‘The Times They Are A Changing’ – Whether NCAA Likes it or Not

By Posted on: April 16th, 2014 in Baseball, Basketball, Featured Article, Football 2 Comments »
NCAA2.0

When news broke Tuesday of the NCAA’s change in the meal policy for student athletes it hardly registered a blip on the sports media radar screen as a big deal. The governing body’s Legislative Council approved a change that will now allow unlimited meals and snacks to all Division I student-athletes, including walk-ons. That’s big news – not for the immediate impact of the change but as a precursor for things to come.

The NCAA always is a reactionary body and the change is a direct result of what has been blowing in the wind the past year. In general, the Ed O’Bannon law suit and the NLRB’s ruling allowing Northwestern athletes the right to form a union; and more specifically in this case, the comments made last week by  this year’s Final Four MVP Shabazz Napier who said that he often had, “hungry nights when I go to bed and I’m starving.”

On the surface, you would think that the NCAA’s action is a no brainer. Most people probably didn’t even realize that student athletes (all of whom are involved in heavy physical training) were limited to three meals a day with no snacks in between. However, the NCAA if anything is never out in front of a problem. They only react to situations. Such is the m.o. of a bureaucracy.

Shabiz is not the first athlete to complain of not having enough to eat. But make no mistake, this action is of much larger significance than more food for student athletes. This is the NCAA trying to close the barn door after the horse has already escaped. I’m afraid concessions like this may be too little too late.

The NCAA is attempting to say, ‘see there is no need for a union rep because we are responsive to the needs of our student athletes.’ Don’t get me wrong, I fully support providing athletes with all their nutritional needs and other expenses. What I don’t support is the unionization of college athletes.

Like Nero, the NCAA has been fiddling, while a firestorm of discontent has been growing larger around them. It would be easy to point the finger at Mark Emmert and since this has occurred on his watch, he certainly bears some culpability. However, it is far greater problem than one man. Again, it is due to the slow mechanization of a bureaucracy as well as resistance to change.

The larger question here, is what will become of college football as these issues are played out in the courts? I will go on record here and say this is one man that thinks the unionization of scholarship athletes is a bad, bad idea. I know there is an insane amount of money in Division I college football and the ‘full cost’ of the athletes has not been covered. I get that. But college players are either scholarship athletes or they are employees – they can’t be both.

As scholarship athletes they are currently receiving a free college education worth anywhere from $20,000 to $70,000 a year depending on the college. In reality, colleges spend more on athletes when you add in their meals, their free weight training, conditioning, nutritional help, books, free medical, and academic tutoring.

On the other hand as an employee, the athletes would share in the profits, be able to sell their likeness and autographs, and have the right (as in the NFL) to player representation as well as collective bargaining. Anyone ready for the loss of a football season because of a labor dispute between management and players?

Also as an employee the employer would have the right of dismissal. In the business world when an employee is not pleasing their employer they are subject to being fired. Imagine coach ‘A’ doesn’t think that player ‘B’ is working out. He/she has an attitude or maybe seems to be injury prone. As an employer, Coach ‘A’ just fires them. How does that help the student get an education?

Because the NCAA has not responded appropriately or in a timely manner to student athlete needs and concerns, we are now faced with this quagmire of an uncertain future. The NCAA’s free food rule change is only a band aid to a much larger issue and a harbinger of bigger changes ahead. To quote that great American musician and song writer, Bob Dylan :

“The wheel’s still in spin, and
There’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the winner now will be later to lose
For the times they are a-changin”

Whether the NCAA likes it or not.

Auburn – Bama Play Important Weekend Series (update:3rd game AU falls in 9th)

By Posted on: April 11th, 2014 in Baseball 2 Comments »
Jordan Ebert leads the SEC in hitting with a .388 batting average.(Zach Bland,Auburn media)

Auburn’s Jordan Ebert leads the SEC in hitting with a .388 batting average. (photo:Zach Bland,Auburn media)

The Auburn Baseball Team is set to play an important game tonight at 6:30 CT when they take on Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Of course it’s always an important game anytime the Tigers take on the Tide in any sport.

However, for a mid season game, the stakes are pretty high. While the two teams record are very similar (Auburn 20-14 and Alabama 22-10); Alabama (8-4 SEC) is currently in first place in the SEC West and Auburn (5-7 SEC) is tied for last place in the West. The Tigers need to do well in this series to turn their fortunes around.

Auburn’s season had seem to be trending upward until the Tigers lost five of six SEC games, including being swept on the road at Ole Miss last weekend. Auburn bounced back on Tuesday with a 6-0 win over Troy.

Still, the Tigers will be facing one of the hottest teams in the league when they go against the Tide. Bama is ranked No.10 in the nation and riding a wave of momentum having won 18 of their last 23 games including a 16-4 home record.

It will be a huge challenge but it’s doable. The Tigers have the SEC’s third best team batting average (.295) and average 9.6 hits and 4.7 runs per game; while Auburn is allowing 8 hits and 3.8 runs per game. The pitching has a 2.97 ERA and holding opponents to a  .237 hitting average.

“It’s a big series with them being in first place and us being tied right now for last,” Head Coach Sunny Golloway said. “That’s just how tight our league is. Everything could flip-flop in one week.”

Auburn desperately needs a flip-flop too because it doesn’t get any easier from here on out with SEC series remaining against Arkansas, No. 5 South Carolina, No. 17 Mississippi State, No.12 Kentucky, and No.16 LSU.  The Tigers could put themselves back in the race if they could take two of three games in Tuscaloosa.

Lets go Tigers … Beat Bama!  

Update: 4-11-14:
Dillon Ortman pitched 7 strong innings and Keegan Thompson came on in relief to throw two shutout innings as the Tigers beat No. 10 Alabama 2-1. Game 2 will be at 6 p.m. tomorrow.
Update:4-12-14:
Auburn played great defense but struggled at the plate, dropping  Saturday’s game 4-1. Tigers will go for the series win in the rubber game on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Update: 4-13-14:
Auburn took a 3-3 tie game into the 9th inning and Alabama’s Casey Hughston hit a walk-off 2 out single for a 4-3 bad guys win. Tigers play at Samford Tuesday night before returning home to face No. 5 South Carolina.

Auburn Baseball Nationally Ranked

By Posted on: March 25th, 2014 in Baseball 4 Comments »
5324df14cf0dd.image- auburn Baseball  crack top 25

                                                                                                (photo:Albert Cesare,Opelika/Auburn News)
The Auburn Baseball Team has broken into the Top 25 teams in the country for the first time this season. Four out of five national polls including Baseball America have the Tigers ranked. The No.21 ranking comes on the heels of the Tigers’ second SEC series victory in the last week and a half.

Auburn took two of three games against Texas A&M and two against No.18 Tennessee to garner the national recognition. The Tigers are now 17-8; 4-2 in the SEC and have won 11 of their last 13 games. Auburn has done it on strong pitching and a revived offense that has outscored opponents in four of the last five games 30-6.

The Tigers will be back in action tonight in a home game against Kennesaw State before playing their third SEC series of the season Thursday when they take on Missouri at Plainsman Park in an ESPNU 6:30 game. First pitch for tonight’s game will be at 6 p.m. CT.

Congratulations to our Tigers and keep it going!

Update:
The No. 21 Tigers beat Kennesaw State 10-5, picking up their 12th win out of the last 14 games and improved to 18-8 heading into their nationally televised game with SEC foe Missouri on Thursday.

Golloway’s Tigers Getting it Together Just in Time for SEC Play

By Posted on: March 11th, 2014 in Baseball, Featured Article 3 Comments »
9743219-Kegan Thompson

              Keegan Thompson  has only given up one earn run this season. (photo:auburntigers.com)

After a rough start, new Auburn Baseball Coach Sunny Golloway has his Tigers playing the way he has expected. The Tigers played a good game last week in a one run loss in the Capital City Classic, before sweeping a good Mercer team at home over the weekend.

Although the wins came as a result of  what Golloway has been preaching – “a team effort”, the Tigers had several players shine at the right moments.

For the second straight week Freshman sensation Keegan Thompson dominated on the mound. After hurling a one-hit complete game shutout last week, he  delivered seven shutout innings in Saturday’s game to pick up  his third win. He has a 0.30 ERA and has given up just one earned run in 30.0 innings this season. Opponents are only averaging 0.95 against him.

In addition, the bats have also started to come around with sophomore Jordan Ebert leading the charge in the weekend series. Ebert had  two RBI’s, scored five runs, stole 3 basses and hit .545 for the series. Senior Damek Tomscha leads the team with 13 RBI’s and has hit three of the team’s four homeruns this season.

But if there was a star moment in the series it had to be when senior Ryan Tella came to the plate in the ninth inning Sunday and hit a dramatic two out walk off bases loaded single that broke a tie game and gave the Tigers the sweep.

Make no mistake, it was an outstanding team performance against a very good Mercer team. The Bears came in to Plainsman Park 12-2 and ranked No. 11 in the RPI. It couldn’t have come at a better time for the Tigers as they open the SEC season Friday at 6 p.m. when No.25 Texas A&M Aggies come to town for a three game series.

But first things first. Auburn must play Kennesaw State (10-8) on the road today and will be looking to redeem their earlier season loss to Alabama State (15-4) tomorrow at 6 p.m. in Plainsman Park. Then the important part of the season begins …

Let’s go Tigers!

Update: Auburn defeated Kennesaw State 6-1. Four Tiger pitchers combined for AU’s 2nd one hitter of the season. Bring on ASU. War Eagle!

Update (3-12-14) Auburn defeated Alabama State 6-5 to head into SEC play at 11-6 and riding a five game winning streak.

Auburn’s Major Sport Head Coaches.

By Posted on: March 6th, 2014 in Baseball, Basketball, Football 6 Comments »
Head Coach

Where do they stand?
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody. Fat Tuesday has come and gone, and it’s the season for giving things up. Frankly, I’m for giving up cold and ice threats, and trading in for storms, bugs and the stink of blooming Bradford pear trees. Spring football just can’t get here fast enough! So, which of Auburn’s Big Three sports head coaches would you be willing to give up for Lent?

     For Auburn fans, much is right with the world when the football team wins championships. Head football coach Gus Malzhan’s job is safe after leading Auburn to a “worst to first” SEC Title in his first season. Time will tell if success is sustainable. Remember, Terry Bowden won his first 20 games at Auburn.

     The Tiger football team scored a victory of sorts yesterday, as the NCAA Rules committee tabled a proposed “ten second rule” aimed at slowing down hurry-up offenses. Despite frantic lobbying by Nick Saban and Bret Bielema, I think wiser heads prevailed. While the debate is hardly over, college football fans are safe from this rule for this year, at least.

     Nick Saban reached for new levels of ridiculousness in the argument this week, comparing hurry-up offenses to smoking cigarettes. So Nick, you’re the self-appointed Surgeon General of the NCAA now? And I suppose you have peer-reviewed studies linking the hurry-up to cancer? No? I will give Saban credit for having his fall guy Bret Bielema ready just in case.

 

     A week ago, I cautiously spoke to minimal improvements in Auburn’s mens basketball program, what I thought were Tiger chances of reaching the post-season and saving head coach Tony Barbee’s job. Since that piece, the Tigers have imploded. First, the Tigers bricked a double-digit loss to a bad Alabama team, then was blown out at home on Senior Night by Tennessee.

     The Vols took leads of 10-0, 22-4, 27-6, and posted a 44-20 halftime lead, en route to an 82-54 win. Tony Barbee now has 50 SEC losses in just 4 seasons, and took a 28 point beating on his home floor against a team that was just 4-8 on the road. On top of that, Barbee walked out of his post-game press conference after being asked about his job security. Stick a fork in him. He’s done. All that remains this season is a road loss to Texas A&M, and an early exit from the SEC tourney. Even if Barbee is kept on, he loses 4 seniors and will be starting from scratch again next season.

     Auburn baseball woes continue with a 4-3 loss to Alabama in the Capital City Classic. A throwing error gave the Tide the winning run, but the real story was that Auburn only managed 3 hits in the entire game, against a very mediocre 6-5 Crimson Tide team.

     Auburn’s baseball record stands at 5-5, and the tough SEC season is just starting. The lightning rod for criticism thus far has been new head coach Sunny Golloway. I’ll give the man this. He’s not shy about speaking his mind. He’s still insisting that Auburn will make it to the college world series in Omaha this season. I’m betting that he’s seen a UFO or two, and has spotted Bigfoot, too.

     Golloway has shaken the team up with some dismissals and demotions, and most folks agree that the team’s effort has improved. Were these things wisely handled, as Golloway tossed them out into the court of public opinion? I’m not so sure, but I would rather have a coach that tells it like he thinks it is, rather than say, the “good practices this week and things of that nature” we got from a former football coach on a weekly basis while the program was free-falling off the cliff.

     I like a coach who tries to educate his fans. Golloway has repeated that his batters are taking too many called third strikes. That’s a legitimate strategy point, although a bit of a simplistic statement. If guys always swing when the count’s at two strikes, the pitcher will throw it in the dirt every time at that juncture. Galloway preaches being aggressive, and I think he’s right on that score. College baseball has become a pitching and fielding game, after the rules committee dumbed-down the bats a few years back. You’ve got to get runs any way you can. Gone are the days of the 19-17 home-run derby.

     I’m looking forward to the tales of spring football! Auburn has a lot of talent and momentum returning, but there are some areas of concern, as with any team this time of year. I think the biggest area of concern will be the defensive secondary. Jermaine Whitehead and Jonathan Mincy are proven winners. Everyone else healthy on the roster saw action mainly in the second half against teams like Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic. Auburn will be trying to develop some pass defenders, with Marshall and Johnson throwing rockets at them. Should be very interesting!

     Other areas of interest include the defensive line, linebacker, and special teams. Auburn must replace three defensive linemen who took part in the recent Pro Day, but there is a stockpile of depth returning. Who’ll come out on top, and will they be as slow this year to make noise as last year’s group was?

     Auburn must replace Cody Parkey and Steven Clark, who were pretty stellar performers during their careers kicking the ball at Auburn. Will the newcomers struggle, or be stars? How does Auburn replace suddenly-superstar Chris Davis in the return game? Quite honestly, I think the linebacker questions are mainly about depth. I think Frost, McKinzy and Therezie will be good SEC-caliber defenders. Who’ll give them meaningful relief off the bench?

Tigers Look to Continue Winning Streak in Capital City Classic – (Updated 3 – 5 – 14)

By Posted on: March 4th, 2014 in Baseball 2 Comments »
Justin Camp will take the mound for Auburn Tuesday.

               Justin Camp will take the mound for Auburn tonight. (photo:Lauren Barnard,auburntigers.com)

Auburn and Alabama have been playing in Montgomery’s Capital City Classic since 2009. In those five years, the Tigers have never lost to the Tide. Tonight at 6:30 p.m. Auburn will be looking to extend that streak to six games.

Often dubbed the Iron Bowl of Baseball, the classic is played at Riverwalk Stadium, home to the city’s Class AA Minor League team, the ‘Biscuits.’

Although the game doesn’t count toward conference standings, it can be a bell-weather for the SEC season which opens next week. Alabama (5-5) comes into the game hot off of a 12-6 upset of No. 10 Louisiana-Lafayette, while Auburn (6-5) is looking to put a tumultuous week behind them with a victory over their biggest rival.

Senior Ryan Tella, Senior Damek Tomscha, and Freshman Keegan Thompson have led a resurgence for Auburn hitting. The Tigers’ team average drastically improved from .270 to .371 in the weekend series against Presbyterian Coolege. Tella is batting .433 and Tomscha (.371) leads the team in RBI’s with 10 while Thompson hit .417 for the series. Keegan was also named the SEC Freshman of the Week after pitching a one hit complete shutout (3-0) over Presbyterian Saturday.

To outsiders, it may not seem like a big deal when two teams barely playing 500 ball meet but it’s always a big deal whenever Auburn and Alabama meet in any competition. And tonight’s contest has the added drama of being new Auburn Coach, Sunny Golloway’s initiation to the rivalry.

Golloway says he is aware of the significance of the game, adding that, “I think we’re going to have the (big) crowd and electricity and it’s going to be a great learning experience for our young club. I’m looking forward to playing (them).”

No doubt it will be another exciting game in front of a packed house. Hopefully the Tigers can keep the streak going. If you’re in the area, come out and support the Orange and Blue. Auburn will start Sophomore right hander Justin Camp (0-1, 2.13) and Bama will counter with Freshman right hander Nick Eicholtz (0-0, 0.00 ERA). First pitch will be at 7 p.m.

Beat Bama!

Update:
Auburn fell to Bama 4-3 . The Tigers didn’t trail until the Tide scored the winning run in the ninth. With two outs, third baseman Connor Short’s throw on a Ben Moore grounder sailed over first baseman Keegan Thompson’s head. Mikey White scored from second base and Bama held on in the bottom of the ninth to win their first Cap Classic.

The Tigers will host Mercer this weekend in their final non conference series. First pitch will be at 6 p.m. CT. Friday.

Sunny Golloway: Genius or Crazy Man?

By Posted on: March 3rd, 2014 in Baseball 5 Comments »
Photo by Julie Bennett/al.com

Photo by Julia Bennett/al.com

New Auburn baseball coach Sunny Golloway seemed to win over the Auburn family last fall with a series of humorous videos that played on the Jumbotron during Tiger football games. Winning over his new team has not been so easy.

As AubTigerman reported last week, this is a squad that at least temporarily, is engulfed in turmoil. Following yesterday’s 12-5 win over Presbyterian, Golloway’s bunch sits at 6-5 overall.

Despite the slow start, Golloway reiterated last week his intentions to get this team to Omaha and the College World Series this season. With losses so far to Alabama A&M, East Tennessee St and Presbyterian, this is either an extreme case of coach speak or Galloway is insane.

There are some back in Oklahoma that would claim he’s the latter.

When he bolted to Auburn last year from Oklahoma, there was a flood of angry comments from current Oklahoma players and former Sooners alike. Most Auburn people at the time attributed it to sour grapes and gave it little thought.

Now a month into the season, similar comments are coming from Auburn players recently kicked off the team by the new coach.

In news that made headlines last week, three veteran players were released following a disastrous weekend of play, including senior Hunter Kelley, who shared his feelings afterwards with The Anniston Star.

“When I got in there (Golloway’s office),” Kelley said, “he just started off by saying, ‘Hunter, I don’t think you’ll be able to help this program this year. I just don’t think your attitude should be in this program.

“Me, of course, I was devastated. I didn’t know what he was talking about. It just kind of blew me away because, these are my brothers, and I’ve played ball all my life. I’ve never heard anybody tell me that.”

Cleaning house is nothing new in college athletics. We’ve seen it with Gus Malzahn and every coach before him. However, kicking three upper classman off the team following a weekend of bad play is rare, if not unprecedented in Auburn Athletics.

Golloway was quick to defend his decision.

“Players have to understand that we are just a part of something that is much greater than we are individually,” Golloway told AuburnTigers.com. “We are going to play for what is on the front of our jerseys and not on the back. Be proud of your name, but play for Auburn. Play the way we ask you to play.”

Success and controversy is nothing new to Golloway.

A winner of 40+ games in each of the last four seasons at Oklahoma, he appears to have burned more than a few bridges back in Norman. The most outspoken has been former Oklahoma All-American and former major league player Joe Simpson.

Speaking to The Oklahoman following Golloway’s departure last year, he said, “I’m so thrilled that he’s gone that they could hire a basset hound and it would be an improvement,” said Simpson, an Atlanta Braves broadcaster the past two decades.

“I haven’t had anything to do with the program since near the end of the Larry Cochell era. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it as long as Sunny Golloway was the head coach because I think he’s a sorry individual. I think he’s a bad guy. I want to thank Auburn University for taking him off our hands and getting him out of Norman.”

The question Auburn people must answer is what’s fact and what’s fiction. Eventually we’ll all know what kind of coach and more importantly, what kind of person Golloway is and whether he’s a fit for the University.

Athletic director Jay Jacobs strongly defended his new coach yesterday in a conversation with The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

“…the bottom line is what we had didn’t work,” said Jacobs. “I made the decision to change baseball coaches, so we’ve done that. The baseball coach that we had and the players that we had, both are a combination of the parts that didn’t work.

“So it’s Sunny’s job to make it work to get us back to Omaha, to winning SEC championships and playing in regionals and super regionals. Some people just aren’t meant for a certain system. That’s just how it is. Some students come to school here and they’re here for a few weeks and realize, ‘You know what? I shouldn’t have come here.

“…It’s just that what we’ve been doing in baseball hasn’t worked, so I’m 100 percent supportive of whatever Sunny thinks we need to do to get this baseball team to be competitive, because that’s what we owe our student-athletes. That’s what we owe that baseball team: A chance to win championships.”

It’s hard to argue with Jacobs thinking. There are two sides to every story and right now Golloway is doing it his way. Auburn knew what they were getting when they made the hire.

For now, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

At the end of the day, college athletics is a business. Auburn hired a baseball coach that wins – and he does it his way. If he duplicates the success he had at Oklahoma, all of this will be forgotten. If not, then it will continue to come up.

Right now, I’m betting on Sunny Golloway.

Sunny Golloway Means Business – Tigers headed to Omaha in first season

By Posted on: February 26th, 2014 in Baseball, Featured Article 17 Comments »
14272457-mmmain - Julie Bennett

                                          This guy means business. (photo: Julie Bennett, al.com)

New Auburn Baseball Coach Sunny Golloway went out on a limb after being hired to take over the Tiger program. He boldly declared Auburn would not only have a good season in his first year but would play for a national championship in Omaha. 

Yet before Tuesday’s win over Alabama A&M, his team was sitting at 3-4 including an embarrassing 9-3 loss to Alabama State a week ago. Auburn went 1-3 for the week, defeating Arkansas-Pine Bluff but loosing to Ala. State, California and East Tennessee State. Adding insult to injury, the Tigers only have six extra base hits through eight games with a team batting average of .208. The early season slide prompted some unusual steps from the first year skipper. 

As Golloway sees it some of his veteran players have not been happy with his decission to play six freshman ahead of 19 upper classmen. So in a move rarely if ever seen by coaches during the season… he talked with eight of those players Sunday, announcing afterwards that three of them – Senior outfielder Hunter Kelley, senior first baseman Patrick Savage, and junior pitcher Chase Williamson would no longer be on the team.

Kelley, who started 30 games last year, told the Anniston Star that he was devastated. He said the coach just told him he needed to quit the team.”I told him, I totally disagree with what you’re saying. I’ve had a good attitude all year. I’ve busted my ass all fall to be part of this team, to help this team.” When Kelley refused to quit as his teammates had, he was dismissed. Golloway says his actions were necessary to turn the Auburn program around.

He later hinted the three may not be the last veterans to see the door. He said he wants players that pull for whoever is in the line up and not just for them selves. “That’s why we’ve minimized our roster and why we will continue to minimize our roster until our attitude and effort are there. If the attitude and effort aren’t there, you aren’t going to be here.”

Tough words and even tougher actions from a first year coach but Golloway insist it’s what it will take to build a championship contending program. He said he can’t build that contender until all of his players are on the same page. 

The Tigers were definitely on the same page last night as Auburn improved to 4-4 after their 7-3 drubbing of Alabama A&M. The Coach said he could see a difference in his team already. “Several of the guys realized `I want to be here. I want to do whatever it takes and I want to win.’”

Will this action pay dividends for the end of the season? Will it help or hurt team chemistry? I don’t know but o
ne things for certain, his players have no doubt this morning that Golloway means business. And despite the rough start to the season, he says he still  means it when he says, “We are going to Omaha this year. There is no doubt in my mind.”