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The Best Years - #5 (again?) 2005-2006

Wait... I thought we did #5 last week?

If you’re interested in how I determined the point system and top teams, be sure to read the intro article discussing the methodology.

I know, I know. We did #5 last week, right? Remember, 1988? One of the years where all of Auburn’s legendary coaches coincided? You’re right, we did. But, due to an oversight on my end, we actually had TWO teams tie for 5th place, each with 16 points.

Auburn football, baseball, and basketball have all had amazing years at different points in history. Generally, those great seasons don’t coincide. But how is it that a year in which none of the major sports had particularly groundbreaking seasons ends up as one of the top five (...six) years in Auburn history? Let’s find out.

2005-2006 16 points

Basketball 0 points

I’ll be honest and say that even though I was actually alive during this year (unlike 1988), I still don’t remember a ton about ‘05-’06. This season was during the forgotten years of Auburn basketball, and was Jeff Lebo’s second season. On probation and after losing a great coach in Cliff Ellis, the Tigers had competed with essentially a group of nobodies in Lebo’s first season.

However, there was actually some optimism going into the year. Lebo had surprisingly pulled in a respectable recruiting class, highlighted by only the second McDonald’s All-American to ever come to Auburn, Korvotney Barber (RIP). The team would show some promise of talent, but as Son of Crow mentioned in this week’s Orange and True, most of the talent was freshman and Lebo would be unable to capitalize with recruiting falling off in subsequent years.

Dave Martin

All in all, despite an 8-4 OOC record (where their best win may have only been Southern Miss), Auburn would go on to be 4-12 in conference play, and would finish the year 12-16 overall. I won’t spend too much time here, but if you’re looking to reminisce on ‘05-’06 Auburn basketball, hit up Son of Crow. He loves talking about Frankie Twelve-Fingers

Women’s Basketball 0 points

There’s not a ton to talk about here. In head coach Nell Fortner’s second season after taking over for legend Joe Ciampi, the Tigers went 14-15 on the court, securing their first losing season since the ‘78-’79 season. Coach Fortner would get her team turned around soon, going to the WNIT the next season, the NCAAT the in ‘07-’08, and even winning the SEC in ‘08-’09. The ‘05-’06 season, though, brought no glory to the Plains.

Baseball 0 points

Three sports in, and still zero points? Yikes. Stop me if you’ve heard this already, but in head coach Tom Slater’s second season, the Tigers had a rough go of it. Despite making the postseason in 8 of the last 9 years and 11 of the last 13, the Tigers would put up an ugly 22-34 mark, which was the worst record since Auburn put up a 16-34 mark in the spring of 1983.

The only bright spot for the Tigers in 2006 was the emergence of a young catcher/third baseman by the name of Josh Donaldson. Donaldson had played a good season as a freshman in 2005, but in ‘06 (the season we’re looking at) Donaldson became one of the premier offensive players in the SEC. The Bringer of Rain would later get an invite to the Cape Cod League that summer where he would be named the All-Star catcher, and that helped him set the stage for becoming a first round draft pick to the Cubs in 2007.

Softball 1 point

Hey, a point! Auburn softball had not been around long at this point (the team started playing in the mid-1990’s), but a winning culture was already becoming evident in head coach Tina Deese’s program. After a banner year in which Auburn won 50 games and hosted a regional in the spring of 2005, Auburn once again was able to go to a regional in 2006. The year itself wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was another brick in the building of Auburn softball as a powerhouse in the southeast.

Football 5 points

Oh, 2005. What could have been for Auburn football. After losing some high-profile star power from the 2004 team (Cadillac, Ronnie, Carlos Rogers, Jason Campbell), the 2005 team looked like it might still be built to make another run. Brandon Cox, though a little unproven, seemed to be a natural successor to Campbell, and despite losing two top-five NFL draft picks at running back, most people thought a committee of 2003 hero Tre Smith and Brad Lester would suffice.

Things would not start of as we had planned. In a game several of our staff here were at (including your’s truly), Auburn opened up the 2005 campaign with a maddening performance against Georgia Tech at home. Instead of getting revenge for the massive 2003 upset, Auburn would get largely stiffled by an average Georgia Tech team at home and seemed to have no answer for Reggie Ball (how... how can you not be ready for Reggie Ball??). Only being 10 years old at this game, all I really remember was that the game sucked, it was hot as blazes despite being a night game (welcome to Auburn on Labor Day), and that my older brother (a Tech fan and soon-to-be-student) had the time of his life. Auburn still has never beaten Tech in my lifetime, and I will never hear the end of it until we do. But I digress...

Auburn would go on to string five straight dominant wins together against a pretty weak schedule, which made the Tech loss all the more aggravating. The streak included the legendary 3rd quarter against South Carolina, where Auburn pulled the ultimate Tuberville move and literally possessed the ball for the entire quarter. Actually Auburn did the “hold the ball the entire 3rd quarter trick in 2006 but I’m mentioning it anyway.

This streak set up a showdown between #16 Auburn and #7 LSU in Baton Rouge. This was Les Miles’s first foray into the weirdness that is the Auburn-LSU rivalry, and over time Miles would be show he could make the games even crazier. This 2005 game would be one of the hardest games to watch from a human perspective, as despite being widely regarded as one of the most physical and hard-hitting games ever played, it would come down to the kicker to decide the outcome. And boy, did it not go the way he wanted. John Vaughn, who would even go on to be Auburn’s all-time scoring leader for a short stint, went 1-6 on field goals in this game, including a doink off the upright in overtime which would have kept the game alive. Even as a kid, I knew that Vaughn was going to have a tough time ever living that game down. This game also featured Kenny Irons, who at this point had taken over at tailback, saying on camera during pregame that he would run for 200 yards that night. And on 27 carries, the Dacula, Georgia native ran for 218 yards. And yet, this was just your average kind of night when Auburn and LSU get together.

After falling to 5-2, Auburn would go on another strong run to finish out the season, including a 31-30 walk off win (by John Vaughn!) over #9 Georgia and the 11-sack masterpiece the Auburn defense put up against #8 Alabama and Brodie Croyle. Unfortunately, due to losing the head to head against LSU, Auburn would be SEC West co-champs with the Bayou Bengals and not get to represent the West in the SEC Championship Game against UGA. While the Citrus Bowl against our old friend Wisconsin didn’t go the way we had hoped, the 2005 season proved to be a roller coaster of emotions. A 9 win season, beating both top 10 UGA and Alabama, losing in heart-breaking fashion to LSU and to an early season ACC team, and then finally losing a bowl game that your players just aren’t in to... Man that sounds familiar.

Olympic Sports 10 points (!!!)

Okay guys, let’s get to the heart of this year. I know the smaller “Olympic” sports don’t tend to dominate the head space of Auburn fans, but sometimes you gotta give credit where credit is due. In the mid-2000’s Auburn had become an internationally renowned program for swimming and diving, and it had been shown by a great showing in the 2004 Summer Olympics, where Auburn swimmers won two golds, a silver, and two bronzes. On the NCAA side of things, the Auburn men won the SEC every year from 1996-2011, including eight national championships and five in a row from 2002 to 2006. The women, though not quite as successful, won five out of six SEC championships from 2002-2007 (although not in 2005), and also won five out of six national championships from 2001-2006. The swim and dive program alone picked up 5 points for Auburn in 2005.

The Auburn women were also able to pick up a national championship in 2005 in outdoor track and field, the only title our women have had in the sport. The women’s golf team also picked up an SEC title, which seemed to be a common occurrence in the 2000’s. Finally, 2005 would be the first year in which Auburn would win an equestrian national championship, of which they know have five of.

In total, between the four national championships and two more SEC titles, Auburn would rack up 10 total points in the Olympic sports in the ‘05-’06 school year. As much love and attention as we give our smaller programs in today’s day and age with the great job Auburn’s social team does with fan engagement, it would be wonderful to see what four national championships would look like in 2018.

There you have it, folks. The other fifth best school year in Auburn Athletics history. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong, and be sure to listen to this week’s Orange and True to get an even better look at the year.