I'm trying really hard to be open-minded about who the next head coach the pace the sidelines of Jordan-Hare will be. I could make an argument for or against just about every (realistic) option you can name. There are some I would personally rather see in an Auburn smock than others, but my opinions don't carry any weight.
See, I'm not a Talon Club member. I'm not an A-Club member. To be honest, I'm not even an AU alum (gasp!). I have been an Auburn fan my entire life. I do buy tickets, merchandise, and support the University in other ways. Regardless of what University is listed on my diploma, Auburn is a part of me. For that reason, I do have an opinion -- one that most likely doesn't match yours, and that is OK. One thing we should all realize though is that the search committee, which I believe to be mainly for show, is not going to call you or me and run the choice by us for approval. I get that and most people do as well, but there are a few that are so outspoken about their opinion of who Auburn should hire that they have become blinded to any other option.
There is no better illustration of this than looking at the differing opinions on Bobby Petrino as a possibly (likely?) replacement for Gene Chizik. "If Auburn doesn't hire Petrino they are just a bunch of dummies that wouldn't know a good coach if he slapped them." "If Auburn hires Petrino they are a bunch of immoral hypocrits and won't see another dime from me!" There are two ends of the Petrino Opinion Spectrum (for further purposes, we'll call it the POS) and not a lot of middle ground. As soon as Chizik was let go, it seems as though fans flocked to one end or the other of the POS. As fans, we have chosen sides like we did as kids getting ready to play a game of backyard football.
Yesterday is his weekly TAKES column, our own Blake Ells took the opportunity to let you all know that he is firmly strapped into his carseat on the Petrino support bus. He gave his reasons and his opinions. He's at the one end of the POS. Let me take this opportunity to present a slightly different view, a countertake if you will. First, let me get this out of the way: Petrino is a very good offensive-minded coach. Yes, his teams have won a lot of games. However, the offense has carried his teams. He has never really fielded a top-notch, dominant defense. During his time as the head coach at Louisville, the Cardinals had a decent defense. But, being SEC elitests, we all know that playing in Conference USA and the Big East calls into question how legitimate those statistics really are. Amirite? His time at Arkansas, and the defense (can you call it that?) the Hogs put on the field in his time there was abysmal, bordering on non-existent at times -- similar to what we've seen on the Plains the past couple of years. /sigh. If Auburn wants to get back to the dominant defensive play that Auburn has traditionally been known for, is Bobby the guy? I have my doubts. Serious doubts.
Beyond the defensive question marks, there are questions regarding his loyalty. Everyone knows the circumstances leading to why he is currently unemployed. Take away the affair and the motorcycle wreck, and you still have controversy surrounding him hiring his mistress to be a personal assistant over more qualified individuals and misallocating state funds to do so. It's another example of what some may call questionable hiring practices. Auburn pushed out Tuberville because he wouldn't detach himself from the BBQ gang. Do we really want a coach who employs nepotism? If you hire Bobby, be prepared to take Paul. I guess it is all window dressing, because Bobby calls the plays, but that's a wasted position on the coaching staff. Paul isn't known as an offensive genius, and he's not known as a superb recruiter. Take one, you likely get -- and pay -- them both.
Speaking of recruiting, how'd ol' Bobby do recruiting at Arkansas? He wasn't threatening the SEC powers on the recruiting trail. What makes anyone think that would change in a new location? Wouldn't it be fair to question how a recruit's mom would view Bobby molding her boy into a man knowing he was fired from a job for riding a blonde around on his hog? Would you send you kid off at an impressionable age to play for that set of morals?
Coaches come and go from jobs all the time. It doesn't bother me that Petrino hasn't stayed in a job for more than four years. However, the circumstances in which he left those jobs should concern you. In 2003, he left Auburn to take the head coaching job at Louisville. Not even a year into that job, Petrino was trying to backdoor himself out of Louisville, undercut his old boss Tuberville and take his job. The attempt failed. Petrino's name was linked to just about any job not named Louisville while he was there. In 2007, he finally did leave the Cardinals for the Atlanta Falcons job. Understandable to take that step, but ask any Louisville fan or player at the time about how that departure was handled. Ask them how they feel about ol' Bobby. I'll bet it isn't a favorable response. Then, less than a year into the job in Atlanta he decides he can't hack it and disappears in the middle of the night, without warning, to be introduced at an impromptu midnight presser as the head coach at Arkansas. So, go ahead Auburn, hire him. But you should probably be prepared to find a post-it note resignation in a few years. He's a great offensive coach, but he has yet to leave a job in better shape than when he found it.
Taking off my contrarian hat, I will admit that Petrino is one of the best readily available coaches on the market. But, is he the best fit for Auburn? Some of the things mentioned above do concern me, but you can decide for yourself. The Auburn fan base is divided over Petrino, and it's not likely that he would win everyone over immediately if hired. He would have to win big and relatively soon, and he would need to answer some questions before the entire Auburn family would embrace him. Even then, some won't. Those that oppose hiring Petrino have been told to "get over yourself" or simply received a /handwank gesture (which is always a mature and well-reasoned response) and told that "you must not want Auburn to be successful if you can't get behind Petrino." His supporters are a very vocal, and adamant group. You've probably already come up with your own arguments against him to counter other's breathless endorsements of him.
Eventually, you may realize that the things that bother you the most -- the abandonment of the Falcons and the lack of fielding a decent defense -- are things that frankly, are just very personal and get placed above all other positive things that he could bring to the table. Then you'll realize arguing against Petrino is pointless -- not because you are conceding your stance -- but because you're tired of having to defend that stance. We all have to accept that, regardless of how much we love Auburn, it doesn't matter. Our opinion doesn't warrant a vote with the people that get to make this decision. We will still support Auburn and will still keep buying football tickets. Does that mean we should be apathetic about who our team hires? Certainly not. But, let's drop the threats of not renewing tickets and not donating money. You haven't moved to Canada after any election, and next fall, you'll be sitting in Jordan-Hare Stadium, screaming "War Eagle!" with the hairs raised on the back of your neck when you see Nova circle the field. At that point, all the fighting and arguing over whom to hire will be long forgotten.