It came as a real surprise to me that Tommy Tuberville has been let go by Auburn. Yes, this season was absolutely horrible. If you think LSU's season was bad, and that it was caused by poor administrative decisions, well, Auburn's was much much worse. And there's no way to spin it other than that it was caused by poor administrative decisions. When you fire your first-year offensive coordinator halfway through the season, that's an admission that it was a bad idea to hire him in the first place.
And it bears pointing out that a lot of people thought it was a bad hire at the time.
This post is not to rehash all that, but to ask the nameless Auburn fans out there, is this a good move? My first thought is no.
While I think Tuberville deserved a year to get his team corrected, I am not going to get all high and mighty and talk about how awful it is that these poor coaches work so damn hard and have such little job security. First, that's the rules they all agreed to when they went into coaching football. If you want job security in football, go coach Pop Warner. Anything from the high school level and up comes with the unspoken (or even spoken) condition that you have to win or you'll be gone. That's life in the football profession.
Second, Tommy Tuberville has been compensated quite handsomely for his work at Auburn, and I'm sure his severance package will give him more money than most of us are likely to make over the course of our entire careers. And that's what they'll pay him just to go away.
Yes, I think that this particular firing takes the cake of coaches being on a short timer. Here's a guy who has given Auburn its most successful run in ages, having been a consistent 8 or 9 win team (or more) for his entire run on the plains, and after one admittedly horrible season he is done. But more than anything, my problem with this move is that I don't think Auburn's going to like how they fare in replacing him.
I hope that I am not giving Auburn fans a big surprise when I tell them that Auburn is not a particularly attractive destination for a college football coach. I will go through the litany of problems inherent in taking the Auburn job:
- You have a difficult recruiting situation. You're only the second most beloved school in your own state, and you're surrounded on all sides by power programs. Georgia is to the East. Florida State and Florida are to the South. LSU is to the West if you hop a little bit. Alabama is to the North. At Auburn, it is a fight for every big-time recruit against a team with a home field advantage over you.
- You have a meddling Board of Trustees and other petty annoyances. No head coach in the world wants someone looking over his shoulder all the time, and the Auburn program is crawling with looky-loos trying to tell you what to do and how to do it. Heck, Pat Dye goes on the radio once a week to tell the world what you're doing wrong, and he works for the same people you work for. Why would a guy like Mike Leach go to a place where his every move is going to be scrutinized and analyzed by dozens of people who think they can coach better than he can?
- Auburn is not a destination town. OK, there are lots of places that aren't destination towns, and I would include Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa both among that list, but Auburn is at a disadvantage to places like Austin and Athens. That affects coaches and recruits equally, and is the primary reason Auburn probably is not going to be getting Will Muschamp.
- The expectations are impossibly high. As we have seen in the past few years, 8 or 9 wins per season is not enough. Having an undefeated season only buys you a year or so of the grumblers shutting up. Even when you're beating your rival year after year, people are calling for your head.
- The talent level you are inheriting is not all that great, at least in my opinion. Once again, if you're Mike Leach and you see that this team has failed miserably in a spread offense, why would you bring your own spread?
I think Auburn is going to get into its coaching search and discover that they are not as desirable of a job as, say, Washington. Washington is #1 in their state, is in a wonderfully attractive city and region, is in a place where a little bit of success would make them the #2 or #3 team in the whole conference fairly easily, and no one out there is claiming they know football better than you. Heck, at this point Clemson is probably a better job. Auburn, in my opinion, is probably about as attractive of a job as Georgia Tech is, perhaps even less attractive because the in-conference competition is so tough.
I don't think Auburn is a place that is going to be able to get a hot young coach on the rise. They are going to have to find either a not-so-hot name or a coordinator who will jump at the first chance to get a promotion.
Maybe they'll get into this search and pull a Will Muschamp, Gary Pinkel, Jim Grobe, Mike Leach or someone like that, but I doubt it.