At the time, he was one of the biggest human beings I'd ever seen in person. What a great guy.
At press time, there were six bids for the ring with the high bid coming in at $455. For those of you who are too young to remember Hallman, he had a stellar career playing for Pat Dye. He was All-SEC in 1985 and played a big role in helping right the Auburn ship from 1983-85. He was drafted by San Francisco, but enjoyed the most success in Canada where he was a four-time All-Pro selection and won a Grey Cup with Toronto in 1991.