Saturday’s win over New Mexico St. was like leaving the bar at the end of the night with an ugly girl. It’s better than going home alone, but certainly not something you’d brag about to your friends.
As has been the case all season, the real action took place off the field. With the smallest crowd since stadium expansion in 1987 looking on, Tim Jackson, whose official title is executive associate athletic director, but who refers to himself as general manager of the football team, was not in his usual spot on the sidelines close to Gene Chizik.
On this day, he was up in the executive suites begging for his job along with those of his boss, athletic director Jay Jacobs and Chizik. While Election Day is tomorrow, they’ve already started counting votes at Auburn. For Jackson, those luxury boxes might as well have been Ohio.
With Jackson kissing every ass he could get his lips on, the football team was doing him few favors in the first half. While a win was good for the players, it did nothing for the three under the most fire.
Publicly, Jacobs and Jackson continue to talk about the future of the program under their leadership. On Friday, Jackson met with the Athletic Advisory Committee and pledged to do what’s right for the football program.
Speaking to a media member in Dothan over the weekend, Jacobs held to his timeline of evaluating the football program following the season. While on the surface laughable, privately, they clearly know the end is close at hand.
Phillip Marshall at Auburn Undercover reports that on Friday night at the team hotel, Jackson asked the players to pray for himself, Jacobs and Chizik.
Meanwhile, the first casualty of the year came yesterday with the firing of Joker Phillips at Kentucky, following its worst defeat to Vanderbilt in 96 years. Derek Dooley’s release at Tennessee could come as early as this week.
With calls growing louder by the minute for action, Auburn president Jay Gogue, who has famously said that he fires athletic directors, not coaches, is beginning to be questioned himself.
Fair or not, his foremost responsibility is keeping the $100 million football engine growing, something that clearly hasn’t happened this season. Those that know him best say he’s a top notch leader. How he handles the next three weeks will be his legacy at Auburn. That’s life in the Deep South.
In the end, what’s likely to sink Jacobs and all those closely associated with him is the buyout clause in Chizik’s contract. Over the objections of some on the board of trustees, including former member Bobby Lowder, Jacobs convinced the group that a substantial buyout was warranted to keep Chizik from going to Texas, a claim that has shown to have little merit.
Jacobs got his way following the 2010 title run and now Auburn sits on the hook for $7.5 million should Chizik be fired. The ill-advised move essentially tied Chizik and Jacobs’s fate together.
Against this backdrop, Auburn now turns its attention to Georgia. A win over Auburn secures the SEC East title and a spot in Atlanta on December 1. Sitting at number five in the BCS, they clearly have a shot at a championship. Needless to say, they’ll have plenty to play for Saturday night.
While hardly road warriors this season, it’s hard to imagine Georgia having a letdown. The Dawgs open as 16 point favorites. Another win would mark six of the last seven in the series – another reason change is on the horizon. It will take Chizik’s best shot to have any chance.
With the temperature still hot and the play cold, it just doesn’t feel like the first stop on Amen Corner.
When will the agony end?
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