If you’ve ever frequented an internet message board establishment, particularly one that focuses on college athletics, you may have seen the acronym JABA.
I’m sure you know what it is, but if not, it stands for Just Auburn Being Auburn.
Since about midnight Eastern time last night, nothing embodied this fandom more than those four words. Once the news about Bo Nix transferring hit the stratosphere, reason and rationale went out the window for many of us.
First, there was the accusation, that the fanbase was the reason he was transferring. In actuality, and despite being the prototype seed player for Auburn football due to his father’s legacy, Bo found himself in a situation that didn’t work for him from a football sense. Yes, the fans were tough on him, but he deserved it at times. I’m not sure that we ever saw his ceiling, but his floor was so unbelievably low that it was difficult not to blame him for a few losses or near misses.
In reality, Bo turned out like Ron Swanson in Parks and Rec when he went to ask Leslie Knope for a job. He found himself in a position where he was unfamiliar with everyone around him, and the good old days had come and gone. His coaching staff, with which he’d built a decade of rapport, was all gone. Gus Malzahn was getting tan south of the border, all of the offensive coaches he’d known during his prep days were elsewhere, and the offense he’d signed on to conduct was heading out the door.
So, what’s he going to do? He’s going to figure out a way to blaze a trail for himself. Off somewhere that he’s got some familiarity — UCF (under his old coach), Texas A&M (under his dad’s QB coach), SMU (under mini-Gus) — and he’ll probably be happier for it from a football standpoint. He also won’t have to endure what I’m sure would be tough... not living up to expectations at the place where he dreamed of winning everything.
Think about that, how many of us played in the backyard and pretended to be Bo Jackson, Randy Campbell, Lawyer Tillman, or Patrick Nix, Dameyune Craig, Cadillac Williams, Cam Newton. Bo Nix essentially knew that his backyard play would result in him getting to live out the dream that many boys could never actually achieve. Then he gets to Auburn, has a pretty successful freshman year, beats Alabama, and then goes up and down from there. 2020 wasn’t anyone’s fault really, because Alabama was the only team in the country that actually took it seriously, and 2021 was shaping up great until he got hurt and the slide began. He regressed not to the mean, but to the Bo coefficient in College Station, which meant that turnovers and skittish play doomed a great defensive effort. Then an injury against Mississippi State allowed a historic comeback, and the season was lost from there.
Still, Auburn fans know that with Bo leading the way, the Tigers likely beat Alabama by two touchdowns with the way the defense and that stadium performed at the end of November. Instead, Auburn lost out after winning an emotional Halloween weekend game against Ole Miss. What were slim playoff hopes and definite dreams of Atlanta turned into a plea to keep a good recruiting class together.
Now, with Bryan Harsin getting rid of Mike Bobo, there’s even more uncertainty at the position for Auburn’s quarterbacks. We have an idea of who might take over the helm there, but we don’t know for sure, and when Bo Nix had to weigh his options, the grass would be greener than a yard that didn’t actually have a lawn.
Good luck to Bo, wherever he goes. We’ll miss him in our own way, and he’ll miss us, but he’ll always have a soft spot for Auburn. As for where we stand, at least now we get to see the full proof of concept from Harsin. We’re going to see him live or die with his quarterback (because Finley isn’t going to be the guy in 2022), and without the guaranteed starter on the roster, it’ll actually allow Auburn to recruit someone to come in for a year or so and be the guy. As we speak the transfer portal is filling up with quarterbacks, as Zach Calzada and Kedon Slovis both hit the road today.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, Auburn fans didn’t have much time to digest the Bo Nix official news before word got out that he wasn’t the only star looking to bolt. Shortly after that, and well after midnight Eastern time, it was posted that Tank Bigsby was seeking a way out and hadn’t been seen at practice in a couple of days or in the building since the middle of last week.
In the end, that was essentially a short-lived farce, as Bigsby was “convinced” to stay according to some reports, but others hadn’t even had him as planning to leave in the first place. What could have been irresponsible reporting at worst and an honest mistake at best caused panic and woe among the Auburn faithful as we figured that Tank would likely just go to Georgia and live to destroy us in 2022.
Later on today, that report turned out to be false, and Tank decided to stay on the Plains for another year, settling our stomachs for at least a bit. Plus, two big commits on the recruiting trail, including an LSU legacy, gave us a little tonic to deal with the nerves.
So, twenty hours after this whole befuddlement started, where do we stand?
Without a quarterback.
With a tailback.
Still without an offensive coordinator.
With absolute no cohesion among the predicted direction of the program by the coaches, players, fans, media, or anyone.
We’re still figuring out how to live in a post Gus Malzahn world, and we’re dealing with a coach now who’s not exactly nice, and who definitely doesn’t care about anything other than football. For those of you who want to try and match up to what’s going on across the state, I suppose it’s the closest thing we could get to the God-King in terms of personality, but we still don’t have the type of support that he had when he came in. Harsin wasn’t the unanimous choice, he wasn’t the type of guy that Allen Greene would stalk for days to get him to consider the position, and he certainly wasn’t the guy that the money folks were willing to shell out for.
And he may not even be the guy that we as the Auburn program actually need. As one of our College and Mag staff said in the Slack channel, people at Auburn don’t want a Bear Bryant/Nick Saban type who only cares about winning. They want the Pat Dye type that’ll make you feel good. Harsin definitely isn’t Dye, but he’s not Saban yet either. We’re getting rid of the errant cogs in the program, and it’s going to be rough for a little while until things get settled. Such is life in Auburn’s America.