Is Auburn Turning the Corner?
The hiring of a softball and baseball coach hardly signifies the return of a once great athletic program. But there’s little doubt that last Friday’s announcements sent a loud and clear message to the rest of the SEC.
Athletic Director Jay Jacobs’s job will not be saved based on the results of spring sports. Like every other person in his position, his future will be determined by what happens on fall Saturdays.
Still, it takes nothing away from the magnitude of the hires Jacobs made in both sports. While more attention was given to the hiring of Oklahoma baseball coach Sunny Golloway, the real statement was made when Clint Myers was pulled from Arizona St. to lead the softball team.
He’s arguably the top coach in the game. He’s won two national titles in the past six years and left a program that’s expected to be a preseason top five team next year. Despite the pedigree, his success is far from guaranteed.
He’ll be expected to compete against an Alabama squad that’s become a perennial power, claiming the national title last year. Within the state, both South Alabama and Jacksonville St. qualified for regional births this year.
There can be no argument now that Jacobs didn’t go out and hire the best coach available; he deserves a lot of credit.
Maybe the group brought in to evaluate the athletic program earlier this year is paying off. I say Auburn should hire them back every year. Jacobs has always preached that he intends on hiring the best coaches available; for the first time it wasn’t just talk.
Pulling Golloway out of Norman was a bigger headline and no less impressive. It’s not every day that Auburn goes out and hires a name coach from a traditional sports powerhouse. In fact, in my lifetime I can’t remember it happening.
It will be shocking if Golloway fails. In 15 years as a head coach, he’s led his teams to 14 NCAA Regional appearances. This year’s Oklahoma team won the Big 12 Tournament and advanced to a Super Regional for the second straight year.
Golloway’s teams have won 40 or more games in each of the past four seasons. He also led Oral Roberts to Regional appearances in his six seasons there as coach.
Jacobs knows Auburn must compete in more than just football and men’s basketball. Across the state Alabama claimed four national titles last year (football, softball, gymnastics, women’s golf) and have added another in 2013 (men’s golf).
The Auburn program has yet to turn the corner, but after the events of Friday, they can clearly see it now. Give Jay Jacobs credit. He could have easily become defensive and shut down. Instead, he’s chosen to up his game.
It’s all any of us can ask.