Tag Archives: Pat Dye

Auburn: No Need to Curb Your Enthusiasm

I just completed reading an article written by my friend, and co-host of the SEC 411 podcast, Seth Merenbloom. Seth is also an editor here at Campus Pressbox. I have a great deal of respect for his opinions on sports, in general, and on the SEC, in particular.

But I am going to have to part ways with my colleague on this one. He is of the opinion that Auburn is overrated. This piece from SEC Country deals with the Sports Illustrated prediction of Auburn as the number 10 team in the country. The column also mentions the Tigers as CBS Sports’ pick as number nine in the preseason.

The only poll we have at this point belongs to the coaches. Auburn ranks 13th there.

Let’s pause for a moment and reconsider the fact that all of this is merely talk, opinion, conjecture. Teams have begun practice all across the land but no one has played a single game just yet.

But talk is what we rabid fans do this time of year in the dog days of summer. The actual games begin on August 26th and the first game in the SEC, Florida A&M at Arkansas, follows on August 31st.

Back to Auburn and my take on the matter. I am with CBS Sports. I would put Auburn in the number nine slot. Also, I would precede my Tigers with 1. Clemson (I am of the old school opinion that the number one team from the previous year remains numero uno until/if they are defeated during the upcoming campaign. See September 9, Auburn at Clemson) 2. Alabama 3. Ohio State 4. Washington 5. Florida State 6. Penn State 7. Oklahoma 8. Southern Cal.

I would put Michigan at 10.

And I do my rankings based on how strong I foresee teams. I don’t take into account schedules, conferences, etc. I ask myself, “How good is this team in relation to the other teams in the FBS? How strong are they overall? What if this team played ‘X’ on a neutral field?”

Now, here is my reasoning on Auburn’s ranking as a top ten team.

Auburn returns seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, including its three top tacklers. Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams must be replaced but there is a ton of talent to go around on this surly defense.

Marlon Davidson is a beast and with help from the likes of Dontavius Russell, Derrick Brown, Tre Williams, Darrell Williams, DeShaun Davis, Carlton Davis and Tray Matthews, to name just a few, the D is stacked with top line SEC talent. There is also enough quality depth to make this unit as good or better than the 2016 group. And Kevin Steele is back as the coordinator. That’s big.

The offense should be lethal. We all know about Jarrett Stidham but the Tigers are three deep at quarterback with Sean White and Malik Willis. Running back? Loaded. Kamryn Pettway, Kerryon Johnson, Kam Martin, Malik Miller, and C.J Tolbert give Auburn a stable of horses second to none in the conference.

The offensive line is more talented and deep than it has been in years. Pat Dye thinks they have the potential to be as good as any since he began coaching at Auburn in 1981.

Wide receivers? Eli Stove, Darius Slayton, Nate Craig, Kyle Davis, Will Hastings, Ryan Davis, Marquis McClain and, now, John Franklin, will give Auburn very good talent and depth here.

Also, the tight end position should be much improved with Jalen Harris returning and transfer Sal Cannella, and his excellent hands, making this a position of strength.

Oh! Auburn has the best placekicker in the country in Daniel Carlson, as well.

The talent, experience, and depth is all in place down on the Plains. And, I think, Gus Malzahn has put together the complete and cohesive staff he has been looking for since he took over in 2013.

When you mix all of these ingredients together along with a great team chemistry and a hunger to win, I think you might be looking at a very special season down in the Loveliest Village.

I don’t think I can “Curb My Enthusiasm.”

The Coaches at Auburn and Georgia Know Each Other All Too Well

I came into sports, as a passion, back in 1961-62. I attended my first Auburn football game in that fall of ’61. My Tigers played another group of Tigers. That opponent hailed from Clemson, South Carolina.

Auburn won that homecoming game in, then, Cliff Hare Stadium, 24-14. Cliff Hare was a member of the first ever Auburn football team in 1892. That 1892 team played the first college football game, ever, in the Deep South. The opponent? The University of Georgia

More on Georgia later.

Back to 1961.

I don’t recall ever being happier than I was at that Clemson game in 1961, and in games to follow over the years. And it’s not that I didn’t care if Auburn won or lost. I did. I wanted them to win so very badly. I still do.

But, win or lose, I was just so darn happy to be at Auburn and sitting in Cliff Hare Stadium.

I would make sure that my daddy got me there, those two or three times a year, as soon as the gates opened. And there I would sit, spellbound, as my Tigers would walk the turf in street clothes. Soon they would take the field for warmups.

And in short order, it was time to kick it off.

Pure bliss!

There was a football game I made up and played in my front yard, either with friends, or by myself. I called this game Ala-burn.

Alaburn was made up of players from both Auburn and Alabama. Jimmy Sidle, Joe Namath, Tucker Frederickson, Lee Roy Jordan, and others, would take on the likes of Georgia Tech (then of the Southeastern Conference), Tennessee, LSU, and the like.

Those players, from both the Plains of East Alabama and the Capstone of Tuscaloosa, would take on all comers and, in my mind, win.

We win when we stick together.

The reason I say all of this, in part, is due to what has transpired in our country over recent years and culminating this past Tuesday.

And this does not just pertain to politics, it permeates our culture right down through our sporting events.

Divisiveness, anger, greed, and hatred.

Teasing, taunting, mocking, and cursing.

Incivility has reached new lows, and this saddens me deeply.

Again, we win when we stick together. And we must have the attitude and faith of a little child to make this happen. At least that is my humble opinion.

That brings me back to Georgia. The Tigers and Bulldogs will renew the Deep South’s oldest rivalry for the 120th time, Saturday, in Athens.

The Dawgs lead the series 56-55-8.

From Pat Dye, former Auburn coach and All-American guard at Georgia: “It’s a unique thing. It’s like playing against your brother. I don’t think anybody who plays in that game can ever forget it. It just doesn’t matter much where it’s played or what somebody’s record is. It’s so intense and tough, but at the same time, it’s family.”

Vince Dooley played quarterback at Auburn under Shug Jordan. Jordan was an assistant football coach and head basketball coach at Georgia when he answered the call to return to Auburn as its head football coach in 1951.

Rodney Garner, former Auburn player and now a defensive line coach for the Tigers, was a coach at Georgia for 15 years.

Tracy Rocker, an all-world defensive lineman at Auburn in the late eighties, is now the defensive line coach in Athens.

Joel Eaves, of Beard-Eaves Coliseum, played both football and basketball at Auburn and is the winningest coach in Auburn basketball history. He also spent some time as its athletic director. Eaves also served Georgia as its athletic director from 1963-1979. He was the man who hired Vince Dooley to become head coach of the Bulldogs.

It goes on and on but I won’t bore you with all of the details. At least not today.

The Auburn-Georgia game has, sadly, become a bit more acrimonious than it was years ago. It was very much a more “sisterly” rivalry in those days past.

She now has now become more of a reflection of the times. Certainly not an Aurgia or Geoburn.

We win when we stick together.

But, there is that matter of 3 ½ or so hours on a crisp autumn afternoon, or evening, much to Shug Jordan’s chagrin, that we put on the gloves and slug it out.

Saturday, at 3:30 PM, “between the hedges,” the Tigers and Bulldogs do battle.

I think Auburn has a better football team than Georgia. I think the Tigers are better coached. I also think they are stronger in the trenches.

And I think the Tigers are on a mission to put themselves in a position to do something very special.

The nod goes to the orange and blue over the red and black.

Auburn 30, Georgia 17.

For more on the 2016 edition of The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, click away below.

http://gridironnow.com/4-reasons-georgia-game-important-auburn-iron-bowl/

https://www.seccountry.com/auburn/cbs-analyst-gary-danielson-believes-georgia-will-be-tremendous-challenge-for-auburn

https://www.saturdaydownsouth.com/auburn-football/position-by-position-edge-auburn-vs-georgia-2016/

https://www.seccountry.com/auburn/in-plains-sight-auburns-recruiting-pipeline-in-georgia-will-continue-in-2017

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Big Improvement on the Plains Starts with Defense

2015 was a big disappointment for the Auburn faithful. The team that was picked to win the conference at SEC Media days finished the season with a 7-6 record overall and went 2-6 in SEC play. That landed them last in the West.

If the 2016 season is to be a successful one for the Auburn Tigers, then a number of things are going to have to come together for them. It is a must that they improve on both sides of the ball. The Tigers are also going to have to navigate, what is considered by many, one the most brutal schedules in all of college football.

Auburn opens with the second-ranked team in the country, as voted in the USA Today Coaches Poll, Clemson. That’s just for starters. Texas A&M and LSU will also come calling in the month of September. At least these games will be played in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The road games include Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama. Ouch!

Oh yeah! The Arkansas Razorbacks come to the Plains in October. Vanderbilt makes its first trip to Auburn since 2007. And don’t write off the Commodores. They are playing some very good defense under head coach, and defensive coordinator, Derek Mason.

Now, let’s check what’s going on with the Tigers as they seek to improve enough to become a contender in the SEC West again.

First, defense.

It was defense that used to be Auburn’s calling card. From Shug Jordan, to Pat Dye, to Tommy Tuberville, Auburn fielded some of the best defenses in the SEC and in the country. Under Jordan, the 1957 unit yielded a mere 28 points. That’s 2.8 points per game. They recorded six shutouts in that National Championship season. Players like lineman Zeke Smith and linebacker Jackie Burkett led that sterling aggregation of defenders.

Dye’s best group was in 1988. Tracy Rocker, a tackle, and Benji Roland, a nose guard, were both All-Americans that year. Auburn won the SEC. The defense gave up only 7.7 points per game. That was first in the country and no SEC defense has allowed fewer points per game since then.

The 2004 Tiger defense was Tuberville’s most formidable. They yielded but 11.3 points per game. That, also, was tops in college football. Gene Chizik, later to become the head coach on the Plains, was the coordinator. And who can forget such names as Carlos Rogers, Junior Rosegreen, and Travis Williams, who is now coaching linebackers at Auburn?

Defense wins championships and defense will be the strength of the 2016 Auburn Tiger team from the looks of things. The starters comprise an all five-star line, which could be three deep at every position.

Click here to get a good idea of what coach Rodney Garner has to work with.

What about the offense? If it is to be more productive than it was in 2015, the wide receivers are going to have to step up and make much more of a contribution. Former Tiger, Kodi Burns, is now the position coach and he has some excellent young talent to work with.

Here is an update on his group.

Who is going to be Auburn’s starting quarterback? That is the question Tiger fans and those all across the college football landscape are asking as we fast approach the start of the 2016 season. In my humble opinion, Sean White will take the first snap when Auburn faces Clemson on September 3. Yet, much of the talk during fall practice has been about John Franklin III. We have heard about his strong throwing arm, but he must continue to hone his accuracy skills. His speed is another thing that the JUCO transfer has going for him.

This article from AL.com expands upon that subject.

Speed. Franklin might not even be the fastest player on Auburn’s team.

Take a look at defensive back Javaris Davis, right here.

Improvement, big improvement. Yes, you will see it, on both sides of the ball, when Auburn takes the field the first in Saturday in September. And, I think a great many “experts” are going to be surprised. Count on it!

E-mail Bird at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Auburn vs. Alabama: Tough Times at Legion Field

Our Managing Editor, at the behest of our Executive Editor, asked some of us here at Campus Pressbox to do a piece on our chosen team’s rival. Auburn has a few exciting rivalries bubbling and brewing as the 2016 season fast approaches. In the SEC West, LSU has become a very good one since the divisions were aligned in 1992. Arkansas has reared its Hawg head with Bret Bielema making noise out in Fayetteville, and this game has become a little testy at times.

Over in the SEC East, Georgia has and will always be Auburn’s biggest rival.  Although, the Bulldogs have had the better of it, by far, lately, winning eight of ten in The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

Ok, ok! You know, as well as I do, where this is going…

Auburn vs. Alabama

The game is better known as… everyone, all at once… The Iron Bowl. But I don’t prefer that designation for the greatest and grandest rivalry in college football today. It’s the Auburn-Alabama game, or the Alabama-Auburn game, depending on which side you are affiliated with. Here is my take on that subject.

Back to the business at hand. We were asked to speak to which of these games are our team’s best and worst losses in the series, which ones we would like to live, re-live, do over, or delete; and the implications any changes in the outcomes would have on the current teams or traditions.

Auburn’s Best Loss

The 1981 game would have to be my choice as the Tigers’ best loss to the Crimson Tide. Pat Dye was in his first year as Auburn’s head coach. His record was 5-5 coming into this game and a win would have put Auburn in a bowl game for the first time since 1974, when Auburn annihilated Darrel Royal’s Texas Longhorns, in the Gator Bowl, to the tune of 27-3.

To heighten the drama, Alabama head coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, stood at 314 total wins which had him tied with Amos Alonzo Stagg for the most ever in college football history. No one gave Auburn much of a chance to deny Bryant his place as the winningest coach ever. Bama was an 11.5-point favorite.

Somebody forgot to tell Auburn.

Bama scored first to take a 7-0 lead, but the Tigers knotted it on a 63-yard touchdown run by George Peoples in the second quarter.

Both teams tallied a touchdown in quarter number three and it stood 14-14 entering the final stanza. Auburn kicked a field goal to take a 17-14 lead early, and the Legion Field crowd held its collective breath as the often non-functional clock continued to tick. A shovel pass to Jesse Bendross put Bama in front 21-17 and Linnie Patrick ran for a 15-yard TD to cap the scoring and give Bryant his 315th win, by the hardest.

The mood of Auburn fans, after the game, was not dejection, at least from those whom we interacted with at that time. Optimism was palpable as Coach Dye’s team had laid the foundation for what was about to become the Golden Era of Auburn football.

The Tigers did indeed upset the Tide the following year, to end a nine game losing streak, as a young freshman named Vincent “Bo” Jackson went “over the top” late in the fourth quarter to give Auburn a 23-22 victory. Starting with that monumental win, Auburn’s record against Alabama stands at 18-16 in this classic football series.

And so, if I had to re-live a loss to our arch-rivals, it would have to be this 1981 game. I could full well live with that knowing what was in the offing. If we got a do-over on it, I would have Auburn pick off that shovel pass and run it back the other way for a touchdown, take a 10-point lead, and win by a field goal, 24-21. The Bear would not have gotten his 315th win that day, and it would have been the beginning of a three-game winning streak for Auburn.

This would not have huge implications on the current team or traditions, but it would provide an immense sense of satisfaction for Tiger players and fans, and put Auburn one game closer to tying the overall series record.

Auburn’s Worst Loss(es)

Oh me, oh my. I’d rather not go there. Sigh. Ok.

Well, I don’t know how you can separate the ’84 and ’85 games. Both were last-second, gut-wrenching losses for my Tigers.

’84: Auburn was 8-3, with their only conference loss coming to Florida. The Gators were SEC Champions on the field that year, but they were on probation. If Auburn had won the game it would play in its second consecutive Sugar Bowl. Alabama was 4-6 and about to suffer their first losing season since before Paul Bryant began coaching the Tide.

Auburn came out flat that day for some odd reason. It scored first, but Alabama, the designated home team at “neutral” Legion Field, rallied and led 17-7 as the fourth quarter began to wind down. Then the Tigers’ Brent Fullwood streaked for a 60-yard TD and the two-point conversion was successful, 17-15. Later in the quarter, on fourth down, Auburn found itself at the Alabama one-yard line. I jumped up and began screaming at the TV, “Kick the field goal. Kick the damn field goal. Let’s get outta here.” Dye opted to go for it and Fullwood was stuffed for a three-yard loss when Bo Jackson thought he was going to get the ball, went the wrong way, and did not block for his teammate.

Auburn did have an opportunity to kick a last second field goal which missed badly. Game over. Nightmare.

’85: Nightmare Deux, in spite of Bo Jackson making a final, emphatic case for the Heisman Trophy. He put forth a brilliantly gallant effort, and he was playing with two broken ribs. The game went back and forth like a heavyweight prize fight. Auburn went up 23-22 very late in the game. The prospects of a win looked quite promising, especially when Alabama found itself at its own 12 yard-line with 37 seconds remaining and no timeouts on the board. A couple of plays later Mike Shula got off a pass to Greg Richardson coming across the middle, and he managed to somehow get out-of-bounds with six seconds left on the clock.

Van Tiffin then nailed a 52-yard field goal and that was that. 25-23, Alabama.

Alrighty then! That was a nice exercise in masochism.

Let’s go right to the do-overs. In ’85, either Richardson does not get out-of-bounds or Tiffin misses the field goal, and Auburn wins, 23-22, for the second time in four years. Back to ’84, Auburn kicks the 18-yard chip shot and wins, 18-17. The Tigers now, with my ’81, ’84, and ’85 do-overs, win nine-in-a-row. This trumps what would now be an eight-game winning streak for Alabama, ’73- ’80, in the series. Auburn goes 18-8 over these next 26 games, through 2006, and Nick Saban is not hired in 2007 as he wants no part of the turmoil in Tuscaloosa.

The implications? Auburn continues as the dominant team in the state, Alabama doesn’t win four more Natties, and all is well on the Plains.

Revisionist history. Pretty sweet, right?

Auburn: To Be Or Not To Be… Consistent

The 2015 regular season is now in the books for the Auburn Tigers. It was a disappointing one, but the problems and inconsistencies did not begin on September 5, 2015, when Auburn played Louisville in the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game. They began, at a minimum, on November 8, 2014, when Auburn played Texas A&M at home. At least that’s when the problems reared their ugly head.

Since that fateful afternoon on The Plains the Tigers’ record stands at 7-10. The SEC record is far, far worse. It stands at 2-9. 2-9!!! Chew on that for a moment. Two and NINE.

Prior to kickoff on January 6, 2014, when Auburn was about to play Florida State for the final BCS National Championship,  everything appeared to be bright and “Rose-y”.

Since then, and in the aftermath of The Tigers’ gallant, but sobering, loss in the 2015 Iron Bowl… not so much.

Even the most pessimistic of Auburn fans could not see coming what has, since, transpired.

That would be a 14-11 overall record and 6-10 in the SEC.

I have mentioned before, in this slot, that the 2015 edition of the Auburn Tigers is not ‘2012 Deux’. Obviously. But let’s hope they respond to adversity as the 2012 team did in 2013.

The 2015 group that left EVERYTHING on the field this past Saturday is to be commended for a great effort against what appears to be the best team in the country. The “best team in the country?” did have able assistance from an acutely inept Tom Ritter SEC officiating crew. No holding calls? Seriously? Look at the tape.

That’s not the first time that Ritter and his gang of blind mice have been accused of being less than efficient. The groans and complaints on Mr. Magoo’s gang resonate loudly, from Columbia to Gainesville to Baton Rogue to Knoxville, each and EVERY autumn.

http://www.foxsports.com/college-football/story/alabama-tennessee-sec-officiating-replay-review-102514

But that is not the point. Alabama was the better team and they deserved to win. Good for them.

And Florida, don’t think that you have a snowball’s chance in the bowels of Hades in the SEC Championship Game, you don’t. Not that you haven’t overachieved and had an SEC East best season, you  have.

But there is not a remote possibility the the SEC powers-that-be are going to stand by twiddling their thumbs and allow their best shot at a Natty go by the wayside. They won’t.

Alabama has a very, very good football team and has every opportunity to become a great one. They could. They should beat the Gators, handily, under any circumstances.

But you can bet that if, somehow, the SEC Championship Game turned out to be a nail-biter, that the crimson and white could very well get close, and/or, questionable calls.

No, this is not sour grapes. This is the reality in which Auburn and the other twelve SEC participants live. I have watched it with my own eyes for the past fifty-five years. “If you need a yard against Alabama, you’d better get three.” That, according to Pat Dye.

And, let me reiterate, The University of Alabama has an excellent football team and I consider them the premier program in the country. They have the most talent and the best head coach in college football today.

I congratulate them on that and I wish them good luck in the future.

I digress.

Let’s get back to the Auburn Tigers and the reality of the universe in which the Tiger faithful live here on December 1, 2015.

But first we will take a look at the Auburn program since Pat Dye retired in 1992. (And Dye’s record in HIS final two years were 5-5-1 in 1991 and 5-6 in 1992).

Terry Bowden

1993  11-0

1994  9-1-1

1995  8-4

1996  8-4

1997  9-3

1998  1-5

(Bill Oliver went 2-3 after Bowden’s departure in the ’98 season)

Tommy Tuberville

1999  5-6

2000  9-4

2001  7-5

2002  9-4

2003  8-5

2004  13-0

2005  9-3

2006  11-2

2007  9-4

2008  5-7

Gene Chizik

2009  8-5

2010  14-0

2011  8-5

2012  3-9

Gus Malzahn

2013  12-2

2014  8-5

2015  6-6 ( to this point)

So, what’s the take on all that?

There have been some good years, some very good years, some great years, and some phenomenal years (’93, ’04 & 2014). But the one thing that stands out to me is inconsistency. Auburn simply has not been able to put together consistent stretch runs as it did, however briefly, during the Pat Dye Era when they won 4 SEC Championships from 1983-1989. ’87-’89 saw them win three-in-a-row.

Up and down and mediocre has BEEN the consistent theme.

Auburn is going to have to somehow develop that consistency that has eluded them over the past twenty plus seasons. How do they do that?

Well, you start with recruiting. Recruiting has been quite good for the past five or six classes but it does appear that they have whiffed on a few prospects that were hoped to be dynamic and impactful players. And two of those players were quarterbacks, Kiehl Frazier and Jeremy Johnson.

That hurts. It really hurts.

Again, I’ve quoted this before, Pat Dye (yes, quoting him again and with good reason) once said that, “It all starts at quarterback.” It does. And missing, for whatever reason, on that critical position has been, IMHO, one of THE most damning issues Auburn has had in attempting to put together a great program that wins consistently.

Certainly there have been other issues such as developing players, injuries, and just plain bad luck, but much of the problem in 2011, 2012, and 2015 was the play at the quarterback position. And Auburn is, at some point, going to have to recruit AND develop quarterbacks and not keep bringing in JUCO talent. The best they have done, lately, is with Cam Newton and Nick Marshall… JUCO players.

So what about defense?

I think Auburn has their man in Will Muschamp. The defense has begun to really turn it around under his leadership. They are communicating much better. They are tackling much better. And they are playing with that ferocious intensity that you would have expected them to develop under Muschamp.

The defense really got after it in the Alabama game. The overall effort in the Iron Bowl was superb. I think the team really grew up this past Saturday. Now, going into bowl season, they truly have something to build on as they approach the 2016 season.

2016 will be a pivotal year. Make no mistake about it. Gus Malzahn, and his staff, might or might not be coaching for their jobs in the next campaign. I hope they are not. But if the team does not show marked improvement next season there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Of that, you can be sure.

6-6. 2-6 in conference play. Last place in the division. What team would you have attributed those stats to prior to the 2015 season? Vanderbilt? Kentucky? Mississippi State? It sure as hell would not have been the Auburn Tigers.

But, I have faith in Gus Malzahn. I have faith in Will Muschamp (No, I don’t believe he’s going anywhere). And,  I have faith in the players that will return in 2016. They became men in the Iron Bowl.

Also, there is some great looking talent coming in the next recruiting class. That group may wind up as another top ten class.

I can see the pieces falling in place for Auburn, much as they did prior to the 1993 and 2004 seasons.

No, I’m not suggesting that the 2016 Auburn Tigers will go undefeated. But next season could go a long way in propelling the program toward consistency that is long, LONG overdue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gut (Gus) Check Time

What if I told you, before this season started, that Auburn would, essentially,  be without Duke Williams, Jeremy Johnson, and Carl Lawson? That, by and large, is what has occurred to this point in the 2015 campaign. Yes Jeremy, Duke, and Carl have played, but very little.

And what if someone told you that Auburn would play Ole Miss off their feet with a redshirt freshman quarterback, with one leg?

What if you had known that Auburn’s defense, with Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator, would be at, or near, the bottom of the league in total yards (14th), passing yards (13th), and rushing yards (12th)?

What would you have thought Auburn’s record would have been, under these circumstances?

Auburn  finds itself at 4-4 with a 1-4 record in SEC play. That is where the Tigers stand, and that is the cold, harsh reality here on November 4, 2015.

Who’d a thunk it?

NO ONE.

SO… where does it go from here?

It seems like just the other day Auburn was playing Florida State for the BCS National Championship under first year head coach Gus Malzahn. Consensus Coach of the Year, Gus Malzahn. And offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee was nominated for the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the country.IMG_1332

Wot hoppened?

Many people picked Auburn to win the SEC West, the SEC Championship, and play in the College Football Playoff.

Whew!

Here is a snippet from Pat Dye’s weekly column which appears on Inside The Auburn Tigers (ITAT).

“I know there were questionable decisions in the Ole Miss game, but I believe they were made based on the knowledge the coaches have about their team and the desire to give their team the best possible chance of winning–even the fourth down call in the second quarter that didn’t work. I have done it myself and I have seen great coaches over the years in close games make decisions that if they work are going to help their teams win, but if they don’t work they are probably going to cost you the game.

You have to be thick-skinned to do it. You can’t make those type of calls if you are scared of the outcome because then you are making a decision for a negative reason rather than doing what you think gives your team the best chance to win.”

It’s not that our coaches can no longer coach or were struck dumb, although many of us feel that way. The brutal circumstances, mentioned above, along with more to come, below, have combined to put the Auburn Tigers in an almost unfathomable position considering what preseason expectations were.

Now here’s some more fodder to mix into the equation.

Auburn has 15 rookies on NFL rosters this season. THAT IS MORE THAN ANYONE IN THE SEC.

Included in that group are Nick Marshall, Reese Dismukes, Robenson Therezie, Cameron Artis-Payne, Sammie Coates, Quan Bray, CJ Uzomah, Gabe Wright, Chris Davis and Corey Grant.

That’s some SERIOUS offensive production and a few defensive talents. Take that, along with the defensive stats cited earlier, and you can truly get a sense of “Wot hoppened”.

If you consider that Auburn could have won any of the games they’ve played in, except for LSU, then think where they could have been without the negative waves that have washed over them like some relentless sea of doom.

Where does that leave us?

“And I never lost a minute of sleepin’ worryin’ ’bout the way things might have been.” All of you are familiar the that John Fogerty penned CCR song.

Or maybe Willie Nelson would be more appropriate. “Whiskey river take my mind, don’t let ‘er mem’ry torture me. Whiskey river don’t run dry, you’re all I’ve got take care of me. I’m drowning in a whiskey river…”

However. Whatever. It is what it is.

So here we stand. The  present. A trip to College Station looms large on the horizon.

This game has been a critical one the past two seasons. Two years ago, ah yes, two short years ago Auburn roared into Kyle Field. They defeated Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel, and the Texas A&M Aggies and utilized that victory to propel them to an SEC Championship and a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.

Last year, you know the story, a huge upset at the hands of the Aggies in Jordan-Hare Stadium was the beginning of a bitter downward spiral that has seen the Tigers go 1-7 in SEC play since that fateful day.

A win, Saturday, could jump start Auburn on a three game winning streak. They could, certainly, beat the free falling Georgia Bulldogs, who have more problems than a math book. And they WILL beat the Idaho Vandals.

That would leave one game remaining on the 2015 schedule.

You know who the opponent is in that one game.

I know who that opponent is in that one game.

We shall not speak of it here today. There is far too much ground to cover in the interim.

Auburn vs. Texas A&M. It’s large, folks. It’s large.IMG_1559_2

The whole nation, yea the whole world, will have its eyes squarely focused on what transpires in Tuscaloosa, AL, Saturday. That is a monster game.

But for those who love and support the men who proudly wear the burnt orange and navy blue of Auburn University, what takes place in the wide open space, north of Houston and east of Austin, Texas, is of paramount importance. Every game now becomes a season in itself.

What will happen out there in Tejas? I don’t know. But, I suspect that this group of Auburn Tigers will be ready to rumble. I suspect that they will be “scratchin’ and clawin’ and fightin’ “, as Coach Pat Dye once said. That’s what they’ve done thus far this season, and I have no reason to think they won’t continue to play with great effort at 6:30 Saturday night.

I’m not going to venture a prediction, in this slot, on the game. But I will say that I think Auburn will give the Aggies all they can handle and more.

And so, if you aren’t making the trip to the Lone Star State on Saturday, then fire up the grill, pour yourself a beverage, and get ready for some great SEC football!

Auburn vs. Ole Miss: Glancing Back and Peering Forward

My first recollection of an Auburn vs. Ole Miss game is the Liberty Bowl of 1965. The two teams had not met since 1953. This was the first time the Liberty Bowl was played in Memphis. It was held in Philadelphia from it’s inception in 1959 through the 1963 season. In 1964 the game was played in Atlantic City.

Ole Miss escaped that 1965 game with a 13-7 win. Tailback Tom Bryan scored Auburn’s only touchdown on a 44-yard scamper. He was named the game’s Most Valuable Player and its Outstanding Offensive Back. The Tigers’ Robert Fulghum was selected as the Outstanding Defensive Back.

IMG_23831973 was the season that I attended my initial Auburn-Ole Miss brawl. And that it was, a defensive battle.

The game took place on October 6th of that year. That was the day old Cliff Hare Stadium was dedicated as Jordan- Hare Stadium.

Coach Jordan was, of course, humble in his receiving this honor and his Tigers responded with a 14-7 victory.

Halfback Rick Neel broke a 7-7 tie with a 33-yard touchdown burst with just over one minute remaining in the game.

One of the most exciting games of the series occurred on January 2, 1971 in the Gator Bowl. Auburn was led by junior quarterback, Pat Sullivan. Ole Miss also had a decent signal caller heading up their offense that day. His name was Archie Manning.

Auburn broke out of the gates with a vengeance by rolling to a 21-0 lead before the Rebels roared back to cut the lead to 21-14 at halftime.

The teams battled fiercely for the remainder of the game, several Gator Bowl stats were broken, with Auburn finally securing a 35-28 win.

And, probably, THE most exciting game of the series took place in Oxford in 2014. Click below:

Now, for those of you who love numbers and history, here are some more. The last six Auburn coaches’ records versus Ole Miss:

Shug Jordan, 4-3

Doug Barfield, 2-0

Pat Dye, 4-1

Terry Bowden, 6-0

Tommy Tuberville, 7-3

Gene Chizik, 3-1

Gus Malzahn, 2-0

The meetings between the two schools had been sporadic until divisions were created in 1992. Auburn leads the series with a 29-10-0 record against the Rebels.

The first time the schools met on the gridiron was in Birmingham in 1928 with the Tigers taking the win, 19-0.

The largest margin of victory came in 1985 when Bo Jackson ran for 240 yards on 38 carries to lead Auburn to a 41-0 victory.

The longest winning streak stands at nine, with Auburn taking games interspersed between 1971-1991.

Auburn vs. Ole Miss 2015

Last year’s contest was an elimination game, of sorts, and the same holds true for Ole Miss this year. The Rebs control their own destiny but if they lose they can more-than-likely kiss any chance to win the SEC West goodbye.

The 2015 Auburn Tiger football season is at a critical juncture. The same could have been, and probably was, said about last Saturday’s tough loss in Fayetteville. It rings ever more true with each succeeding game.

If Auburn fails to win, then any chance of a very good bowl game will disappear with the breeze which will waft away from Jordan-Hare Stadium around mid-afternoon this coming Saturday.

IMG_2329The Rebels had an impressive, 23-3, win against Texas A&M last Saturday night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Quarterback Chad Kelly had a big night throwing for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Laquon Treadwell was on the receiving end of five of those passes. They totaled 102 yards.

Laremy Tunsil, star left tackle on the Ole Miss O line, returned to the lineup after completing a seven-game NCAA suspension for receiving illegal benefits. It appeared to have rejuvenated their ground attack as they rushed for 230 yards. They only ran for 40 yards the week before at Memphis.

I’m not going to rehash the details of Auburn’s excruciating loss, in four overtimes, at Arkansas last week. If the Tigers hadn’t dropped eight passes and two interceptions it would have been, truly, a different story. Hey! It would have been a different story if Tiger receivers had caught only HALF of those whiffs. SIGH.

But take heart Auburn fans! Redshirt freshman quarterback, Sean White, is getting better each week and it appears he could be a star for the Tigers sooner than later.

Here is a look at some of his numbers.

White completed 19 of 32 passes, in the Arkansas game, for 254 yards and zero interceptions. Add back only half of the eight drops and you have a completion percentage of .719, and many, many more yards. Probably well over 300 and, possibly near 400.

On the season he has thrown 97 passes and completed 62 for 805 yards. That’s over 200 yards per game. He has one interception. That came in the Miss State game.

And  hopefully it’s going to get even better for the young QB.

Now, forget the numbers. The thing that impresses me most about Sean is his competitive spirit, his confidence, and his leadership. The kid LOVES to play and he gives it 110%.

He comin’!

Peyton Barber. Another baller. The guy really has a nose for the end zone. He found it four times against the Razorbacks. And he’s rushing for 110 yards per game.

And… AND… Carl Lawson practiced for the first time Tuesday! Will he play Saturday? We don’t know yet, but that is very encouraging!

Also, Auburn’s defense played better. After garnering 14 first quarter points, Arkansas scored only 10 points in the last three quarters of regulation play.

If defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, can get similar results as those this Saturday, the Tigers will have a solid chance at winning the football game.

So, Auburn is playing to get better. They’re playing for pride. They’re playing for the opportunity to continue toward a 9-3 regular season record and a very good bowl game.

Ole Miss is playing for an opportunity to continue toward an SEC West Championship and, potentially, a College Football Playoff berth.

This is a HUGE game for both teams. A loss, for either squad, effectively ends the realization of lofty post-season goals.

Auburn has not committed a turnover in its past three games. That is a very good thing. If the Tigers can again protect the football, improve on both offense and defense, and get its expected high level of play from special teams, they have a good chance to win.

This game should be a Battle Royale. I expect Auburn and Ole Miss to come out breathing fire and leave everything on the field.IMG_0546

It should come down to the fourth quarter and whoever wants it most should win.

Here’s how I see it.

Ole Miss, trailing 21-20 late, gets a long TD pass from Kelly to Treadwell. 27-21, Black Bears.

Auburn, in an effort to salvage its season, gets a kickoff return of 87 yards from Rudy Ford. This puts the ball at the Rebel 13.

White hits Kamryn Pettway, coming out of the backfield, for a 12-yard gain.

Peyton Barber hammers it in from the one. The PAT is good. Auburn up.

Blake Countess then intercepts a late pass from Kelly and Auburn holds on for a 28-27 win!

You heard it here first!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Believe In Auburn and Love It

Saturday night was was another tough one in an ever-growing string of disappointing Saturdays for Auburn University and her Family.

If you are even the most casual of Auburn, or college football fans, you know what happened. The Tigers came up, again, on the short end of the stick.

Mississippi State 17, Auburn 9

Auburn showed signs of improvement but it was not enough to win. There were some areas on which to build and it is my undying hope that Gus Malzahn’s 2015 group of fighting felines from East Alabama will do just that (now channeling my inner “Leonard” from “Leonard’s Losers).

Since that excruciating loss on Saturday night, I have been “wrestlin’ with them angels” as Coach Pat Dye once, now famously, said.

I have wrestled with angels and devils, demons and deities, and have come to no conclusions about Auburn or how the remainder of this young football season might turn out.

But I do know this. It is in times like this that players, coaches and fans alike have to reach down deep within themselves and respond how Auburn men and women have responded, so often, to adversity in the past. And that is by calling on those qualities that have been ingrained in them by those who have gone before them and by those who live by them today.

The Auburn Creed stands above all else as an articulation of who the Auburn Family is and/or what they believe in:

The Auburn Creed

I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.

I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.

I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.

I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities.

I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all.

I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.

I believe in my Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God.”

And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.
-George Petrie (1945)DSC02603


My father taught me The Auburn Creed, and not with words, EVER, but by the way he lived. By his example.

The following is a blog that I wrote around Father’s Day weekend. Thank you for indulging me, if you have or haven’t read it.

A Tribute To My Father

My father, daddy to us, was born into a poor family of dirt farmers, in Chilton County, AL, back in 1916. He was the baby of nine children. Being such, he was spoiled by his older sisters, especially Aunt Lorene, who was closest to him in age. She even went off with him to Jacksonville State, in 1937, to “take care” of him.

Daddy played football during his brief time at Jax State. He was a center and back then, much like in the shotgun formation today, the center had to deep snap in the single wing formation. He prided himself on doing it well.

He grew up knowing none of the luxuries his sons enjoy today. He had to get up before dawn, start a fire, milk the cows and, often, fetch corn from the large crib in the yard near the smokehouse and water pump.

He also plowed, and plowed, and plowed the small parcel of land they made a hard living on, in the Isabella community near Maplesville, Alabama.

Yes, the family DID, indeed, live five miles from the school and the kids had to get there any way they could. They would walk, or if they were lucky, grab a ride on the back of a wagon which was headed that way.

After his one year in Jacksonville, he heard about a co-op program, whereby he could go to school at Auburn, and he hoped to study agriculture. He would go to school for a semester and then work the following semester. Under this program he could graduate college and have it paid for, in full, by the time he graduated.

He spoke numerous times of, literally, plowing his way through Auburn. Much of this plowing was done along S. College St. where the KA house and other fraternities stood for many, many years. This was across the street from the buildings where he attended classes. These classroom buildings were Samford Hall, Comer Hall and Langdon Hall.

Coincidentally, Auburn Stadium, which is now Jordan-Hare Stadium, was built during his sophomore year on the Plains, in 1939.

Daddy met mama while they were both students at Auburn. They were married in 1941, shortly after he graduated. Mama insisted they be married on a Sunday, March 15, so they could attend Auburn First Baptist Church on their wedding day.

He served, stateside, during WW2 in communications. My brother, Jerry LeCroy, was born on August 14, 1945. Daddy was stationed in Miami, at the time, and that day happened to be the day Japan surrendered.

My uncle, Wilfred Weatherly, sent him a telegram stating, “Braxton Jr. is born and the Japs surrender!” Oddly enough, I was the one later named Braxton Jr.

My parents moved to Camden, AL in 1948. Daddy was employed by the Farmer’s Home Administration at the time and remained with the FHA until his retirement in the early 70’s.

Daddy was a proud alumnus of of API (Alabama Polytechnic Institute). The name was not officially changed to Auburn University until 1960. He told many tales of the football games he attended which only served to really whet his youngest son’s voracious appetite for all things Auburn. My love for Auburn was already strong before he took me to my first game in 1961. My life was, then, changed forever. Auburn defeated Clemson, 24-14, on homecoming that bright Saturday. And hardly a passing Saturday, in autumns to come, passed without me begging daddy to take me to Auburn.

God bless him, he did this quite a few times over the next several years.

On April 2, 1982, daddy passed away. He was far too young to go at 66 years of age. He died of an extremely rare blood infection called “micro bacterium fortuitum”, which he evidently contracted during open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve in September of 1980. He also had an aneurism repaired and a quadruple bypass during that surgery.

He was never the same after that.

We now have a brick, in his honor, placed in the ring just inside the gate in the south end zone, where the Auburn Tigers enter, at the completion of the Tiger Walk.IMG_1178

There are countless times I’ve wanted to talk with him about football after a particularly big win involving our Tigers. I’ve even prayed to him and the “huge cloud of witnesses” that must surround Jordan-Hare Stadium during a beautiful fall afternoon. And with all due respect to my Alabama friends, I could picture him beaming brightly after the “Kick Six” in November of 2013.

Daddy, it’s a beautiful summer Saturday afternoon here in north Georgia. Two of your great-grandchildren, Max and Lorelei are here with us. I so wish they could share this time with you. You could regale them both with tales of the 1949 Alabama game, a huge 14-13 upset in the rain at Legion Field, or the last game you attended in 1980. That was the only game trip you shared with your grandson, Luke. And I remember your story, that night, of sitting near some twins who were family of one of the Dixie Darlings from Southern Miss. and how you thought you were “seeing double”.

I will raise a glass to you tonight, Daddy. It’ll be Makers Mark and not your favorite, Old Forester. But I will smile, hoist the glass, and through my tears give you a resounding “WAR EAGLE”.


After much consternation as to how I would approach my column this week, this is what I came up with.

So, when I encounter adversity I often turn to my father and his memory. I know how he would respond, and that is with humility, grace, dignity and aplomb.

In the grand scheme of things, football is just that… football. It is not eternal. It will not sink you or save you. But, it is a metaphor for life.

And… it’s a whole lot of fun, especially for those of us who grew up in the great state of Alabama. 😉

Now! Let’s all assemble in our homes, cars and bars, or arenas, and have a WHOLE LOT OF FUN with it THIS Saturday!

Tailgating Tales

First of all, let me say this… I LOVE tailgating! Who doesn’t? And I truly love tailgating prior to home games in Auburn. It’s a great way to get “ready” for the game. It’s a time to eat, drink, and socialize. It’s a time to discuss your team’s game and also to watch other teams play, before and after, your game. In a nutshell, it’s a whole lot of fun!

With that in mind, let’s get right to it. I’m going to take a look back at three of my most memorable tailgating experiences that I’ve enjoyed on the road. I will do this chronologically.

Cal vs. Stanford – 1986

Aha! Fooled you didn’t I? If you know me at all, you were probably thinking, “Now which Auburn game is Bird going to mention first?”DSC02503

Well, we didn’t really begin getting into tailgating until the Pat Dye era on the Plains. And by the time this was in full swing our family had moved to the Bay Area of California where I was a seminary student and campus minister at The University of California at Berkeley.

The ‘Big Game’, as it is known, was played in Berkeley that year. Our whole family attended the game. That included my wife, Melodye, our son, Luke, and our daughter, Leah. Luke was eight and Leah was three. I won’t tell you how old I was. You can do the math.

As we strolled across the famed Berkeley campus, the thing that struck me was the elegance of the tailgates. There were beautiful flowers in lovely vases, linen tablecloths, china and flatware. Now this wasn’t the case at all the sites but there was an unusual amount of that sort of setup to my mind.

And, of course, we were just about a 35-45 minute drive from Napa Valley and there were some fine wines and champagnes being poured. Us? We ate Blondie’s pizza and drank draft beer. It’s a long way from Wilcox County, Alabama to Northern California folks. But we were eager to learn!

And, by the way, the once beaten Stanford Cardinal (I REALLY want to put an “s” at the end of their name) was upset by the ONE WIN Cal Bears.

Dartmouth vs. Fordham – 1994

I was in my second year as a AAA Inspector and had accepted an out-of-territory assignment to New England. I was to do some work in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. It was early the first day of October and I had been there for about a week.

After spending the night at The Inn on Golden Pond, yes THAT Golden Pond, on Wednesday 9/28,  I found myself at a small motel somewhere in that area on Thursday night. Auburn was playing Kentucky that evening and I called a couple of places to make sure I located a spot that had ESPN.

Auburn whacked the Wildcats, 41-14, and I enjoyed a few Samuel Adams Honey Porters during the contest. I wasn’t in my best shape on Friday morning but it was time to knock out a handful of calls and settle in, somewhere in Western New Hampshire or Eastern Vermont, for the weekend.

I finished work just south of Hanover, NH which is the home of Dartmouth College. Dartmouth, as you may well know, is a member of the Ivy League.

Well, Dartmouth was playing Fordham the next day AND there was a balloon festival nearby in Vermont. The hotels in the area were full. Great planning, Bird!

I did manage to wrangle a room at a Howard Johnson, across the river from Hanover, in White River Junction, VT. Whew!

So, Saturday morning rolls around and I opt out of the balloon festival, which began at daylight, and chose to spend the bulk of my day at the football game between the Big Green of Dartmouth and the Rams of Fordham.

IMG_2254Do they tailgate in the Ivy League, I wondered? Yes they do! I arrived at the campus  well before kickoff and began to circle a parking lot when I spotted a group of Dartmouth fans  literally gathered  around the rear of a very nice SUV. I rolled down the passenger window of my blue Saturn sedan and shouted greetings to the nattily-garbed crew.

They encouraged me to park and join them at their tailgate. I did.

Well folks, you have never met more hospitable group of fans in Athens, Oxford or Knoxville. They shared hors d’oeuvres, some of which their guest from Lower Alabama had never enjoyed previously, and wine with me. We also talked a little football and I was allowed to share with them a little about Auburn University, her family and our beloved Tigers.

What a beautiful day for football it was! Early October in New England is peak fall foiliage season and the reds, golds, oranges and purples were absolutely brilliant! I was actually able to stroll around the field! Try that in the SEC! I even gathered the Big Green cheerleaders together and they happily posed for a picture!IMG_2255

I don’t even remember who won the football game. But I do remember it as one of those days that you look back on and smile as you recall the special time you had, as well as the people and place that made it possible.

Go Big Green!

Auburn vs. Ole Miss – 2012

We rolled into Memphis late Friday afternoon before this game, which was scheduled to kickoff before noon on Saturday. To say Auburn was struggling in 2012 would be an understatement. But we were going to spend two nights in the land of Elvis, Sun and Stax records, and have a big time in The Grove.

After settling into our hotel we decided to walk down to The Peabody hotel, have a beverage and watch the famous ducks do their thing. The lobby was packed with tourists and football fans from both Auburn and Ole Miss. There were also a few other Tigers from Memphis enjoying the spectacle.

When  the show was over there were two Rebel fans that grabbed us as we walked past them. They welcomed us warmly, gave us their contact information, and invited us to tailgate with them on Saturday.

Mercy! We had to get up early, after an evening of revelry on Beale St., to make the tailgate in plenty of time before this SEC early game. We left Tennessee and made our way toward the land of Faulkner and Vaught not too darn long after dawn. We even encountered two ‘working girls’ stumbling along right in the middle of Lamar Avenue. Mercy deux!

We found a parking slot within a stone’s throw of campus and headed for the famous Grove. As we made our way through the maze of tents, a kindly Southern Gentleman stepped from the cover of his group’s spot, shook my hand and said, “Y’all look thirsty.” I responded that indeed we were.

He pointed us in the direction of two lawn chairs and introduced us to the bartender of this aggregation. This gentleman inquired as to our drink of choice and I replied that I would let him surprise us.

While we watched  this fellow ably concoct some cocktails, we marveled at the setup. There were sets of tents arranged three or four across and three or four deep, cases of liquor and beer stacked three or four high, and a buffet that would rival that of any good restaurant.

It wasn’t long before the couple we met at The Peabody, the night before, arrived, and we had no idea that this was also their tailgate and their friends. We were just taking up some kind Rebels on their offer of hospitality.

IMG_0571Very shortly, yet another Ole Miss gentleman came up to us and asked if we had tickets. We told him yes, but he asked again if we were sure and thrust two tickets toward me. I politely declined his generous offer and thanked him profusely.

It then occurred to me to get some pictures of this amazing gathering. Melodye asked me to corral the bartender and she would snap a photo of us.
We put our arms around each other, smiled, and just before my bride snapped the picture, our newly found friend shouted, “War Eagle!” I grinned broadly and responded with a resounding, “Hotty Toddy!”

The Times They Are A Changin’

“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or
you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a changin'”

These words from Robert Zimmerman (Bobby Dylan to you and me) certainly ring true today, as they did, exactly fifty years ago, when this record was released. And that, most definitely, applies to the college football landscape.

From the AP and UPI poll systems, to the BCS, to the College Football Playoff, things have evolved dramatically in NCAA football. And THAT is an understatement.

From “three yards and a cloud of dust” to the HUNH (Hurry Up No Huddle), our father’s football is now almost unrecognizable. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that is a bad thing. Remember, at one time there was no forward pass. Can you imagine the furor when that change came into play?

Four years prior to Dylan’s release of “The Time’s They Are A Changin'”, I began my immersion into sports. EVERY sport. I could not get enough of sports back in 1961 and for many, many years there after.

I have now lost a great deal of my passion for professional athletics, although the Mantle and Maris home run chase of 1961 remains somewhat fresh in my mind. But I have not lost one iota of enthusiasm for college football. If anything, the love of that sector of sports, has grown in leaps and bounds. And it is quite humbling for me to find myself both writing and podcasting about that great game today. That was always a dream for me.

All of this sparked my thinking about what has become the FBS and how its current state might appear to those coaches of yesteryear. It also piqued my interest in how those coaches’ tenures compare to those of today.

I took the numbers of six legendary figures and matched them against all of the coaches who followed them at their respective institutions. I ranked them in order of the original coaches winning percentage.

1. Paul “Bear” Bryant – University of Alabama – 1958-1982
232-46-9 .824
9 coaches since – 273-122-1 .690

2. Johnny Vaught – University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) – 1947-1970 and 1973
190-61-12 .745
10 coaches since – 256-243-4 .512

3. Vince Dooley – University of Georgia – 1964-1988 – 201-77-10 .715
3 coaches since – 222-101-0 .687

4. Frank Broyles – University of Arkansas – 1958-1976 – 144-58-5 .708
10 coaches since – 276-178-3 .607

5. Charles “Cholly Mac”- McClendon – Louisiana State University – 1962-1979
137-59-7 .692
9 coaches since 276-144-6 .654

6. Ralph “Shug” Jordan – Auburn University – 1951-1975 – 176-83-6 .6754
7 coaches since 315-150-6 .6751

Four of the “legendary” head men coached at their one school for 25 years. One piloted his school for 19 years and one roamed the sidelines for 18 years at his institution of higher learning.

The one big thing that jumped out at me is that NONE of these great universities has had a winning percentage, as high as the “legendary” coach, with all of the coaches that followed him… COMBINED! ZERO. NADA.

Now boys and girls, that includes some very good coaches at each and every one of these schools. Nick Saban coached at both LSU and Alabama. Pat Dye coached at Auburn. Lou Holtz coached at Arkansas. David Cutcliffe coached at Ole Miss and Mark Richt is currently the head man at Georgia.

How about this? You have 6 of the greatest coaches of all-time who coached a total of 137 years between them. On the other hand, you have 48 coaches who coached a total of 202 years. NOW hold on! That gives the 6 coaches an average tenure of 22.8 years apiece while the remaining 48 guys averaged 4.2 years each!!!

As the former voice of Ole Miss football in the 60’s, Stan Torgenson, was known to exclaim… Hoo Hoooooo MERCY!!!

Obviously, some of these latter coaches held their positions for extremely short periods of time. Bill “Brother” Oliver was the interim coach at Auburn, in 1998, for 5 games. John L. Smith had the same position at Arkansas for 12 games and Mike Price of Alabama… well you know the story there.

So, sports fans, where does this leave us? One one hand, you can talk about “the good ole days”, simpler times, loyalty, and the like.

Conversely, one can speak of the demand to “turn it around quickly”, the huge number of demands on a coach’s time, social media, and all that goes with being a CEO of the mega-corporaate structure that is FBS football in the 21st century.

But, regardless of all this, there is one undeniable thread that weaves its way throughout the history of college football… WINNING. “Just win, baby” as, now deceased, Oakland Raiders owner, Al Davis, was oft-quoted.

Winning does “soothe the savage beast” that is today’s college football fan, but just for a bit. That fan wants to win today, tomorrow and forever. That fan also wants to win big and with style. And that winning includes having the best facilities possible.

So, what would I say to today’s young and eager, prospective college football coaches, if I had them as an audience? To those coaches whose tenure at a school might, possibly, fall into the 4.2 years average that was mentioned above?

My answer might go something like this…

“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or
you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a changin'”