Like many people this weekend, I sat at a bar Saturday night with a group of friends solving the world’s problems. After we cleaned up the economy and picked our new president, the topic turned to Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs.
The group was all Auburn people. One thing we’ve learned in recent months is that Alabama fans can’t hold their liquor. So we stay away from those sorts.
One of my buddies asked a simple question. Why, despite Auburn’s recent football national championship and the surprise success of Gene Chizik, do many people still dislike Jay Jacobs?
As the conversation moved around the table, the general consensus was that yes, many do dislike him, some with more passion than others. Now this was obviously not a scientific poll and the demographic skewed heavily toward white males in their forties.
Shouldn’t Jacobs be among the most beloved to ever sit in that chair? This is a guy who went against the wishes of his fanbase and hired a football coach who managed to do in two years what Pat Dye never accomplished and that’s win a national title.
He secured financing and oversaw construction of arguably the nicest basketball arena in the SEC. While the jury is still out on Tony Barbee, most believe the hire was the right one. The swimming, tennis and track teams have all had success on Jacobs watch.
It’s hard to argue with his record.
So what’s the problem? Why is there seemingly such a big group out there that loathes the man?
My father has been in politics for more than a quarter century and I remember one time he was up for re-election and another well known person qualified to run against him.
I asked my Dad what he thought about the race. His response was something we see in people all the time, but rarely have words to describe them. He replied, “I’m not worried at all. Hell, when he (his opponent) walks in a room he pisses off half the people without saying a word.”
Bingo. That’s Jay Jacobs. You either really like him or you really don’t. I’ve dealt with Jacobs on several occasions through the years and while not overly warm and friendly, he was nice enough. I can’t say I’d want to cookout with him, but I also didn’t find him difficult.
But his issues seem more than skin deep. Despite the success, there’s still a trust factor out there that bothers people. While he was vindicated in his hiring of Chizik, many still question his handling of the Tommy Tuberville firing.
Some contend he remains a puppet of Bobby Lowder, although there’s no proof to support the statement. I’ve heard from more than one that the reason Chizik keeps associate athletic director Tim Jackson so close to the football program, is to keep Jacobs away.
Who knows the truth in that statement; but there’s no denying Chizik got a front-row seat to watch how badly Tuberville was treated by the suits during his tenure. Even if not intentional, it’s a pretty smart move on Chizik’s part.
The public persona of Jay Jacobs is a baffling one. For now, it really doesn’t matter. His accomplishments far out-weigh people’s personal feelings for the man. As long as his teams keep winning, all will be right with the world.
However, should things go south, look for that hook to come quick. It’s like that in any industry.
It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.