Ah, the new year has now begun, and I would be remiss if I did not comment on my beloved Auburn Tigers and their decision to suspend football for the past 2012 football season.
Well, I’m not sure they chose to suspend play, but it sure did work out that way.
Auburn is the first team ever to win a national championship and, in only two short years, manage to complete a season without winning a single conference game, finishing 3-9. We did, however, manage to beat traditional powerhouse Louisiana Monroe, Division II ( now correctly called Football Championship Series by the NCAA and by nobody else) Alabama A&M, and the women’s volleyball team from Cornell.
But I must warn — beware.
Auburn has a long history of refusing to allow success to hang around and squandering great seasons. At the same time they are never too far down to rise from the ashes like Robert Downey Jr.
In the early 1980s, Auburn went 11-1 against the toughest schedule in the nation, beat Michigan in the Sugar bowl and, coming in, was ranked No. 3. No. 1 and No. 2 lost their bowl games, but No. 4 jumped over Auburn and we finished No. 2. Nevertheless, using the University of Alabama National Championship measuring stick — which basically says we count any national title awarded as official, even if it was awarded by Tony the Tiger and no one else — Auburn claimed its second national title that year, proclaimed so by the New York Times poll.
Coach Pat Dye was so excited he promptly managed to have the team placed on NCAA probation and apparently thought part of the terms were that he quit coaching the team, even though he was still on the sidelines as the coach. We finished two years later 5-6 and Pat started advertising for sausage dogs while Terry Bowden, all 5 foot 4 and 325 pounds of him (no, wait, that’s him now; he was 5 foot 4, 200 pounds when we got him), roared into town.
That first Bowden year, Auburn had a miracle season and finished 11-0 against a rugged SEC schedule. We did not win the AP title because we were on the aforementioned probation, but we did win the USA Today poll, which, according to the University of Alabama guidelines, qualifies as National Title No. 3. Terry got so excited he, according to completely unconfirmed rumors, (a) began to eat Wendy’s biggie fries and burgers every day (b) fooled around with a cheerleader, one of the trustee’s daughters, or perhaps the Metropolitan Opera for all I know, and (c) forgot how to coach football, quitting the team in mid season on its way to a 3-8 season.
This took three years, instead of the usual two. Along came Tommy Tuberville, fresh off of resigning his job at Ole Miss without saying anything to his team, which made him about as popular as Gen. Sherman in Mississippi.
Tommy masterminded a few years of up-and-down seasons and the head folks got fed up, arranged a midnight meeting with Bobby Petrino — that bastion of family values and women’s volleyball — on the runway of an airport to see if Petrino would quit his Arkansas coaching job and take Auburn’s if they fired Tuberville.
Are you confused yet? Well, even in Auburn Ala., the press noticed when Bobby Louder, head trustee (see Terry Bowden) at Auburn allowed his lear jet to take off a little before midnight and return in the wee hours of the morning. The plan was exposed, Tuberville stayed, and Auburn did what any university caught in such an unsavory activity might do, they fired a bunch of people unrelated to the event and expressed outrage ... mainly that they had been caught. Tommy promptly went 13-0 against the toughest schedule in the nation and finished No. 2 in the polls to USC, but using Alabama’s formula, claimed its 4th national title when Sports Illustrated declared us No. 1.
Tommy then took a few years off, with pay, as Auburn spiraled down to another 5-6 record.
Then, in came Gene Chizak, he of the lifetime 5-19 coaching record. The Auburn nation collectively threw up and Gene responded by winning a national title in 2010 — by Alabama standards, title No. 5.
I was at the game and proclaimed I finally have my national title and don’t care if we go 3-10 for the next 20 years. Gene, never one to enjoy sarcasm, took me serious and drove the team to its current state, whatever that is.
So, now enters Gus Malzahn. I can hardly wait for the next national title, maybe awarded by Little Ceasar’s — which still counts, according to ‘Bama — followed by a few 0-10 seasons.
Whoever you root for, be it Dawg, Gator, Tide, Gamecock or some of the rest, hope the coming year is great — except when you play the Tigers.
!qContact columnist T. Gamble at firstname.lastname@example.org.