Bruce Almighty!

By Posted on: March 18th, 2014 in Basketball 24 Comments »
photo by julia bennett/al.com

Photo by Julie Bennett/al.com

Who would have dreamed that the most prominent coach ever hired by Auburn University would be its basketball coach? In a span of little more than a year, the athletic department has gone from employing Gene Chizik and Tony Barbee to Gus Malzahn and Bruce Pearl as its two marquee coaches.

George Jefferson would be proud.

It’s a shame Jay Jacobs won’t allow himself a few stiff drinks because if anyone has earned it, it’s the reinvigorated athletic director. Hell, I’d be running around tonight in my boxers with my tie around my head. Mike Tyson wouldn’t be able to knock the smile off my face.

Has anyone grown into a job better than Jacobs? Less than 18 months ago, Las Vegas wouldn’t have given you a line on his job security. Now you have to wonder whether there’s another one better.

One thing is certain. If Bruce Pearl can’t succeed at Auburn with a still new arena and an energized fan base, then it can’t be done. We’ll know soon enough. Past success never guarantees the future, but it’s hard to imagine this program not competing for championships soon.

When the wheels of Auburn’s plane touched down today, Tiger basketball became relevant again. There couldn’t be more of a contrast in Tuscaloosa. It’s hard to explain how an athletic department with its recent football national championships now suddenly looks worn and tired.

Trophies have been replaced by a whining football coach who suddenly looks and acts old; and its basketball program has officially been tossed out as just another athletic department expense that sucks away profits.

While Alabama fans spent early Tuesday talking about how cool it was that Vince Vaughn bought Lane Kiffin’s home in California, Jacobs punched Tide boss Bill Battle in the nose with the Pearl hire. Once Battle was on the ground, it was Bama fans that were kicking him while he was down.

Paul Finebaum said Pearl’s hiring was Battle’s worst nightmare. I may argue that Kiffin is, but why split hairs?

And who said Auburn basketball couldn’t upstage football on the first day of spring practice?

With March Madness barely underway, the most asked question in these parts is when does basketball season start? Something tells me a seat at Auburn Arena may be a tougher buy than one in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Who would have guessed it?

Happy Birthday Coach Pearl ! – (with videos)

By Posted on: March 18th, 2014 in Basketball, News 2 Comments »

It’s Coach Bruce Pearl’s birthday today and he says coming to The Plains was a great way to celebrate the day. In the following video, watch Rod Bramblett’s (the voice of the Tigers), meeting with the new Head Men’s Basketball Coach. It’s Coach Pearl’s first interview at Auburn.

You can really get a good feel for the man, his philosophy and especially his impression of the Auburn Family. Be sure to see his last words in the first video and in the second video watch the fans greet him at the airport today.

The third video is Coach Pearl’s introductory press conference. Pearl says his reception was  “just beyond my wildest dreams.” The coach opens with a jubilant “War Eagle,” goes into the crowd to welcome Coach Malzahn, and then gives enthusiastic and humorous remarks followed by taking questions from the audience. Afterwards the students again wish their new coach a happy birthday. Watch it, you’ll enjoy it.

There’s no doubt he’s excited to be at Auburn and the fans are just as excited to have him in the Family. Happy Birthday Coach, welcome and …

War Eagle!

                            

In second video, fans sing Happy Birthday to Coach Pearl after greeting him at the Airport.

                             

In the third video, watch Coach Pearl’s unusual introductory press conference in front of fans at the Auburn Arena.

                            

Video of  Rod Bramblett’s, meeting with Auburn’s new Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Bruce Pearl in his first interview at Auburn. Pearl talks about his philosophy and about his impression of the Auburn Family.  be sure to see his last words in this piece. – See more at: http://trackemtigers.com/?p=25958#sthash.79LpxBbp.dpuf

Auburn Hires the Right Man as Tigers’ New Basketball Coach

By Posted on: March 18th, 2014 in Basketball, News 26 Comments »
BjBOeIkCYAAK7_p-Pearl

Auburn announced the hiring of Bruce Pearl this morning as the Tigers’ new basketball coach. Auburn AD, Jay Jacobs said, “From the moment I met Coach Pearl and heard his vision for our basketball program, it was clear he’s the right man at the right time for Auburn.”

One things for sure, Jacobs has brought a proven winner to The Plains. A three time National Coach of the Year and a two-time SEC Coach of the Year, he is the second fastest coach to amass 300 career wins in NCAA history.

“I’m humbled and blessed to be back in the game that I love,” Pearl said. “I don’t know how long it will take, but it’s time to rebuild the Auburn basketball program, and bring it to a level of excellence so many of the other teams on campus enjoy.”

Currently an ESPN analysts, he  took six teams to the SEC Tournament while coaching at Tennessee from 2005 – 2011. We are looking forward to seeing Coach Pearl bring his winning ways to The Plains. Basketball just got fun again.

Welcome Coach Pearl and War Eagle!

Writing On Wall For NCAA Amateur Status

By Posted on: March 18th, 2014 in Basketball, Featured Article, Football 15 Comments »
emmert

Yesterday, a lawsuit was filed in US federal court in yet another attempt to tear down the amateur distinction of big time college athletes at big time college institutions in an ultimate attempt to get fair compensation for student athletes in the respective multi-billion dollar industries in which they toil. This new suit, against the NCAA and the five largest conferences, challenges the lawfulness of the “wage” assigned to football and basketball players to being capped at the value of an academic scholarship, presumably under existing anti-trust legislation. With recent suits also pursuing the NCAA on similar grounds, could it finally be 3rd and 25 for college football? Watch for the pooch kick here soon.

While no reasonable person can defend hundreds of millions in value added to major programs’ bottom lines by a countless parade of high-profile athletes with little more than tuition and board as the carrot, no sane college football fan can discount the negative effect of direct money payments to players on the integrity of the sport. While this type of compensation and resulting corruption have gone on ever since we’ve had the game of football, the modern age brings the spotlight full on the big money sport it truly is. With major programs generating billions in revenue, the lavish amounts of money heaped on from ticket sales, television, and merchandising is too much to ignore anymore.

It’s un-American to think that  players’ images on TV and in video games can earn these types of dollars cumulatively but can provide no more than books, lodging,  and two semesters a year for the individual himself. It’s also unreasonable to think that the schools themselves, who have been building their brands for in excess of one hundred years in most cases, have no intrinsic value other than a revolving cast of semi-employees who filter in and out of their ranks every year. Why must it always be 3rd and long?

How did football and basketball end up like this, with the colleges serving as de facto farm systems for the sports, unlike baseball, which does provide a real alternative for those who wish to become semi-pro and those who want to remain amateurs until they get their education? We’ve so bastardized the systems and they’ve grown unchecked for so long that it may well now be impossible to separate those two distinctions again.

One must know that direct payments in the open to amateur athletes will only drive the illicit payments further underground and to ridiculous amounts. The NCAA investigative arm would never be so busy as it would be once direct compensation was approved for athletes. The corrupting influence of money over and under the table would kill the sport entirely as the integrity of the sport, schools, and individual players will be under constant scrutiny. Larger schools could always pay more than the smaller ones–the same with conferences. Recruiting would literally morph into a draft.

No one wants to think about the alternative of the pros establishing legitimate farm systems for football and basketball. Even if the NFL and NBA could, the lure of college athletics would still be strong. What 18-year old kid would want to play in front of nobody for $50,000 a year if he could instead strut his stuff in front of  a home crowd of 90,000 and a national TV audience? It would be a much harder decision than you think. You can’t break the stranglehold of decades of national prominence and tradition overnight–for any price. I’d like to think we’d still root for our schools even if we only fielded intramural level teams, but college fans are a lot more sophisticated than they were even two decades ago. Everything in the sport is evolving.

I think it’s inevitable. Athletes are soon going to get a better compensation package than they’ve been getting. So many lawsuits, so much money, and so many good arguments about the fairness of it all are swaying the sentiment. The only details are in what form the compensation will be. Here’s some of the things I think I know what it CANNOT be:

  • An inducement for a player to be recruited by a particular school
  • Anything based on wellness or non-injury
  • Differences in conferences
  • Media attraction, TV appearances, individual awards, or star power

I think a good starting point for compensation would be in a deferred fund for players of a division–FBS, FCS, etc– after their eligibility was exhausted. Call it the ultimate collective bargaining agreement. They all earn as a collective body and share in the rewards after their college careers have ended. Having the compensation deferred would help protect their amateur status, if not in word, then in perception. A share of all revenue they help earn would go into the pot, to be drawn on eventually for such issues as medical treatment, continuing education, and perhaps a pension.

No one should pretend to have all the answers on such a large, complicated, comprehensive issue as justly compensating college athletes a fair wage for the revenue they help generate, but we should try to get ahead of it very soon and do it voluntarily–instead of having it ordered as a judgement in a huge lawsuit.

How would you help solve it?

It’s Time for Auburn to Roll the Dice on Bruce Pearl

By Posted on: March 17th, 2014 in Basketball 8 Comments »

pearlEverywhere you turn these days, it’s all about Bruce Pearl. Can Auburn get him? Will Auburn take a chance on him? But what’s the real story behind the colorful former Tennessee coach? What do we really know about him?

Most importantly, he led a down-and-out Tennessee program to six straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Auburn has been to eight total in its history. He’s the second fastest coach to 300 wins in NCAA history.

Prior to Tennessee, he won a Division II national title at Southern Indiana and then followed that up with two NCAA Tournament appearances while at Milwaukee.

But more than a winning record, Pearl brings excitement. The only thing worse than Tony Barbee on the court, was talking to him off it. He never connected with the students or alumni. There’s little evidence he even tried. He likely will be remembered as the worst Auburn basketball coach in the modern era.

Auburn needs excitement.

That won’t be a problem with Pearl who was almost always the most popular guy on campus. Whether it was painting himself orange or mugging for pictures with fans during football season. Hiring Bruce Pearl would guarantee a full Auburn Arena.

What are the risks?

How ironic that Dave Didion, the NCAA investigator who spearheaded the Pearl case at Tennessee, is now Auburn’s associate athletic director for compliance. Auburn’s pursuit of Pearl will likely come down to Didion’s recommendation.

In a column last week, Birmingham News columnist Kevin Scarbinsky wrote that there may be “more to that story that makes hiring Pearl less objectionable than many people might think.” He didn’t provide more detail.

Pearl was found guilty by the NCAA of inviting a high school recruit and his family to a cookout at his Knoxville home while the player was on an un-official visit. According to reports, Pearl acknowledged that the recruit should not be there, but rather than ask him to leave, encouraged those present to keep silent.

When questioned by the NCAA, Pearl reportedly lied about the gathering and it all went downhill from there. Ultimately, Pearl was fired by Tennessee and given a three-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA that remains in effect until August 23rd.

Auburn is known for having one of the top compliance departments in the country. This should ease any fears it has about giving Pearl a second chance. Besides, what does the program have to lose?

Auburn has arguably the worst program in the SEC and among the worst in major college basketball. Its new arena has done nothing to boast its stature.

Speaking with athletic director Jay Jacobs before the BCS National Championship, ESPN radio personality Colin Cowherd jokingly told Jacobs that he had no clue who the Auburn basketball coach was and couldn’t pick him out of a lineup.

That sums up the program now. Auburn’s not bringing in a top notch coach without some warts. Its only option is to take a chance on Pearl or give another up and comer a shot and hope he doesn’t turn out like Barbee.

I’m tired of being irrelevant. I have no illusions of being Kentucky, but one appearance in the tournament since 2003 is not going to cut it.

Roll the dice. Give Bruce Pearl a second chance.

What do we have to lose?

Auburn Dismisses Basketball CoachTony Barbee

By Posted on: March 12th, 2014 in Basketball, News 16 Comments »
AUBURN BASKETBALL

Auburn lost to South Carolina 74-56 tonight in the South Eastern Conference Tournament to end another losing season in the SEC. A short time later AD Jay Jacobs announced that Head Coach Tony Barbee would not be returning for a fifth year.

Barbee was 49-75 overall and 18-51 in his four years in the SEC. It was  the second-worst conference winning percentage (26.5 percent) in Auburn program history. The last time the Tigers were that bad was in the 1946-47 season.

Jacobs said that while he was grateful for what Barbee had tried to build on The Plains, it was just time to move on.

“We made an incredible investment in basketball, and certainly appreciate those players, particularly the seniors, who kept fighting.” (But) “I believe we should compete for championships in men’s basketball. It’s time for somebody else to have a turn. We need to find somebody to come in here and take what we have here now and put some more in and compete for SEC titles.”

Jacobs said the search for a new coach would begin immediately.

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?

The Auburn Bruisers.

By Posted on: February 27th, 2014 in Basketball 7 Comments »
Auburn Arena

Should Tony Barbee get another year?
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! I decided to watch a little Auburn basketball tonight on my DVR, and I think a cage match broke out. At home in Auburn Arena, Auburn took out the trash and decked South Carolina 83-67. A 16 point win at home against a team that’s 3-12 in the SEC is not too much to crow about, but Auburn continued their physical ways. South Carolina tried to beat Auburn at their own game, and a foul-fest ensued. The teams combined for 60 free throw attempts, with Auburn getting 35 of those.

     About the only place where South Carolina came out ahead was in the rebound department, clearing 36 rebounds to Auburn’s 25. However the Gamecocks negated that advantage by turning the ball over 20 times to just 11 for Auburn. While elbows, hacking, charging, and a couple of technical fouls on Auburn were the order of the day, the real story was Auburn outshooting the Gamecocks. Auburn hit 52 percent from the floor, while South Carolina was just 40 percent.

     Chris Denson led the way on the scoreboard with 22 points for the Tigers, going 8 for 11 from the floor. The Tigers led by as much as 20 in this game, before surviving a late run by the Gamecocks. The Tigers improved to 13-13 on the season, and 5-10 in the SEC. There’s certainly a sense of optimism and perseverance on this team. Auburn has remaining regular season games at Alabama, Tennessee at home, and at Texas A&M. The Vols are the biggest challenge left on the schedule at 17-11, 8-7 in the SEC. However, the Vols have been pretty abysmal on the road, going just 4-8. Alabama and Texas A&M will be at home against the Tigers, and Auburn has won just one game away from Auburn Arena this year, at South Carolina.

     Still, Auburn could win their remaining three games, and finish the regular season at 16-13. Would that be enough to save head coach Tony Barbee’s job? It can be argued that in year four, he’s a long way from what previous coach Jeff Lebo accomplished in his fourth season. Lebo’s 4th season included a 24-12 record, including 10-6 in the SEC. That team went 1-1 in the SEC tourney, then won 2 games in the NIT. Barbee hasn’t even been close to a post-season appearance. In the SEC, Barbee has gone 4-12, 5-11, 3-15. and this year 5-10 thus far in the SEC. Lebo was let go in early 2010 following a 15-17, 6-10 season.

     Jeff Lebo’s five-year, regular season SEC record was 31-49. Currently, Barbee is 17-46 in three-plus seasons. It’s possible he could equal Lebo’s 49 SEC losses in one less year, should Auburn fail to win one of the last three games. To top it off, this year’s team isn’t a scrappy team that wins a game here and there with less talent. This is a team with some legitimate SEC scorers, that wins by outshooting and outhustling teams, when it isn’t shooting itself in the foot. I’d argue that Barbee has brought in better talent, but he’s not getting the wins out of them that Lebo did. Seeing Lebo coach this current bunch would be interesting. He was a schemer, that Lebo. It would be even more interesting to see what Cliff Ellis would have accomplished with them. Auburn hasn’t been the same since Ellis was fired by Interim Jackass Ed Richardson.

     That said, I’d like to see how this team closes the season out. I cringe at the fouls this team commits, but then again they sometimes remind me of the late 1980s “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons teams. That team would hurt folks. They knew exactly how many fouls they had to give, and if you took the ball into the lane against them, you’d better have your insurance premiums paid up.

     I think it’s possible that Barbee stays on, if he beats Bama in Tuscaloosa this Saturday. The game’s at 2:00 PM in Coleman Coliseum. Bama’s coach Anthony Grant is fighting for his job, too, and it won’t be an easy game. Tide fans are not happy. I think I saw a “dumpster fire edition” post about Bama basketball over at RBR a couple of days ago. Just beat Bama, baby! For me, if we’re beating Bama, all is right with the world!

     In the more realistic terms the powers that be are going to be considering, I think Barbee needs to win at least three more games this season, to survive. Whether these are the last three of the regular season, or he gets them in the SEC tournament and/or postseason, I don’t think he can survive even a 14-17 finish. A win over Bama would help, but alone it won’t matter if he finishes the regular season 14-16, and gets dumped from the SEC tourney in the first round. A paltry crowd of just 4434 folks watched this one, well less than half capacity. The Tigers need to put more seats in the stands, plain and simple.