You'd be hard pressed to knock the smiles off the faces of Auburn coaches this week. Turn on the television or crank up the internet and there they stand - all smiles. The little staff that could has done it again. Big Cat Weekend on the Plains was deemed by most a rousing success.
Even Auburn's harshest critics are shaking their heads. Where does this staff come up with this stuff? Furthermore, why didn't Tommy Tuberville ever think of these things? Yeah, these are heady times for Auburn's Gene Chizik and crew. Who cares about a few secondary NCAA violations?
If the school to the north can allegedly hand out favors in Gadsden like Halloween candy, who cares if the staff orchestrated a little pep rally around Toomer's Corner? If Tennessee's Lane Kiffin is the poster child for stupid moves, then Chizik is the man with the Midas Touch.
There's only one problem. Chizik has yet to win a game or get a commitment from any of these big cats. Five-star recruits Lache Seastrunk and Marcus Lattimore are getting all the attention right now. And should just one of them actually sign on the dotted line next February, Auburn's staff will be hailed as geniuses for landing the highest ranked prep athlete in school history. Sign both of them and look out world. Right?
Last weekend's event was a high wire act. Like they say, with big risks come big rewards. Or do they? The fallout from last weekend is quietly being felt by Auburn coaches this week. They have spent much of their time taking calls from other recruits who were not invited to the event or in some cases, just ignoring them.
I talked to a four-star recruit's father yesterday who's looking for answers as to why his son was not invited. The kid has offers from virtually every big school in the country including Auburn. Phone calls to assistants Tracy Rocker and Jay Boulware have gone unanswered. Meanwhile, Alabama has pounced on the opportunity and the kid now appears to be leaning toward Bama and LSU.
With only about 24 kids invited to Big Cat Weekend, you can bet these scenarios have played out more than once this week. While new to Auburn, events like Big Cat Weekend are nothing new in the SEC. Florida has been putting on an event called, Friday Night Lights for several years now. The only difference is they invite many recruits, not just a select few.
By limiting the invitee list, Auburn has shown its hand and told everyone who they covet the most. If you were left off the invitee list how do you feel now? Chizik has clearly rolled the dice on this event and he may win big. All of those visiting seemed to be having a blast. There were video game tournaments, watermelon eating contests and the now infamous Toomer's Corner celebration. What was there not to like?
Plenty if you were left off the list.
How all of this plays out will not be known until next year. The attention span of kids is short, but memories are long. What the Auburn coaches do in the coming weeks will go a long way in minimizing the risk from last week. My first suggestion is to answer the phone.
Big Cat Weekend may prove to be the event that started it all - the turning point in the Auburn program. Count me among those who are not so sure.