By Jay Coulter
Auburn’s search for a baseball coach to succeed Tom Slater is stretching out longer than many expected. Athletic Director Jay Jacobs has offered few clues in his on-going search. For a while it appeared that Baylor’s Steve Smith was emerging as a leading candidate. He interviewed with Auburn earlier in the week.
You can now scratch him off your list.
“After much prayer and consideration, I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for the jobs both at Auburn and Mississippi State. I appreciate their interest and wish both programs nothing but the best,” Smith said.
For any of you who have visited Waco, Texas, you know this is a stunner. To say that Waco offers few amenities is an understatement. I can’t imagine him turning the job down at Auburn. Jacobs obviously elected to go in another direction.
Miss State has lured Kentucky’s John Cohen to be its next head coach. Cohen is believed to have spoken with Auburn about its vacancy. He’s one of the hottest names in coaching circles this year. He led the Wildcats to a 44-19 record this season. Kentucky wasted little time in its search, promoting assistant Gary Henderson to head coach.
Not everyone is happy about Cohen’s move to Starkville, notably former coach and Bulldog legend Ron Polk.
“I just got slapped in the face, punched in the stomach,” Polk said. “All my coaches have been slapped in the face, punched in the stomach by a young athletic director who has absolutely no clue what he’s doing.”
Polk said he plans to send athletic director Greg Byrne a letter that states “within 48 hours, my name comes off the stadium, comes off the centerfield fence, the banner off the concourse comes down. It will remain down until (Byrne) gets fired or somebody runs him off.”
Talk about letting your mouth overload your… well, you get it. Polk has never been one to shy away from controversy, but even for him this is big. Polk felt strongly that one of his assistants should get the head coaching job.
Vince Dooley went on Polk’s recommendation when hiring current Georgia coach David Perno. Polk served as coach for the Bulldogs for two seasons from 1999 to 2001. During that time Perno was his top assistant. Polk feels like Miss State should give him the same courtesy as Dooley did. This power struggle should be interesting to watch. My guess is Polk will lose. What a shame it had to end this way.
So where does this leave Auburn? No one is really sure. Give Jacobs credit – he’s kept this search quiet and professional. We could see a new coach named this week or it could drag on longer. Stay tuned.