“What Comes Next Sits Squarely on My Shoulders.”

By Posted on: May 14th, 2013 in Baseball, Basketball, Football, News, Other Sports 12 Comments »

Auburn A.D. Jay Jacobs says he has a plan … a plan to improve the athletics department including how to turnaround the lack of winning in the big three major sports.

Speaking before the Auburn Chamber of Commerce today, Jacobs said that University President Jay Gogue has made it clear that he has high expectations for the athletic department. And he told the business  leaders, “I intend to meet them.”

After meeting with Dr. Gogue , Jacobs said, he is aware that, “What comes next sits squarely on my shoulders.” 

“We have much work to do, but I’m convinced that our best days are not behind us … I will continue to defend Auburn, and I will continue to push us to get better every day.” 

Without giving any details, he said he has a plan for improving the overall operations, enhancing the game day experience, improving facilities, and improving “how we interact and communicate with fans and alumni.”

Part of his plan is to act on future recommendations of the consulting firm ,JMI Sports, which was hired by the Universirty to complete a year long intensive evaluation of Auburn athletics.

He was vague about how he expects to turnaround the poor performance of Auburn’s major sports other than pointing out the enthusiasm surrounding the football program since the return of Gus Malzahn.

He said Tony Barbee must win in basketball but pointed out it took former coaches Sonny Smith and Cliff Ellis 5-7 years to make the NCAA Tournament.

To be fair, facilities have improved tremendously under his watch, more student athletes are achieving at a higher level, and there hasn’t been a major NCAA violation in over 20 years.

However, as important as all those things are, and they are very important, winning at a tradition rich place like Auburn has to improve and improve significantly.

Saying he knows that the football and basketball teams were a disappointment this year, he added, “I want to be clear that regardless of how well we are performing across our other goals, I know how important winning is to our fans.”

Sounds like this whole process has made Jacobs aware that it’s not just coaches who may be on the hot seat but the Athletic Director as well. I believe all Auburn people want to see things improve on the Plains but if that doesn’t happen … then it’s like Jay said today, “What comes next sits squarely on (his) shoulders.”

The Report Is In – Gogue Expects Jay Jacobs to Make Necessary Improvements

By Posted on: May 13th, 2013 in Baseball, Basketball, Football, News, Other Sports 8 Comments »

gogue2- jay GogueThe much awaited report of the committee on Auburn Athletics has given their report to University President Jay Gogue.

Dr Gogue had charged the committee to take a look at five criteria for evaluating the athletic department: (1) academic and support services for student-athletes, (2) financial management, (3)customer service, (4) competition, including winning, sportsmanship and compliance, and (5) management structure.

In an open letter to the Auburn Family, Dr Gogue voiced support for Jacobs and the Athletic department while at the same time saying he expects “improvement in the overall operations,” and the upgrading of, “how we interact and communicate with fans and alumni, and enhance the game-day experience, on and off the field.”

There has been increased interest this year in the President’s evaluation of Jacobs and the Athletic Department due to the most dismal two years of Auburn sports in recent memory.

While new Auburn Women’s Basketball Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy took her team to the WNIT and the Equestrian team won another National Championship , the major sports have not had a good year. In addition, since Auburn won the BCS Championship two years ago, the big three major sports have struggled.

The basketball team has been terrible, football  had it’s worst season in 60 years and the baseball team has not made an NCAA Baseball Tournament since winning the West in 2010. Barring Pawlowski’s Tigers winning the SEC Tournament (an extreme longshot), Auburn will finish the year without winning a conference or division championship for the first time in 20 years.

The alumni and fans have been waiting to see if Dr Gogue takes any action. In his public response to the committee’s report he said:

“There’s much to celebrate about Auburn Athletics, but there’s also room for substantial improvement. I look forward to Jay providing the leadership needed to make the necessary improvements.”

Everyone agrees there is plenty of “room for substantial improvement” and Gogue says that, Jacobs will “talk more about what’s in store.”  He is scheduled to speak to the Auburn Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning. Wonder if we will hear what he plans to do to make those “necessary improvements”

Readers can view Dr Gogue’s open letter after the jump:

Dear Auburn family,

The committee I appointed to review operations of Auburn Athletics as part of the Department’s annual evaluation has provided its findings. I’m grateful to members of the committee for their hard work, good thinking and dedication to helping Auburn Athletics move forward.

We asked the committee to review the Department’s total body of work with a focus on five areas: academic and support services for student-athletes; financial management; customer service; competition, including winning, sportsmanship and compliance; and management structure.

Athletics Director Jay Jacobs and I have talked in length about their recommendations. In general, they center on steps to improve overall operations of the Department, upgrade how we interact and communicate with fans and alumni, and enhance the game-day experience, on and off the field. Jay will talk in more detail about what’s in store, and I’m confident he will move forward to put in place a plan to give the Auburn family what we all expect.

There’s much to celebrate about Auburn Athletics, but there’s also room for substantial improvement. I look forward to Jay providing the leadership needed to make the necessary improvements.

War Eagle!

Jay Gogue

Jordan Ebert Named SEC Freshman of the Week

By Posted on: May 13th, 2013 in Baseball Comments Off

7_832589- Jordan EbertThe SEC office has announced that Jordan Ebert is the Freshman of the Week for his play in the Tigers’  4-1 play last week.

Jordan is batting .302, with six doubles, a triple and three home runs. He has drivien in 18 runs and scored 27 for the season. The second baseman led the Tigers for the week with a .579 batting average. He was 11-for-19 with two doubles, a home run (.842 slugging percentage), four RBI and five runs scored.

He also walked three times for a .636 on base percentage. Defensively he had a perfect fielding percentage on 33 chances (15 putouts, 18 assists) and helped turn five of Auburn’s six defensive double plays. Jordan is the first Freshman of the Week for Auburn since Dillon Ortman won  the award in April of 2011.

Friday from the Eagle’s Nest

By Posted on: May 10th, 2013 in Baseball, Featured Article, Football, News 19 Comments »

Ventura Stoops - Conspiracy Theory 2

When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong – Bob Stoops is not a believer in the SEC’s elite status despite every logical indication that he’s wrong. In the article, he goes on to say that the SEC’s perceived quality is nothing more than “propaganda.” By default, Stoops does have a point. The media is a little trigger happy when it comes to building someone or something up (as well as tearing it down), but the SEC’s running number of consecutive national championships and bowl record from recent history prove that he’s wrong. He’s very wrong. Bottom line Bob, start winning championships and you’ll get noticed. Until then, stick to coaching and let the media make fools of themselves in the headlines. They are better at it than you are.

Dan Mullen is Embracing Higher Expectations – He says that 8 wins is his baseline and that he is in Starkville to win championships. Once again this offseason I have read that Mullen must be on the cusp of excellence and that he has this great machine built that is Mississippi State and its going to destroy everything in its path. I’m not buying it. His most celebrated SEC West win is over arguable the worst Auburn team of the modern era and overall he boasts no double-digit win seasons. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but the hype is confusing to me. Last season saw the Bulldogs inexplicably rise to #15 in the BCS (that’s 15th out of everyone in the nation) after having beaten 3 Sun Belt teams, 1 SWAC team, and the 3 worst teams in the SEC last year (Auburn, Kentucky, and Tennessee). The man could seemingly fall into a sewer and come out wearing a gold watch. He did lead the Bulldogs to one more SEC victory against Arkansas (who was led by John L. Smith). And when he isn’t embracing challenges and living on the edge, Dan Mullen is also signing ultrasounds. Seriously, what direction is your life going if a head football coach is signing photos of your ultrasound? This seems like a bit from MTV’s ‘16 and Pregnant’, but not out of place at all in the state of Mississippi.

Nick Saban - Dwarf House

Stop everything! Nick Saban is selling his home in the North Georgia mountains – It has been widely speculated that a lack of trees in which he could bake cookies is what led Saban to put the property up for sale. 

NCAA puts a stop to hashtags on the field because for God’s sake, why is everyone having so much damned fun? I don’t even know anyone was looking into this. Is this why the Miami case got bundled? Were there too many resources dedicated to finding the most trivial rule proposal of all time that it prevented the NCAA from conducting proper investigations elsewhere? Probably not. Someone in the NCAA main office probably saw something on TV or in a magazine and decided that the youth of America was corrupting everyone amateur college athletics isn’t about having fun – it’s about old men getting paid for those amateur athletes doing their thing on primetime television without any “techno mumbo jumbo” on the field while they do. #NCAAislame #stepdownEmmert 

Auburn Baseball and The Fat Lady Continue Love Affair – Auburn stormed back against Jacksonville St. earlier this week by scoring 12 runs in the eighth inning. Is Gus moonlighting as the hitting coach while he awaits the arrival of football season? 

College Football Playoff - So Boring

The College Football Playoff logo has been chosen and it is equally as flashy as its name suggests. I feel like we’re all getting pranked and none of this is real. I don’t understand why the title and imagery of the new college football postseason has to be so straightforward and cold. They’ve taken the most exciting thing in all of sports and made every fan skeptical of its value right off the bat. How do you screw that up? When you consider how much money will be made, you start to wonder if they put any effort to the branding of it all or if they simply used all of their scheduled meetings to arrange for their Scrooge McDuck pools full of money to be installed. 

Is Auburn’s Dramatic Win Over No.18 Ole Miss Enough to Turn Things Around for Pawlowski?

By Posted on: May 6th, 2013 in Baseball 7 Comments »

auburn-baseball-coachjpg-3e3e424b4da9dfe5_mediumBefore Saturday’s 8-5 win over No.18 Ole Miss, the Auburn Baseball Team had not scored more than three runs in a game since April 16. And before yesterday Auburn had not won a Sunday game in the SEC.

For most of this spring, watching Auburn Baseball has been less than a thing of beauty. In fact for much of the last three years Auburn Baseball hasn’t been much fun to watch.

Not since the Tigers led the nation in hitting in 2010, won the SEC West, and hosted an NCAA Regional has there been much to cheer about. Auburn has not been to an NCAA since they won the Division.

This season has been particularly long and frustrating  both for the team and the fans. Cries for John Pawlowski‘s job have become louder and more frequent.

But this weekend was different. The Tigers, feeling the pressure after giving up a series win to 13th place Missouri last weekend; came out Saturday like a different ball team, pounding out 12 hits to beat Ole Miss 8-5. It was the most hits since the Tigers belted 14 against Samford on April 16th.

Then on Sunday, the Tigers gave the most exciting performance since Creede Simpson’s three run homer with two strikes, two outs in the ninth inning against Clemson in the 2010 Regional.

If you like drama, the Tigers obliged.

Auburn hitters not only came through but did so when the chips were down, getting 7 hits and scoring all the Tigers’ runs with two outs.

Ole Miss was leading 2-0 in the second when Blake Austin drove in Auburn’s first run. The Tigers took a 4-2 lead in the seventh on clutch RBI hits by Cullen Wacker and Patrick Savage

Those hits came after John Pawlowski was ejected from the game. Trailing the Rebs 2-1 Pawlowski came out of the dugout to dispute a strike call. He was thrown out – a move that fired up both his team and the fans.

Then after Mississippi came back and tied the game at 4-all, Damek Tomscha hit a two-out home run in the bottom of the eighth to put the Tigers up 5-4.

Except for the starting pitching the Tigers were almost perfect, winning in dramatic fashion as a team. From Hunter Kelley stealing not one but two home runs at the fence and robbing the Rebels of 4 potential runs – to Blake Austin’s picking off a runner at 2nd with the bases loaded – to Tomscha’s mammoth two-out homerun over the green monster in left – to closer Terrance Dedrick fantastic diving over the shoulder catch to end the game …

These Tigers did it all. They were finally fun to watch. They finally played an SEC game the way we thought they could.

With six SEC games left, will this be enough to get the Tigers into the SEC tournament? Maybe. Will it be enough to secure an SEC Regional bid ? Not hardly. Will it be enough to stop the talk about Pawlowski’s job security? No, not that either.

But if the Tigers keep playing with the focus, the fire, and the intensity they showed Saturday and Sunday, those questions will be mute because Auburn ‘will be’ selected for play in the NCAA post season.

Go Tigers Beat Jax State!

Time for Auburn Baseball to Get the Job Done

By Posted on: May 1st, 2013 in Baseball 1 Comment »

                                      Garret Cooper hit two homeruns in Tigers’ 3-1 victory over
                                      Missouri April 26, 2013.

Last Friday the  Auburn Baseball Team entered what may have been thier most important series to date. The Tigers needed to sweep13th place Missouri or at least win the series to help keep them in position for an NCAA Regional.

However, what should have been a big weekend for the Tigers (25-18, 7-14 SEC) ended with the 13th place Mizzou Tigers taking two of three and seriously hurting Auburn’s chances for making a regional. 

Both teams came into the weekend needing to improve their record; Missouri won the battle, taking their first SEC series of the year. John Pawlowski said. “Give (Missouri) credit. They out-pitched us, they out-played us and certainly out-hit us.”

The two teams are now tied for 11th place and what’s worse, Missouri owns the tie breaker. In addition, the loss leaves Auburn in a precarious position in the race to make the SEC Tournament since only 12 teams make up the field.

Missouri (12-23, 4-13 SEC) represented Auburn’s best chance to make up ground on the rest of the league. Question now is, “Can Auburn still make both post season tournaments?” The answer is yes. It’s definitely possible. Yet the odds are stacked against them with three conference series left against No.14 Ole Miss, Arkansas, and No. 12  Florida on the road.

Pawlowski’s Tigers are now in a tough spot, needing to win at least two thirds of their remaining games to be in tournament contention; a tall order in any season much less when Auburn is sitting in the number 11 spot.

For the most part,  Auburn pitching has been good enough to win; but the Tigers have either not produced at the plate or have been unable to bring runners home.

The same thing held true in Columbia. Except for Garrett Cooper‘s  two home runs in Friday night’s 3-1 victory, the Tigers were unable to convert on scoring opportunities.

Auburn’s season is still salvageable but time and options are running out. The Tigers have painted themselves in a corner and the only thing they can do now is to fight.  It’s time to get the job done.

(Editor’s note:
Auburn will be back at Plainsman Park Friday through Sunday to host Ole Miss.)

“Are you about TREE, or are you about FOOTBALL?”

By Posted on: April 18th, 2013 in Baseball, Basketball, Business - Entertainment, Football, Other Sports 11 Comments »

                                 The last roll will take place on April 20, 2013.

(Author’s note: In view of the fact that our Oaks’ time on the Plains is drawing to a close, I thought I would update and re-run the first article I wrote over here at the new Track ‘Em Tigers, about a true experience I had last summer.  MVH)

My wife Eileen and I were enjoying our first not-visiting-relatives vacation since…our honeymoon four years ago, staying at her mother’s vacation condo in Hilton Head (which is about the only way we could afford to “do” Hilton Head). After our beach-and-pool day, we decided to go to the iconic Salty Dog Café for dinner. Getting a table meant an hour-and-a-half wait, so we took a seat at one of the outdoor bars to eat.

Although she is a Montevallo graduate and a total non-sports fan (yes, I don’t know how we got together either), I finally got my wife to understand what it means to be a part of the Auburn family after taking her to the National Championship celebration and a Homecoming game. I think she got the picture after seeing 80,000 people all wearing the same shirt. In any case, Eileen and I were both wearing Auburn t-shirts and coordinating shorts, not quite matchy-matchy (although I really don’t mind going completely matchy-matchy, which is one of my endearing qualities according to her) but close enough.

A fellow sitting by himself on another side of the bar to our right was talking to everyone around and no one in particular, with a misplaced sense of bravado and self-assuredness that men sitting by themselves at a bar often have. He wore a cap with the legend “NO1 GR8TR” on the front and the Kentucky “K” on the side. It didn’t take him long to notice our Auburn attire. “Awww, you’re from Auburn,” he said, thereby becoming Mr. MOTO (Master Of The Obvious) in my mind. “That’s okay, I like Auburn, they’re SEC, that’s good,” he continued. “But look out for these folks,” he said, pointing to a couple on the other side of the bar from us, “They are Alabama!” Eileen and I exchanged a pleasant wave with the Bama contingent (who incidentally were not wearing colors, and didn’t even look like they were going to make a deal about AU, Bama, or anything else for that matter).

Someone asked him what the notation on his cap meant. “It means ‘No One Greater’—that sure describes me!” Mr. MOTO guffawed, and explained it also represented Kentucky’s recent NCAA Basketball Championship. I really couldn’t ignore this fellow, and the misplaced bravado and self-assuredness was starting to rub me the wrong way. I butted in, “If the ball isn’t pointy or has laces, I don’t really care about it,” which refers to my love of football, rugby, and baseball, and my total present indifference to basketball. “That’s what happens when you can’t win championships,” he rejoindered, thereby scoring a cheap and inelegant, yet nonetheless valid, zinger on me.

True to what I dubbed him in my mind, Mr. MOTO continued on: “Hey, you got those trees down there at, what-do-they-call-it?” thus engaging me in more conversation than I wanted. “Toomers Corner, right in front of the Auburn campus,” I filled in. “Yeah, they poisoned them trees, what’s going on with that?” he asked. The Bama people then jumped right on into the conversation, chirping brightly, “But the trees are alright now.” “No, they are not,” I replied back, “They are biologically alive, and may stay that way for a while, but our horticulture department at Auburn says they may be what they call ‘aesthetically dead’ soon.” Not wanting to be left out of the conversation that he started, Mr. MOTO interjected, pointing at me and saying “Hey listen—Are you about TREE, or are you about FOOTBALL?”

My heart skipped a beat for a second when I heard that, and I had to catch my breath. I’d like to think the whole outdoor bar went silent, like in an old western movie, waiting for my reply (of course, it didn’t).

“I’m about AUBURN,” I told this fellow, and the Bama folks, and anyone else who wanted to hear my voice at normal speaking level. “Those trees are a part of our campus, and that campus is a part of our tradition, and all those things, plus every Auburn man and woman who ever passed under those trees, make up Auburn. Auburn is more than trees, or football, or any other thing. I’m about AUBURN.”

Fortunately, our food finally came, and I was relieved to be free from the conversation into which I was reluctantly drawn. A woman came up to me and said, “I think it is just TERRIBLE what they did to those trees.” And it is terrible, but it is more terrible to think why someone would do that to our trees. Folks, the man who “allegedly”admittedly poisoned our trees did that not because he is a jerk, not because he hates trees, and not because he has “too much Bama” in him (a sentiment which was repudiated by the family of Tommy Lewis, the originator of the quote). That man “allegedly” did this because he wanted to hurt all of us that hold Auburn dear. As such, he “allegedly” did this because he, along with all the Bama fans that now idolize him, stands, at heart, against all that Auburn really is. The thing is, he really isn’t smart enough to understand that about himself, but it is still true nonetheless.

So, folks, as we live our lives and scream “WAR EAGLE” and mourn our trees and enjoy our football, let’s remember one thing—at heart, we are all about AUBURN, and no less than all of AUBURN.

Michael Val

(who believes in Auburn…ALL of Auburn…and LOVES IT!)

Can Auburn Baseball Make a Case for the Postseason?

By Posted on: April 16th, 2013 in Baseball 6 Comments »
5169bf07e1f5b_image- Michael O'Neal

                   Michael O’Neal is on track to be the Tigers first 10 game winner since 2003.

After the Auburn Baseball team plays Samford  tonight in Birmingham, the last  half of the SEC Baseball season will begin on Thursday. And despite winning their last two series, the Auburn Tigers have a mountain to climb if they want to play in the post season.

Even though Auburn sports a 17-4 non conference record, the Tigers began the SEC season at a dismal 0-7, the worst conference start since 2007.

But after winning the series with No.17 Texas A&M in College Station, the Tigers won for the seventh time in eight games and fourth time in six Southeastern Conference games this past weekend when they took two of three from Georgia at home.

It was a shot in the arm to win consecutive SEC series after winning just one game in the first three series. However, Georgia has one of the worst teams in recent years and Auburn really should have swept the Dawgs. A sweep would have gone a long way in making up lost ground from the first half of the season.

While the pitching staff led by Michael O’Neal (7-2) has done a good job with a team ERA of 3.33 (the lowest mark at this point in the season since 2002) – the offense has struggled. It was the lack of offense that prevented the Tigers from getting the sweep against Georgia.

Auburn had a combined 25 hits in its two victories against the Bulldogs on Friday and Saturday but could only muster three in the last game of Saturday’s double header.

In the first half of the season, John Pawlowski became the Tigers’ all-time third Winn ingest baseball coach (by number of wins.) Yet Auburn finds itself in the familiar position of possibly not making the NCAA. Because of it, some believe Pawlowski will be on the hot seat if

… the Tigers fail to make it to the NCAA tournament. The mid-season record of 22-14 and 5-10 in the SEC is not a bad record per se  but it doesn’t get any easier from here on out. 

Nine of the 15 remaining SEC games will be on the road, including series against No.16 Mississippi State this weekend and No. 7 Florida in the season final. The Tigers must also face No.10 Arkansas and No.18 Ole Miss at home. To have a chance to get into an NCAA regional, Auburn needs to at least split those remaining series.

After winning the SEC West three years ago and hosting a regional, Auburn has narrowly missed making the NCAA field the last two years. A sweep of at least one opponent would not only improve their record and enhance their chances, but would do wonders for their confidence. That prospect is doable although it will be a tall task.

The good news though, is the Tigers control their own destiny. At the midpoint of the conference season, they are in 11th place. Still, before all is said and done there could be a lot of rearranging in the conference standings with 15 games left to play.

I still believe it’s possible for the Tigers to wind-up with a good year – an SEC/NCAA postseason year. But the metal of Pawlowski‘s Tigers is about to be really tested.

Will they finish strong and propel themselves into the SEC and NCAA Tournaments? Or will they wilt into a near miss team once again? The fate of their future and quite possibly John Pawlowski’s may hinge on it.

Go Tigers beat Samford and MSU!