For the better part of six months, Auburn people have debated the origins of the national championship backlash the school has battled on a near daily basis. In true Charles Dickens form, these months have been marked by the best of times and the worst of times.
Last week’s news cycle was dominated by Gene Chizik’s national book tour. Tuning in to ESPN’s family of channels was near impossible without seeing his face. It’s been that kind of off-season; Auburn continues to take the good with the bad.
While critics will point to paranoia among Auburn people, it’s hard to argue against the drive-by journalism aimed Auburn’s way. The source of this deep undercurrent remains a mystery.
Is it orchestrated by those who wear crimson? Does some of it come from Athens or Baton Rouge? Do the other members of the SEC Big Six (Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Florida) really view Auburn as a runaway train that must be stopped?
Some Auburn insiders believe this is the case. Auburn was not supposed to win a national title and produce a third Heisman Trophy winner; certainly not the season following Alabama’s self-anointed renaissance.
Despite the public showing of unity after the poisoning at Toomer’s Corner and the horrific tornado in Tuscaloosa, has anything really changed? Despite the relative success of Nick Saban’s tenure, do Tide fans fear Auburn emerging into a perennial national power that will compete for national titles more years than not? What about the rest of the SEC?
In two short seasons, Chizik and staff have not only surpassed Alabama on the field, but has become the “It” program for high school athletes across the country. From its Under Armour uniforms to its Cam Newton coolness, Auburn is hotter than Destin in July.
This has clearly set off alarm bells across the South. Look no further than the SEC athletic directors picking a Tennessee tennis player over Newton as its male athlete of the year. For the record, every other Heisman winner has taken home the award.
Some Auburn people assert that using lackeys like Paul Finebaum and sites like Sports By Brooks (run by a Georgia graduate), critics are able to continue fueling this type of coverage.
Perhaps the most disgusting example came a few weeks ago when Brooksran a story on the Auburn Tigerettes receiving “tens of thousands of dollars” for escorting players during recruiting visits. It was scoffed at by mainstream media outlets because every major institution in the country pays its hostesses and it’s not against NCAA rules.
Despite its reputation for poor reporting, the Sports By Brooks article gained national attention and I found myself on a Knoxville radio show that afternoon defending the Tigerettes.
The most despicable part of the story came later that day on The Paul Finebaum Radio Show. Instead of defending these innocent girls, Finebaum stood by and allowed his army of ignorant callers to phone the program and make accusations and insinuations against these young ladies in relation to their hostess duties.
Finebaum’s actions (or inaction) led to Jack Arute, host of Sirius/XM radioprogram, College Football Playbook, call for Finebaum’s removal from the network. He was clearly disgusted by Finebaum and said his program had no business being carried nationally.
To think that a national radio host could stand by and let these young girls have their reputations trashed and still keep his job is incomprehensible. The fact that no other media outlet in the state made mention of the episode probably tells us all we need to know about the source of many of these stories.
At the end of the day, many of Auburn’s media issues are likely a result of conference envy. A lot of SEC schools are threatened by Auburn’s success – none more than Alabama.
To quote a recent story on The Never to Yield Foundation website, “Over the last 30 years, Auburn owns a statistical advantage in virtually every category over rival and supposed traditional power Alabama. The Tigers top the Tide in total wins, SEC wins, head-to-head wins, bowl wins and SEC titles, undefeated seasons and Heisman Trophy winners.
“Since the retirement of Bear Bryant, without question one of the most dominant coaches in college football history, the norm is for Auburn to be on top. The championship season of 2010 was not an anomaly; it was the return to form of a team that has now gone undefeated twice in the same decade.”
Auburn has long since dominated football in the state of Alabama. Now it’s threatening to do it nationally on a regular basis. That’s more than a lot of people can stomach.
To quote country singer Billy Currington, “His kids were mad as hell; but me, I’m doing well.”
That pretty much sums up Auburn these days.