THE NEWS CONFERENCE
AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs called a news conference for 11:00am Thursday, the day after Auburn fans learned their coach would not be returning to the Plains for 2009.
Jacobs told reporters that he was shocked by Tommy Tuberville's decision to resign from the job he's held for the last decade, and says both he and Auburn University President Jay Gouge tried to talk him out of it. "After three times of asking him to change his mind, he [Tuberville] convinced me that the best thing for him and his family and for this football program was for him to possibly take a year off and take a step back," Jacobs said, adding that it was completely Tuberville's decision.
"Absolutely," Jacobs responded when asked if Tuberville would have returned for the 2009 season had he not stepped down.
Once Jacobs and Gouge were convince that Tuberville wanted out, they asked him to stay in the Auburn family and be an ambassador for the university, something Jacobs indicated Tuberville wanted to do.
Auburn said it would honor the coach's $6 million buyout, prorated to $5.1 million as of the beginning of 2008. " Jacobs' Wednesday night news release indicated the money would not be paid from state or university funds. Thursday he said the money would be paid via the Auburn Athletic Department and credited the success of the football program over the years and the "stewardship of athletics department managing our fiscal affairs" for the money that would be given to Tuberville.
Looking forward, the AD said he has hired consultant Bill Carr to lead the search for a new head coach and was adamant that Auburn has not contacted any potential candidates to his knowledge. Jacobs said money was not an issue if finding a hire. "But this league has stepped it up," Jacobs added, "the tree's gotten a lot taller and it's gotten a lot more competitive, and we're going to hire someone that's equally competitive."
END OF AN ERA FOR AUBURN
Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville "resigned" Wednesday afternoon and was not fired as was originally reported by some media outlets.
Auburn University Athletic Director Jay Jacobs released a statement (Read Full Statement) late Wednesday evening saying, "Tommy and I have had the opportunity to discuss the direction of the program. Through those discussions, Tommy felt it would be in his and the program's best interest to step aside as Auburn's head football coach."
Auburn University will still honor the $6 million buyout clause in Tuberville's contract, however, the amount is prorated from the beginning of 2008 and Tuberville will receive approximately $5.1 million as a result. Half the money is due to the outgoing coach within 30 days. The remaining amount is to be paid within 1 year.
In his ten years on the Plains Tuberville racked up an impressive 85-40 record, including a 13-0 season in 2004 when the Tigers finished No. 2 in the nation. Tuberville averaged 8 and-a-half wins and 4 losses per year. This year Auburn fell to 5-7 and lost the Iron Bowl for the first time in 7 years, the worst loss in Tuberville's career on the Plains.
In the statement released by Jacobs, Tuberville is quoted as saying, "The last 10 years have been a great time in my life, both professionally and personally. It's been a great place to coach and live, and we've had a lot of success along the way. I'm going to remain in Auburn and help the Auburn family however I can. I'm very appreciative of the coaches, players, staff and Auburn fans over the last decade."
"I will begin the search immediately for Auburn's next head football coach," Jacobs said. "We will move as quickly and efficiently as we possibly can, but we're going to be thorough and strategic with our search to find the best fit for Auburn."
SOMBER MOOD ON THE PLAINS
Click here to read Bob Howell's Farewell to Tuberville post from his blog, Wait a Minute!
There were very few happy Auburn students on campus after hearing the news. Many took to Toomer's Corner, a place where toilet paper rolled freely among the famous trees for six straight Iron Bowl wins. Now, signs like "Hugs 4 Tubs" and "Honk 4 T-Tub" were on display as sort of protest against his resignation. Cars passing through the busy intersection honked their horns in support.
Then there were fans like David Asbell, who stood outside the athletics complex hoping to get some sort of reaction from Coach Tuberville as he left the building. Asbell offered a "War Eagle" to Tuberville, who quietly walked to his truck.
And probably those most affected by the news -the Auburn football players themselves. The player's meeting held at 6:00pm lasted just five minutes. Sources say Tuberville was extremely emotional as he spoke with his team. While the media was not allowed to speak with the players, many looked visibly down trodden as they entered the complex to hear news they were beginning to expect.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR AUBURN?
Auburn Athletics Director Jay Jacobs said he would move quickly to fill the opening head coach's position, but who do you start looking at to fill the spot?
While it's too early for a confirmed list of candidates, there are some intiguing first guesses:
The top name on the list is reportedly Texas Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach. Leach has already spoken with Washington about the Huskies' coaching vacancy.
Other candidates include former Auburn and current Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. He's head coach in waiting there.
Jimbo Fisher is the head coach in waiting at Florida State.
Turner Gill is head coach at Buffalo. Paul Johnson is head coach at Georgia Tech.
Five years ago Auburn tried to hire Bobby Petrino who's now at Arkansas. However, he'd have to pay the Razorbacks more than $11 million to get out of his contract.
And then there's former Super Bowl coach Bill Cowher who would be a "Grand Slam", but there's no indication he'd consider a college job.