I started writing this after the Arkansas game, with a plan to finalize it after a week or two would either confirm or evaporate my fears and suspicions–and confirmed they are.
First off, I know that myself and others in the Auburn blogosphere often use the phrase “the Barfield era” with a heapin’ helpin’ of disdain and revulsion. I do not really know much about Coach Barfield, other than he was the guy in charge during my Auburn football coming-of-awareness. So, I have to make it very clear that I am not passing any judgment on his coaching skills, character, or anything else. However, I am intimately familiar with what it felt like to be an Auburn fan during the mid-to-late Seventies. Consequently, I use “the Barfield era” as a handy tag to encapsulate that feeling.
Also, as you have probably noticed, I am not a football expert, and I hope I never appear to claim that I am. I just love sports, college football, and ALL of Auburn, no matter how well our men in blue are playing in any particular year.
Now that all of that is out of the way: folks, lets be honest—we stink this year. It’s true; there’s no denying it and no room whatsoever to put a positive spin on the 2012 Auburn Tigers football season. This doesn’t detract one iota from my standing behind our team. What I fear, dread, and loathe is that this should become a trend—nay, a status quo—for some time to come.
Since I am not a football expert, I do not know if I’ll ever figure out on my own why the greatest team in the world two SHORT years ago is now, at least as far as the offense goes, the complete and total unmitigated train wreck that we have been seeing on the field each Saturday. Obviously, Cam isn’t here, but that alone doesn’t explain, to my own satisfaction, the totality of our precipitous plummet. If, as Coach Chizik says, Auburn was great before any of them got there and will be great after all of them leave, I sure cannot fathom why the AU offense has looked like Cumberland College for the few years pre- and post-Cam.
And it is when things are not known nor appear knowable that paranoia and other manifestations of irrationality set in (at least in me). We have all seen the “Chizik-minus-Cam” analysis going around. Although the math is correct, I am not convinced that that “statistic” is the sole indicator of what is going wrong. But do the math, and the numbers themselves come out “Chizik-minus-Cam-equals-Barfield.”
I remember how things seemed to me as a young boy in the Barfield era: Auburn was not to be a national player in the college football world, probably not even known by anyone outside the Florida/Georgia/Alabama area in which I lived and moved (I lived in Jacksonville, Florida, with grandparents in Mobile and West Georgia). All I could hope for was a stray win against the Gators and/or Georgia, with not too many losses against other teams. Bama, of course, seemed an unapproachable and unstoppable force, an annual Kobayashi Maru scenario with a predetermined ending.
I am just so fearful that tanking the coaches after this season will be such a disruption to our program’s recruiting and our offensive and defensive systems that it won’t recover until a few more unsuccessful coaches’ tenures down the line. Alternatively, if the “math problem” above provides an accurate calculation, keeping what is here now won’t seem to change the way things are either.
Basically, I am not ready to become the Chicago Cubs of college football—you know, the lovable losers with a fiercely loyal fan base whose fiercest rallying cry is “Wait till next year!” I am not prepared to become as irrelevant to the national college football scene as the UTEP Miners or to the SEC as Vanderbilt. I am not content to be “the little engine that could,” merely lying in wait to play spoiler to the BCS-bowl hopes of one of the “first division” teams in our conference.
I realize my reflections above represent a “doomsday scenario” for our beloved Auburn program, and I have no quantified probability for it becoming reality. I do not think it is LIKELY to happen, but it sure is within the realm of possibility. Furthermore, my own little Saturday football-watching self sure doesn’t know how to keep it from happening.
However, I think that the entire coterie of folks, whoever they may be, who have the ability to forestall this development should recognize that this is, in fact, a path down which our program could traipse, and should be applying every ounce of their perspicacity and perspiration to PREVENT this scenario from happening.
The Powers That Be (which thankfully no longer include a certain banking mogul with an over-assessment of his own worth) must set a standard of NEVER, NEVER, NEVER accepting mediocrity nor resting on whatever laurels have previously been earned. But by the same token, wins over rivals, conference and national championships, and all other accolades should not be the sole criteria of evaluation. The standard should be EXCELLENCE. The standard should be hard work. The standard should be a devotion to what makes Auburn Auburn, which IS excellence and hard work (at least that’s how I read the Creed).
We do this, and this year will be a strange bump, rather a dip, in the road. I leave it to the experts and “experts” (in the comboxes) to figure out how. When someone does find an answer, please let me know, so I can put the paranoia back into its cage for another time.
(who cannot, cannot, CANNOT go back to the mid-Seventies after standing on the mountain!)