Midweek Ramblings From The Plains (New President Edition)
Changes in the president's office this week at Auburn will result in A.D. Allen Greene (right) finally being allowed to run the athletic department (photo: Emily Enfinger/oanow)
It says a lot about a program when players turn down lucrative professional contracts to play college ball. And it says a lot about the coach who built the program. Sophomore stars, third baseman Edouard Julien and pitcher Jack Owen have decided to return for another year on the Plains, and both attribute their decision to a desire to stay with coach Butch Thompson.
Owen said, “ I’m excited to return to Auburn for my junior season and can’t wait to get back to work with Coach Thompson.” Julien added, “Coach Thompson talks about leaving a legacy, and our story isn’t over yet.” This is good news for a team with a goal of to returning to the College World Series in 2020.
Speaking of strong collegiate programs. Much was made this week on social media over the fact that Auburn is the only Division I school that has played for national championships in the big three sports in the last decade.
Gus Malzahn led football to the national game in 2013, Bruce Pearl had the basketball team in the final four this season, and Coach Thompson took the baseball Tigers to the College World Series this year. I don’t care who you are, that says a lot about athletic success on the Plains.
Who has the toughest schedule among Power 5 football? Veteran prognosticator Phil Steele says Auburn is near the top. And ESPN’s Chris Low says Auburn definitely has the No. 1 hardest schedule.
“A handful of schools could make cases, but nothing rises to the level of the gauntlet staring Gus Malzahn and Auburn in the face this season. The Tigers face six of the top 12 teams in ESPN’s latest Way-Too-Early preseason rankings, and four of those games are away from home [before] … Auburn returns home for its November grind … against No. 3 Georgia on Nov. 16 and No. 2 Alabama on Nov. 30. With a schedule like this, Malzahn’s seat just got hotter—if that’s possible.”
It’s good to read nationally recognized reporters pointing out just how difficult it is for Auburn to have a successful season. However, it’s not really news to veteran Auburn fans that see virtually the same scenario year end and year out, particularly since the league was divided in two divisions.
Oh, if Auburn could only play in the Easy East.
Finally, the big news this week has been the announcement of the resignation of University President Steven Leath. Too many have placed too much emphasis on Leath’s handling of negotiations of Gus Malzahn’s $49 million dollar contract. The parting of the ways goes much deeper than that.
From what I get from employees I know at Auburn, Leath upset too many people (at all levels) and didn’t seem to be bothered that he did. He chaffed board members with his lack of leadership in some areas like the football facility and overreach in other areas such as not allowing Athletic Director Allen Greene to handle contract negotiations.
He threw money around (not just at Gus) on building projects such as renovating the president’s mansion while slimming down the hourly employees’ pay scale, limiting the number of smoothies athletes could have, and chartering buses for the baseball team to travel eight hours to the super regional.
In short, Dr Leath’s micromanagement style revealed a lack of understanding of the significance of sports (particularly football) at an SEC school. His interim replacement, Dr. Jay Gogue, will allow Greene to run the athletic department, and that’s a good thing.
Until next time…