Word came out late this afternoon that Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs has issued himself a hard out time by tendering his resignation by June 1, 2018.
Jacobs’ resignation might not come at that time, it’s just the latest he’ll stay. If Auburn can find a suitable replacement before then, he’ll step aside and let the new director take his place. The announcement ends a run of fourteen years as director of athletics on the Plains.
Let’s be honest, for the successes that Auburn athletics have had during Jacobs’ tenure, there were an equal amount of blunders and scandals. He proved us wrong at times, and he was proven wrong on a number of occasions as well.
He took over at a pretty solid time for some sports, but at a period during which Auburn was under fire in many areas. Jacobs was given the head job three days before Christmas in 2004, just around the time that whole SACS investigation was finally finishing up. Yes, he got to bask in the glory of an undefeated season for the football team at the time, but it wasn’t his doing.
When Tommy Tuberville failed to keep up the good work and was eventually let go (the right decision at the time), the ensuing coaching search put Auburn under fire nationally once again when it was (wrongfully) deemed that the administration was against hiring a black head coach. Sadly, some of the attacks in that regard came from friendly fire. Thanks, Charles.
Whether we agreed on the hiring of Gene Chizik, he won us a national championship in football, put us on (temporary) equal footing with Nick Saban and Alabama, and things were great. Baseball was good in 2010, Equestrian and Swimming/Diving were top programs, and we didn’t really have anything that was just atrocious aside from basketball.
He did do the right thing and get rid of Chizik once 2012 happened, and the hiring of Gus Malzahn was seen as a great move when he took us to a national championship appearance in his first season. Since then, however, it’s been average year after average year.
For whatever reason, and you can speculate on that, we’ve just never put it together on the hardwood. It’s continued through to this year, and Jacobs is ultimately responsible for what happened with Chuck Person. No, he couldn’t directly or literally make sure that Person played by the rules, but this happened under his watch. As AD, the blame rises to the top.
That’s not to mention other things that have happened recently — the softball scandal, whatever this latest football issue was with staffers doing schoolwork for players, and the track and field complaint — they all point to a shaky house of cards.
Either way, there are plenty of messes to clean up for whoever steps in. If basketball doesn’t make some sort of postseason this year, how do you justify keeping Bruce Pearl around much longer? With the talent on the football team, if the Tigers end up going 7-5, how do you justify keeping Malzahn around much longer? Yes, I realize that three of the top four in the current playoff rankings are on our schedule, but look at the two games we lost. There are probably a dozen or so coaches that wouldn’t have found ways to lose those games like we did.
Jacobs made some fantastic hires, to be fair. Clint Myers was a game-changer for softball before recent events. Auburn rose to be one of the top two programs in the league under his watch (after Florida, who actually won some titles), Butch Thompson looks to have baseball trending up in a big way, and Mickey Dean is a proven success now taking over for Myers.
However, and it’s truly unfair, we’re being held to a different standard than the rest of the country. We’ve got the corrupt Crimson machine across the state chugging along, winning titles in multiple sports (softball, golf, football, gymnastics), while we’re trying to keep pace. It’s been one of the most successful eras in Auburn athletics history, but we’re not able to see that due to the dull red haze permeating the state.
To be fair, you do have to get lucky to have the kind of success they’ve had. Same story with Clemson, or Ohio State. Clemson promoted a wide receivers coach and was content to give him years and years to build up the program before they finally saw success. Ohio State only has Urban now because of the fallout in Gainesville, and Alabama’s only got Nick Saban because of perfect timing with Shula’s hourglass running out when Saban had realized he wasn’t cut out for the NFL.
Jacobs got lucky in the short run on a couple of instances, with 2010’s national title and Cam Newton, and the 2013 season with Gus Malzahn and a team nobody saw coming. To be true competition, we needed to see that success continue from year to year. It didn’t happen.
So now where do we turn? Do you go with an Auburn man or woman? Do you go to someone from far away, with no connections and a fresh take approach? Do you take the most successful current athletic director you can find elsewhere and try to convince them to leave for the SEC? Do you snake a conference foe’s captain and bring them to the Plains? Do you go the business route and grab someone who’s going to make the athletic department hum while producing greenbacks?
There are many options, and there’s plenty of time to mull them over. What’s evident is that Auburn needs revolutionary blood in the athletics department, able to invigorate all sports and keep us a consistent threat in the ones that really matter and produce profits for the school.
We’ll see what happens. War Eagle.