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Andy Staples - AU article


RunInRed

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A pretty interesting read ...


 

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THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: ALABAMA'S SUCCESS CASTS LONG SHADOW OVER AUBURN, GUS MALZAHN
BY ANDY STAPLES

Let's play a blind resume game:

School A has won multiple conference titles in the past six years.

School B has won multiple conference titles in the past six years.

School A has won a national title in the past six years.

School B has won a national title in the past six years.

According to Scout.com, School A has had a top-10 recruiting class each of the past three years.

According to Scout.com, School B has had a top-10 recruiting class each of the past three years.

School A is in the midst of a three-man quarterback competition.

School B is in the midst of a three-man quarterback competition.

School A has the kind of defensive line depth for which most coaches would trade a limb.

School B has the kind of defensive line depth for which most coaches would trade a limb.

 

These are all factual statements*, but they don't provide a true picture. One of those teams is Alabama. The other is Auburn. Anyone who has watched knows those two programs aren't even close to being as identical as the completely accurate statements above suggest. But that presentation does help explain what Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs meant when he said this to myself and Chris Carlin last week in an interview for a SiriusXM show: "There are 12 other programs [in the SEC] that would love to be in our position."

*The D-line depth thing is obviously subjective, but ask your favorite coach if he'd trade defensive line rooms with Alabama or Auburn. The answer is probably yes on both counts.

It's what Jacobs said next that explains why we wonder whether the coach of a program with recent accomplishments that would make it the envy of 99% of the college football world would start the season on the hot seat. "But," Jacobs said, "our fans are very competitive." 

In Jacobs's mind, Gus Malzahn isn't on the hot seat. The athletic director can't imagine a better coach for his program. But the Auburn family is indeed competitive, and it measures success relative to its rival in Tuscaloosa. Only three programs in the country have reached the national title game more than once since 2009. Auburn is one. Oregon is another. The third is the elephant in every room at Auburn's football complex. "It just happens to be," Jacobs says, "that the other one is in this state." And it just happens to be that the other SEC team from the Yellowhammer State has won four national titles and beaten Auburn five times during that span. 

Two days after Jacobs explained the unique dilemma at Auburn, Alabama football communications director Josh Maxson faced a dilemma of his own. The Associated Press national title trophy from 2015 sat in the conference room that adjoins Maxson's office, and Maxson needed to find a more appropriate place to store such valuable hardware. Maxson walked the trophy around the Mal Moore Athletics Center for a few minutes looking for a better spot. He came back still carrying it. Why couldn't he find a place of honor? Because when Alabama built the trophy display in the Moore building a few years ago, athletics officials wanted each national title to have its own slot. So they built what they considered a reasonable number of slots to accommodate the national titles Alabama had won and might win in the near future. The near future is here, and under Nick Saban, Alabama has won an unreasonable number of national championships.

 

This delights Alabama fans and vexes Auburn fans. Of course, Auburn fans can strike back by recalling the past two times the Tigers have beaten the Crimson Tide. Both wins have names. The Camback came in 2010 en route to a national title. The Kick Six came in 2013 en route to an SEC title and a berth in the BCS championship game. Auburn radio play-by-play man Rod Bramblett has met multiple fans who use his Kick Six call as their phone's ringtone. They've told Bramblett that when they're standing next to an Alabama fan, they'll let the phone keep ringing so the Bama fan can hear Chris Davis score one more time.

But this is part of the problem for Auburn. The only Auburn wins against Alabama since Saban started winning national titles came in legendary, miraculous games. Alabama hasn't had to give names to any of its recent wins against Auburn; the Tide just plain won and the Tigers didn't make it very exciting.

Alabama fans felt this way in the previous decade when Auburn fans slapped "Honk If You Sacked Brodie" bumper stickers on their cars and bragged about Alabama "Fearing The Thumb" in advance of the fifth of Auburn's six consecutive victories between 2002 and '07. What did Alabama do to eliminate that indignity? It fired Mike Shula—whose final game was the one for Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville's thumb in '06—and hired Nick Saban. Three Auburn head coaches later, here we are.

Since Gene Chizik was hired to replace Tuberville prior to the 2009 season, the Tigers have had one abysmal season ('12, when they went 0–8 in the SEC and Chizik got fired) and one that fell far below expectations (last year, when they went 7–6 and 2–6 in SEC play). During that span, Auburn ranks No. 26 in winning percentage (.652), but consider this. Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State are the only other teams to win national titles. Alabama, Florida State, Clemson, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Stanford and Wisconsin are the only others with multiple Power 5 conference titles. That's pretty select company, but at Auburn, it's not good enough. In that span, Alabama is No. 1 in winning percentage (.896) and has four SEC titles and four national titles.

That's why Jacobs shook his head when I asked if money created the pressure on the coaches of the SEC West. They all make more than $4 million a year, and those of us who remember when $1 million a year was a king's ransom have a difficult time believing how a guy making $4 million or $5 million doesn't win every single game. "I think the majority just want to win," Jacobs said. "I don't think it matters if you pay them $50,000 or $5 million. They just want to win, and they look around the league and say 'Why aren't we winning?'" Jacobs said he heard that question in his own home last year. "People want answers," he said. "It doesn't matter if you're blood or not."

Having spent some time around that rivalry, I believe Jacobs. It doesn't matter how much the coaches make. It matters who can point to the scoreboard and sing after the Iron Bowl.

But there is no denying that Saban has been the rising tide that floats all the salary boats in the SEC West. He makes $7.5 million, and other schools pay their coaches a commensurate amount so they can appear to care as much as Alabama. Saban also is the one who ratchets up the pressure on his colleagues. It may be that he's the best to ever do this, but that doesn't matter to the fanbases whose teams need to get through Alabama to reach the titles they crave. This is why Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and LSU's Les Miles—two otherwise excellent coaches—face pressure this year. 

But no one faces more Saban-generated pressure than Malzahn. And Jacobs knows this. "The expectations are high, but it's difficult in this day and time," Jacobs said. "People just want to flip people out of here like pancakes, and I've had a history of doing that."  Jacobs refers to his quick hook of Chizik. Two years after a national title, Chizik was fired. The problem for Jacobs now is that Chizik's firing worked. Jacobs hired Malzahn, and Malzahn immediately led the Tigers from 0–8 in the SEC to a conference championship and a berth in the last BCS title game.

Jacobs knows firing the coach probably won't generate the same result next time. "With Gus, everything I've seen from him and their recruiting and the kind of man he is, he's the right man for Auburn right now and for a long time," Jacobs said. "I know he's going to get it done. And let me tell you this: We're giving him everything he needs to get it done. There are no barriers here. Whatever he thinks he needs to recruit the best, train the best, hire the best coaches, facilities, nutrition, sports psychology, weight room, academics—whatever it is. We'll provide what he needs to have a successful program." 

Jacobs means every word of that, and an objective look at Auburn's recent history suggests there should be little pressure on Jacobs and Malzahn. But college football in Alabama is an unusual beast, and if Auburn can't find a way to pull closer to the elephant in the room, some other AD may be providing all that stuff for some other coach.

http://www.campusrush.com/auburn-alabama-football-gus-malzahn-nick-saban-1973797853.html

 

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Thanks Red!

That writer is disingenuous & misleading in many ways like stating (without more) that Auburn & Bama have had "a" top 10 recruiting class the last 3 years. Bama's current roster is phenomenal top 5 recruiting over several years that's been consistently better than ours. Jacobs is disappointing throwing AU fans under the bus - indicating we are the notable problem rather than our dreadful SEC football record the last couple seasons, etc etc. But...nice scoreboard Jay. 

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Great article.  While it wasn't fun to read some of it, because it is a reminder that the evil empire and all of their nefarious tactics have managed to reap serious reward, I can't disagree with pretty much anything that was said.  It's true that a huge portion of the college football community would give pretty much anything for Auburn's recruiting and their record, even with the bad and not so great years. I also agree that a lot of the pressure put on Gus and the program comes from people who can't seem to see beyond the Win/Loss column. Even worse are those who buy into the win at all costs philosophy, to whom I would suggest that they are rooting for the wrong team, because Auburn is about family, sportsmanship, and doing all things with class... not about trading integrity for trophies.  That is the reason, above all else, that I am not just an alumnus of Auburn, but a fan of Auburn football.

 

Thanks for the post Red.  I needed some sanity in the middle of "who will be our QB".

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Just like in the 70s, Auburn has again become Alabama's red headed step brother in the media. And until some major changes are made, we'll also be that red headed step child in this state and else where.

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I can live with the turds and corndogs being better on certain years, as they have some built-in advantages that auburn does not have.  But we should rarely, if ever, finish worse that third in the west. 

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27 minutes ago, auburn4ever said:

Just like in the 70s, Auburn has again become Alabama's red headed step brother in the media. And until some major changes are made, we'll also be that red headed step child in this state and else where.

 

there is, its called winning.

 

Win Consistently and the perception of your program changes

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, RunInRed said:

A pretty interesting read ...

 

 

The following part of the article is why Gus will be on the hot seat if things do not progress during ths season or next season:

 

And let me tell you this: We're giving him everything he needs to get it done. There are no barriers here. Whatever he thinks he needs to recruit the best, train the best, hire the best coaches, facilities, nutrition, sports psychology, weight room, academics—whatever it is. We'll provide what he needs to have a successful program."

 

Jay Jacobs has just publicly told everybody that wants to listen that there is no excuse for Auburn not to be successful.  Gus has his staff and all the talent, facilities, etc, to be successful.  If the program is not successful, there is only one reason it is not.  

 

I do not like changing coaches every 3 to 4 years, so I hope Gus can coach his way out of this and I believe he can.  I look forward to more stability in the program in the near future.

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We might call it bad press, while outsiders would call it sympathetic. He's basically saying Auburn is an elite program that suffers disproportionately from Saban's success and from the rivalry. I mean, he's a national columnist addressing a national audience, and that's about right. I don't have a problem with the piece, and I think it introduces a national audience to an interesting angle.

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6 minutes ago, DyeCampAlum said:

We might call it bad press, while outsiders would call it sympathetic. He's basically saying Auburn is an elite program that suffers disproportionately from Saban's success and from the rivalry. I mean, he's a national columnist addressing a national audience, and that's about right. I don't have a problem with the piece, and I think it introduces a national audience to an interesting angle.

 

Spot on. 

 

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I'd say this writer did his homework, and his perspective is much better than writers from this state who should know both teams better than anyone else across the country. To remember how Alabama was in our shoes too during the Pat Dye days and the years CTT was racking up wins against Bama.

 

While the article is way too long for my reading comprehension :), I think it is one of the best a national writer has written about us, and in a positive way, and leaving the media's Bama lovefest at home..

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30 minutes ago, McLoofus said:

Staples is the only decent CFB writer at SI. How he can handle sharing duties with Thamel, Evans and Mandel, I have no idea. 

I used to really enjoy Mandel, but haven't read his stuff in years.  Has he gone off the deep end too?

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Not beating Alabama isn't the reason Gus is feeling the heat IMO.  It's the record vs Arkansas. Miss St and Ole Miss. It's also the jumbled mess of an offense that we all saw last season. And I'm not in the Fire Gus crowd by any stretch, I really don't see anyone better willing to come to AU. Hopefully he turns things around this season. And of course JJ is going to back Gus I would expect no less from an AD that hired the coach in question. I actually Gus has done pretty good vs Bama even in the losses. Who is beating them these days?

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2 hours ago, DyeCampAlum said:

We might call it bad press, while outsiders would call it sympathetic. He's basically saying Auburn is an elite program that suffers disproportionately from Saban's success and from the rivalry. I mean, he's a national columnist addressing a national audience, and that's about right. I don't have a problem with the piece, and I think it introduces a national audience to an interesting angle.

 

 

Agree with most of it....except for the part about AU fans being competitive...JMO but most are delusional and unaware of what goes on anywhere else but bama.

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I feel like maybe the biggest issue for AU supporters is the psychology of having to live next to, across the street from or just frankly within 100 miles of thousands of the other school's supporters.  

 

I obviously can't speak for Mich or OSU people but living on the Gulf Coast of Florida I end up seeing a lot of them (it ain't "the South" down here...), along with UF, FSU, Mia fans and, growing up in Ga, dealing with thUga fans...

These are some of the most passionate (and worst) fans in college football but, except for thUga fans being pretty close in a lot of areas, nobody holds a candle to the disgusting, vitriolic, arrogant garbage that is the (typical) uat fan.  (Note: I realize there are exceptions).

 

My parents and my brother and his family are all in Ala and the stuff I've witnessed upon visiting and the things I hear...AU fans almost need insurance to cover PTSD in having to deal with updykes in daily life. Its no wonder AU fans are so competitive and, yes, delusional.  Trust me, all of you who live in Ala, I truly feel for you.  I'm glad I live in Fla and don't have to live with that trash!

 

THAT is the true plight of the Auburn people. Not national perception or yearly standings or, frankly, even ethically challenged Saban..

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Every fan base is going to complain about most coaches they have.  It's the grass is greener on the other side mentality.  Look around, UGa, LSU, Florida, UT all have gotten rid of coaches after a year or so of an unsuccessful season that didn't meet what they would consider their "standard".  Les Miles has on of the highest win percentages ever in the conference.  He doesn't act and idiot (albeit he is a lil different), doesn't embarrass his school, puts players in the NFL consistently but the fan base wanted him gone.  Crazy.  

 

I, however, understand a little bit of the frustration with our coaching staff with some of the inconsistency but the '14 season just kind of fell apart after the fiasco that was the aTm game.  Last year I'll give Gus a pass because the dynamics just really appeared to be off the entire year.  This is the year that Gus and company need to produce.  I'm not saying Atlanta or bust but there is no reason for AU to win less then 8 games.  None!  

 

Also just to address one of the previous comments, who would come to AU as coach?  There's literally hundreds of coaches that would kill to be here and would all do well.  A coach does not define our football program.  The powers that be want to win and will give any coach anything they need to do so.

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I don't suffer at all from any other team's successes or failures.  I just love Auburn...everything Auburn, and will continue to whether they're winning championships or having tough years.  It isn't just about the football team for me, and I hope it isn't for most you.  We've had up years and down years. It was the case when I was there busting my hump at school and it always will be.  

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16 minutes ago, johnnyAU said:

I don't suffer at all from any other team's successes or failures.  I just love Auburn...everything Auburn, and will continue to whether they're winning championships or having tough years.  It isn't just about the football team for me, and I hope it isn't for most you.  We've had up years and down years. It was the case when I was there busting my hump at school and it always will be.  

+1

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4 hours ago, I_M4_AU said:

 

The following part of the article is why Gus will be on the hot seat if things do not progress during ths season or next season:

 

And let me tell you this: We're giving him everything he needs to get it done. There are no barriers here. Whatever he thinks he needs to recruit the best, train the best, hire the best coaches, facilities, nutrition, sports psychology, weight room, academics—whatever it is. We'll provide what he needs to have a successful program."

 

Jay Jacobs has just publicly told everybody that wants to listen that there is no excuse for Auburn not to be successful.  Gus has his staff and all the talent, facilities, etc, to be successful.  If the program is not successful, there is only one reason it is not.  

 

I do not like changing coaches every 3 to 4 years, so I hope Gus can coach his way out of this and I believe he can.  I look forward to more stability in the program in the near future.

no excuse exactly

but the article completely ignored the blatant cheating and back door deals with the NCAA by updyke academy

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14 hours ago, lionheartkc said:

I used to really enjoy Mandel, but haven't read his stuff in years.  Has he gone off the deep end too?

He just rages way too hard against the attention the SEC has garnered in this era. It's become whiny and tiresome. Of course, I stopped reading him awhile back so he's possibly chilled out some.

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And let me tell you this: We're giving him everything he needs to get it done. There are no barriers here. Whatever he thinks he needs to recruit the best, train the best, hire the best coaches, facilities, nutrition, sports psychology, weight room, academics—whatever it is. We'll provide what he needs to have a successful program."

 

If you look at the athletic budgets around the Power 5, I doubt there is any coach that is not "getting everything he needs"   Schools are in an arms battle over facilities and I bet it's impossible to tie all those fancy facilities to some direct output in the way of team performance........so mostly we have a stalemate over time. 

I'm OK with JJ as an AD and figure he is better than most and don't know who is any better over the long run.....but that comment is just CYA..saying that if we don't win, it ain't my fault.

JMO anyway, but that comment is purely conjecture and ignores the built in advantage some schools have in the way of money,program stability, morality, academic standards and numerous other things.

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