University president Jay Gogue is still something of a mystery man to Auburn people. Despite leading the institution for five years, little is known about the person poised to make one of the biggest decisions in Auburn football history.
Considered to be a hands-off leader in matters related to athletics, Gogue finds himself today increasingly under fire for refusing to take action on the status of athletic director Jay Jacobs and football coach Gene Chizik.
While Gogue continues to work behind the scenes, his early public moves have portrayed him as a leader who’s ill-equipped to manage a major college football program. His insistence to wait until season’s end to make personnel changes has earned him labels ranging from stubborn to stupid.
Those close to Gogue say these remarks are unfair.
He’s described as a thoughtful person, who’s adamant about giving his subordinates room to do their jobs. He’s a systems oriented guy who insists on sticking with the plan regardless of outside noise.
It’s a philosophy that’s served the Waycross, Georgia native well throughout his long academic career. A 1969 Auburn graduate, Gogue has been at the helm of three universities including, Utah State, New Mexico State and the University of Houston.
Is it just coincidence that two of the three have shown up on the Auburn football schedule in recent years?
Gogue’s public statement of support for the players, but not Gene Chizik last month drew intense criticism. The comments essentially placed Chizik on death row with execution still months away. It’s a message that clearly reached the players, with most throwing in the towel.
Last week, when news broke that Gogue had notified the board of trustees that he was moving forward with plans to replace Chizik and planned to talk with Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, Auburn message boards exploded.
Is Gogue really up to the task? Does he grasp the enormity of the job he’s about to undertake? Does he know anything about college football? These questions are asked almost hourly as the Chizik death watch continues.
Gogue’s lasting legacy will be the path he takes for the athletic department. It’s widely rumored that he plans to stick with current athletic director Jay Jacobs. If true, it’s a move that’ll almost certainly be met with universal disapproval and place his own job at risk.
Even more bewildering is his rumored plan to reassign associate athletic director for football operations, Tim Jackson to another area. How you can reassign or fire Jackson without doing the same for Jacobs is hard to understand.
Conventional thinking says that Auburn’s ability to draw a top notch coach will rest on whether Jacobs is shown the door. It was widely reported in 2008, that Will Muschamp refused to speak with Auburn unless Jacobs was out of the picture.
Many believe that will be the same message four years later from other top coaches.
It’s only fair to give Gogue the benefit of the doubt for now. Rumors are simply that – unsubstantiated claims that will become even more frequent in the coming days. He didn’t earn his place in life because he’s stupid. And though reported, I don’t buy into the Watson rumor.
Nobody is that naive. Right?
Let’s be patient and watch the process play out. We may even be surprised. I’m giving Jay Gogue the benefit of the doubt for now. His early moves have been shaky, but there’s plenty of time to do the right thing.
Jay, we are all watching.
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