By Jay Coulter
|Does Slater stay?|
Few will argue that Auburn’s athletic program is in solid shape top to bottom. Most of the non-revenue sports are competitive in the SEC. Some are tops in the country – see men’s and women’s swimming.
The same cannot be said for two of the three teams that drive revenues for all the other sports. Taking football out of the equation, Auburn’s two other money sports, men’s basketball and baseball continue to struggle on the field and at the box office.
Following Sunday’s loss at Ole Miss, the baseball team has all but been eliminated from this year’s SEC Tournament. For those keeping score at home, it’s the fifth consecutive year that Auburn has been unable to punch its ticket to Birmingham.
Like basketball coach Jeff Lebo, Auburn’s Tom Slater is expected to be given another mulligan at year’s end.
The question is why?
Many will point to Slater’s group and say this team is talented, but very young. Some will say wait until next year. We’ve all heard it before. In fact, we heard it back in February when athletic director Jay Jacobs defended Lebo.
Just wait until next year. We’ll get’em then.
Would Tommy Tuberville be afforded the same courtesy if he were in their shoes? Would the athletic department scream from the roof-top demanding that fans be patient and give him another chance?
Can you picture this:
“I realize that Tommy has struggled, but he’s had some tough luck. I’m completely confident that once everyone is healthy next year we’ll be competitive again. I don’t like missing a bowl game for four consecutive years either. And I certainly don’t enjoy losing four straight to Alabama,” said Jay Jacobs after losing again to Alabama on Saturday.
“Fans have to realize that Tommy is building a program from the bottom up. He can’t help that more than half his team quit when he got here and he’s struggled to recruit since. We were two healthy players away from an invitation to the Independence Bowl.”
Does anyone think for a minute that Jacobs or the board of trustees would take this approach with Tuberville? The question begs, why do they do it for basketball and baseball?
It’s time the athletic department expect the same excellence from baseball and basketball that it does from football. Auburn has been too bad for too long in both sports. Both are big business now – especially in the SEC. For Auburn to not be competitive every year is unacceptable.
Four years is plenty of time to build a program in any sport. The time for excuses is over. It’s time for Auburn to decide whether they want to be just a football school or play all three big boy sports.
The next several weeks will tell the tale.