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The Worst of Times for Auburn Football?

By on December 10th, 2018 in Football, News 23 Comments »

Are these the worst of times for Auburn football? It’s a question lots of people are asking these days. Is Auburn really on the edge of a long downward spiral that could continue for years? It certainly feels like a program staring into the great abyss.

Auburn has a reputation for doing stupid things. The unsuccessful coup attempt against Tommy Tuberville in 2003 tops the list. There have been many others. But what we are witnessing today is unprecedented. Forget Alabama or Georgia taking Auburn down. It’s being destroyed from within, and that’s what hurts so badly.

All signs point to this football program heading into a deep slumber, not unlike we’ve seen at Tennessee over the last quarter century. While Auburn’s two biggest rivals are in lock step, determined to own college football, in-fighting at the trustee level and poor presidential leadership threaten to bring an SEC powerhouse to its knees.

Gus Malzahn is not the problem. He is the by-product of a series of poor choices at key leadership posts starting in the president’s office. Jay Gogue’s ineffectiveness caused Auburn to fall behind. Choosing not to dispose of former athletic director Jay Jacobs in a timely matter and subsequently not staying on the cutting edge with a football-only facility and doing enough gameday improvements pushed Auburn significantly behind its rivals.

Steven Leath (along with board support) has only sped up the process with the ill-fated contract negotiations with Malzahn last year. Instead of doing what’s right for the program, he’s instead decided to double down and attempt to keep his own job. It doesn’t take a Philadelphia lawyer to see that Leath is interested in one person—himself.

In the end, this all falls back on a weak board of trustees that has allowed this charade to go on by not having the guts to make a change. Forget what you hear about this being Leath’s decision. Anyone who believes that also thinks everyone lives like The Brady Bunch.

Name me anyone in business who makes a $49 million blunder and lives to tell about it? Exactly. Rather than admit a mistake, suck it up, and move on, these leaders have decided to inflict more harm on Auburn people by ensuring that Malzahn has no chance of success moving forward.  

Auburn is burning. Numerous reports say there is serious disagreement among board members. New athletic director Allen Greene has been neutered by Leath, and reports say decisions are being made by board members loyal to Leath. Contrast this to the athletics fundraising being done in Tuscaloosa and Athens, and it will make you long for the days of Doug Barfield.

Did anyone really believe Kelly Bryant would come to Auburn? You would have to be a moron to jump on this sinking ship. He’d rather play at a basketball school where fans rarely show up for games on Saturday.

You know it’s bad when perhaps the most disgraced person in college football elects to take a small-school coaching job and half the money rather than jump into the frying fan with Malzahn. Hugh Freeze may have screwed up, but he’s not stupid.

Of course, it can always get worse, and it did. The biggest kick in the stomach was this weekend when high school coach turned South Carolina running backs coach Bobby Bentley chose to stay a position coach instead of becoming offensive coordinator on the Plains. The idea of tripling his salary and changing his family’s fortunes forever was not enough to hop into this inferno.

Now is not the time to sit idly by and watch Rome burn. It’s time to be heard. Auburn needs real change, and that starts with the president and board of trustees. Here’s to praying strong leadership emerges. Right now, it’s nowhere to be found.


  1. meathead530 says:

    This is a sad, yet eye opening read. I’m afraid that years from now we are going to look back and realize this is where it all began and long for the “good ol’ days” of winning seasons.

  2. PortCouncil1 PortCouncil1 says:

    Whoa. “Auburn is burning.” That is a bit over sensational. Things are less than ideal, I’ll agree. “Burning”? No, Auburn isn’t burning. There is a place between national championship contender and burning. Auburn is in that place.

    Auburn was going to triple Bentley’s salary? I haven’t seen it reported what Auburn was offering him to leave SC, or what SC was offering him to stay. I’m sure, however, you have more information than I.

    What Mr. Leath does, or what his credentials are that got him to the top of Auburn University, I don’t pretend to know. I’m completely stumped by it, actually.

  3. neonbets says:

    And Asa Martin transfers because the coaching staff inadvertently burned his redshirt. It seems the staff had to keep track of the number of games Martin played. They put him in 5 games, when 4 is the max in order to keep the redshirt. At first, I thought this was an inexcusable blunder. Five? C’mon–That’s one hand folks! This wasn’t 6 games. We’re not out here railing on Gus because he failed to his 2nd hand in order to do all that complicated counting stuff with two hands. This was ONE HAND!

    But then I thought about it some more. Maybe he wasn’t using his hands. Instead, maybe he was at a chalkboard, marking out the ‘IIII’ as he counted. And then, you know when that darned Number 5 comes? We’ve all been there. We all know how confusing it gets with you have to account for that complicated diagonal across the ‘IIII’ for the Number 5. Gus just missed the diagonal part. I don’t think it’s fair to blame him for this. Gus deserves a pass on this one, guys. Go Auburn!

  4. AUsomeAU AUsomeAU says:

    most dispicable thing I’ve ever read on this site … esp. in the context given after reading Sully’s latest piece

  5. WarSamEagle WarSamEagle says:

    The school/program definitely needs strong leadership. We would have a proven OC at Auburn but for this mess. When most of the really experienced prospects took a look at the dysfunctional situation on the Plains, they didn’t want any part of it. And you know the situation is probably being used against Auburn in recruiting too.

  6. When Steven Leath was hired from Iowa State I was concerned that he would not understand how important football is in the SEC. And that fear has more than come true. He’s proven he has little to no understanding of how to do his job as it relates to athletics. Now he has compounded his bad decision from last December. What a mess he’s made of things! The best way for him to start correcting some of it – is to let Allen Greene do his job.

  7. Dareilly89 says:

    I love Auburn football, and I love Auburn. My dad took me to my first game when I was 5 or 6…I didn’t care at that point in my life, but going to Auburn and attending sporting events became tradition. This article rings true to the underlying issue at Auburn. Sad thing is, it’s been this way for a while now. We will come out of this…hopefully sooner rather than later, but I have to say, none of this truly surprises me. Someone has said it on here before, but we don’t have any true visionaries at Auburn and we desperately need them. I’ll still be at games next year screaming War Eagle, but it really hurts to see us going through this situation.

  8. This may be so but articles like this don’t help, it’s time to stop the negativity and get behind our program.

  9. zotus zotus says:

    First, I want to associate myself fully with Jay’s editorial.

    Tough as they were to say, the words (sadly) needed to be said, especially by someone of Jay’s standing in the “Auburn media.” Thanks for saying them Jay.
    P.S. Now I want repeat something I’ve said before on the subject at hand. Here goes:

    Just as in the Edward John Smith debacle in 1912, Auburn University President Steven Leath — over a 100 years on — is responsible for having run that which he commands headlong into a disaster.

    What Mr. Leath is doing right now, from his comfortable, well appointed corner office at Auburn are actions so futile in the face of impending catastrophe, that they would be the equivalent of Capt. Smith having spent his last 2 hours and 40 minutes on this planet, “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

    This man Leath is an incompetent administrator and a monumental embarrassment. No way this man Leath should have been allowed to start “renegotiating” Malzahn’s contract. Not after what he did to put Auburn in this mess last December. Didn’t Leath just — for no good reason anybody knows — give Malzahn that contract a year ago? H-E-L-L-O-!-!-!

    There is something rotten in Auburn right now, and most all of us by now have come around to that fact.

    If there is any justice left in all of Lee County, Mr. Leath should be brought up on charges of malfeasance and let the chips fall where they may. And, Mr. Leath’s personal rubber stamps on the BOT should be shown the door too. Post haste.

    Jay Jacobs got out of town scott free. Don’t let the same thing happen with this guy, Steven Leath … and, his minions on the BOT.

    Step up and do your jobs, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Auburn BOT. You too, Allen Greene.

  10. Sullivan013 Sullivan013 says:

    With respect to Charles Dickens, it could also be the Best of Times – a story of hope and recovery out of season of turmoil.

    It all depends on which side you see the coming season from – that of Madame Defarge and the Tricoteuses under the shadow of the guillotine or from Miss Pross and Lucie Manette with the thought that every day dawns with hope.

  11. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    GOOD GRIEF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. idnod idnod says:

    It is what it is. I have no problem with Malzahn running the offense, assuming that it will operate at a much higher level than it has for the last 3 months. But I would suggest finding a couple of big ol bruiser running backs who can pound the ball. And stock up on both sides of the line. And if we’re gonna be an RPO Zone Read offense, then put in the QB who was recruited to run that offense, and turn him loose. A win over Purdue will quench these fires, at least for a while. Lets see what happens in the next couple of weeks . . .

  13. dyingculture dyingculture says:

    Well, I think most regulars on this site got what they wanted. We got a QB coach who will focus mostly on QBs, and Malzahn is the OC. Malzahn is betting on himself and going all-in.

    Say what you will about Malzahn, but he has got a lot more guts than anyone gave him credit for. He probably cost himself about $10 million, all for one final chance and he decided to go all in. He will get fired no matter what he does, but Malzahn is going to go down his way, and hopefully in a blaze of glory.

    This is Auburn. Let’s all get behind Malzahn for his last go at this, because this kind of thing is very rare to behold.

  14. AUinRoswell says:

    I am not sure why everyone is in the FIRE MALZAHN camp. We had a unremarkable year.
    We should be at least 9-3 or 10-2. BUT the FIRE MALZANH camp would not be satified. They
    want to get rid of MALZAHN the week before the 2017 Georgia game.

    Two GRAND WINS over archrivals in 2017. Then the loss to Georgia in the SEC Champioship. I was at the Peach Bowl last year. You could tell the team was tired and unenthused. Coaching is part of it, but the TEAM HAS TO WANT TO WIN. Running back not wanting to play in the bowl games for a possible NFL career. Some thing are out of a HEAD COACHES hands.

    The team lack offense this year. The QB could get rattled at times. The OC either did not make adjustments at half time or made really really bad ones. Because our 2nd half offense
    STUNK!! Everyone wanted Malzahn away from play calling. What did that get the team?

    Auburn is exciting with the NASCAR offense and a KICK ASS defense. Most of the time we have the defense. Malzahn calling the plays with a dual threat QB will bring back the offense.

    I say give Malzahn, the new OC, and the coaches & staff a chance to turn the ship around. We have everything to gain. Being negative 24/7 will only bring the TEAM DOWN EVEN FARTHER!

    We must SUPPORT THE TEAM the AU FAMILY way! Totally & always!!

    GO AUBURN – Beat the Boilermakers!!! WAR DAMN EAGLE!!

    • dyingculture dyingculture says:

      But you know Lindsey is a genius. Every good thing that happens on offense is because of Lindsey’s brilliance, and every bad play is because Malzahn got in his way. Stidham’s regression had nothing at all to do with Lindsey’s coaching or lack thereof, and his inability to throw downfield and his happy feet were because of Malzahn’s high school offense. What’s this talk about blaming Lindsey all of the sudden?

  15. Orange Talon Orange Talon says:

    “Gus Malzahn is not the problem. He is the by-product of a series of poor choices at key leadership posts starting in the president’s office.”

    Question: What is/was the $49M blunder you referred to?

  16. WDEGirl says:

    Why FIRE MALZAHN?? (i will continue with all caps) BECAUSE AUBURN IS NOT A RESILIENT FOOTBALL TEAM and it is due to lack of leadership and poor coaching.

    Every year at some point in the season, Malzahn trots out the same tired excuses, “this is a young team”, “we’re banged up”. Every single year we are one injured player away on both sides of the ball, from being a disaster.

    That is poor coaching, poor recruiting, lack of leadership, lack of player development, I could go on and on.

    Alabama, Georgia and Clemson, just take a look at their QB situation the last few years.
    – AL – Jalen was a playmaker as a Freshman, 2nd season has issues, no problem, they put Tua, a fresman in. This year Tua has issues, no problem, they put Jalen back in. They had SUCCESS with 2 freshman QB’s. That’s resiliency and excellent recruiting and player development.

    – UGA – Jacob Eason played as freshman with some success, they AU in Jordan Hare. The next season after Eason is hurt in first game, who steps in? Freshman Jake Fromm, who leads them to the Nation Championship game and then this season gets them back in the SEC Championship game. That is resiliency and excellent recruiting and player development.

    – Clemson – Kelly Bryant leads them to the National Championship game; 2018 season, Dabo decides to go with Freshman Trevor Lawrence, who leads them back to the CFP. That’s resiliency and excellent recruiting and player development.

    And that is just highlighting one position, QB. You can look up and down AL, UGA, Clemson and even Ohio St on both sides of the ball….somebody gets hurt, it’s not a DISASTER and there goes the season.

    Everybody in the SEC plays the same number of games. Football is hard and tough, players get hurt. Players leave early for the NFL on every team in College Football. Why is it so hard for Auburn to handle? Why is Auburn so tired and beat up at the end of every season, when we play the toughest part of our schedule (UGA, AL, SEC Championship game [if we get in], Bowl Game)???

    Because AU does not recruit for depth, AU does not get enough recruits in key positions (offensive linemen, no offensive lineman in 2018 class, and only 1 so far in 2019 class), poor player development , which is poor coaching, lack of leadership.

    That, my friends, is why MALZAHN SHOULD BE FIRED.

  17. Solojoe says:

    While I’m definitely not arguing about the development part of it, here are the real numbers as far as O-line recruiting goes:
    2017 3
    Calvin Ashley OT
    Nick Brahms OG
    Austin Troxell OT
    2018 2
    Jalil Irvin OG
    Kameron Stutts OT
    2019 2 (so far with several other offers still to commit)
    Keiondre Jones OG
    Justin Osborne OG

    • Orange Talon Orange Talon says:

      I like numbers too, here a few more to ponder..

      7-5 so far this year, including the smooth 30-24 loss to Tennessee
      1-4 in bowl games since 2013,
      2-5,* 2-6, and 2-5 against LSU, *GA (Lost ’17 SEC Champ Game), and Alabama respectively over the last 6 years

      Auburn is ranked 9th this year in the SEC in rushing
      Stidham is ranked 9th this year in the SEC in passing
      Auburn is ranked 11th this year in the SEC in total offense

  18. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    We should beat pretty do; right?

  19. Been following you for years Jay, got to say I’m very disappointed in you for publishing something like this.

  20. uglyjoe says:

    I guess the truth hurts… Good read Jay.

  21. Solojoe says:

    I guess everybody has their own "truths" then…here's my opinion in counter to Jay's. This is just my opinion and I admittedly have no inner knowledge or sources. This is strictly the way I rationally looked at some of those same things that Jay posited as reasons to think "Auburn is burning".
    1. Kelly Bryant would've had to be a moron to come to Auburn and instead chose a basketball school where fans rarely show up for football games. OK I agree that Auburn would not be a good choice for him next year especially if he's looking to go to the NFL and wants someone who can best prepare him for that jump and he only has one year to get it done. I don't think it had anything to do with Auburn's so called sinking ship condition though. I think it had more to do with the fact that Auburn's current OC had just quit (or been asked to leave/fired) and knowing Malzahn is a zone-read, run-first type coach and not a pass-first type guy also might've given me some caution as a QB looking to go to the NFL. Add to that the fact that Missouri had just prepared a guy that will most likely be an early, if not first round, QB in Drew Lock (basketball school and empty stands not withstanding) and I would easily pick them regardless of the perceived situation at Auburn.
    2. Hugh Freeze would have to be stupid to come to Auburn. Well maybe so but perhaps not because of any “frying pan and fire” landing situation at Auburn. If I understood what most have said and I have read (because that's all we have to go by since no details have been released), Malzahn could not offer any perspective coaches any enticements or salary that was not revenue neutral to come to Auburn. Hugh Freeze wanted a two or more year deal that would've been outside the revenue neutral parameters set by the renegotiated contract and even though Malzahn requested a waiver in order to hire Freeze it was denied, effectively killing any possibility of hiring Freeze or any other well respected and/or highly desired coach. We wont even go into the fact that any deal concerning Freeze would have had to have been approved by the SEC and they had already blocked Freeze from going to Alabama last year as an analyst so who knows if that had anything to do with it as well.
    3. Bobby Bentley choosing to stay at South Carolina was a big kick in the stomach. First of all, I'm doubtful of the "tripling his salary" part simply because Bentley was making $400,000 a year at South Carolina and Lindsey's base salary was just over $700,000 a year at Auburn from what I've read. I'm very doubtful that he, a (somewhat unproven as offensive coordinator) running backs coach for SC, was offered 1.2 million to come to Auburn. Let's also not forget the revenue neutral restriction which an offer like that would not meet. Now, the salary part aside, there is no doubt that Malzahn is year to year at Auburn starting next year. Not much job security to offer someone who is pretty secure with his job at SC. Also to consider was that he has a son playing QB there and another one of his son's is on the strength and conditioning staff at SC as well. While being an offensive coordinator would be a move up, would anyone who was actually ready for a real OC job be willing to accept one in which you would not be the play caller? Another legit reason to not take the job if in fact it was offered which I've only seen as a "sources close to the program" story as most of these usually are reported.
    Again, all this is my opinion and conjecture just like I'm of the opinion that Auburn, while being in a less than ideal situation, is not at all "burning". And I don't even own a fiddle.

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