This and that in Auburn
More construction at Jordan Hare Stadium is planned
(Photo by Acid Reign)
War Eagle, everybody! It’s another brisk February morning in the state of Alabama, and I’ll look back on the week that was. We have leaking Tiger basketball defense, trouble with the trees, softball off to a great start, offensive football meetings without the head coach running it, Auburn financial news, and more.
We will start with the money. A couple of years ago around this time, I put out a bit of an alarmist post about what risks there might be when Auburn athletics start regularly operating at a deficit. It turns out that the sky is not actually falling. In Auburn’s annual report to the NCAA, the Athletic Department reported a surplus of $15.2 million. This follows the year before, where the Tigers showed a surplus of $9.2 million.
The Athletic Department got out of the hole basically by going out and finding more revenue. The 2014 department brought in total revenues of $113,716,004. The 2016 report lists $140,070,593. Auburn did sign a new media rights deal during this period, which accounts for a chunk of the deal, but there are other positive factors as well. The success of the SEC Network has boosted the budgets of every team in the SEC. Auburn has seen increased ticket sales and game guarantees. I would not expect the budget to stay that far in the black in coming years. New stadium projects should easily eat up any surpluses for the next several years as the price tag for the new game day facility is expected to be $28 million.
I can’t add much to what others have written about Auburn’s second-half basketball woes. I’ve seen opinions where folks want the team to play more zone defense and slow the game down. From what I’ve seen, this team is just not built that way. They are a fast, attacking team that thrives on points in transition. Trying to rely on a half-court offense will not help. I counsel patience, and let head coach Bruce Pearl and his staff do what they do. We should have known that there would be issues, starting mostly freshmen.
Count me among those saddened by the recent announcement that Auburn is going to have to replace the iconic Toomer’s oak trees once again. I am saddened but not terribly surprised. I’m no botanist, to be sure, but to my untrained eye one of them never looked as healthy as the other. Then, the trees were dealt a big blow by an arsonist followed by a historic drought in the state. The shocks were just too much for transplanted trees to survive, it seems. Here’s hoping for better results going forward.
Interesting times continue with the Auburn softball program. The team traveled to Mexico, and went 3–1 against a slate of top teams, including a victory over defending national champion Oklahoma. The narrative from a lot of outlets is, “What is wrong with Auburn’s bats?” To me, I think the important thing to note is that Auburn lost a handful of All-Americans to graduation and still came out and played at a high level. I’m looking forward to seeing what this team can do in conference play.
I don’t know whether to be excited or concerned, about the news that football Head Coach Gus Malzahn did not attend the first offensive planning meeting. I think it is great that new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey is getting a chance to run the show. On the other hand, Auburn has set a lot of offensive records in the 9 years since Coach Malzahn first signed up to coach the Tigers.
Here in February, the football Tigers are undefeated, and there is a lot of optimism. Until I see differently, I’ll entertain a fantasy that Auburn’s usually strong running game won’t miss a beat while Lindsey welds on some fresh air raid routes and run-pass options. Last season down the stretch, it was pretty easy to tell by receiver body language when the team had called yet another run play. That has to change for this year’s offense to be successful.
Color me amazed, and somewhat apprehensive about the sudden influx of ex-Auburn football head coaches now in residence in the Auburn area. Of Auburn’s last 5 full-time head coaches, Pat Dye, Tommy Tuberville and Gene Chizik are all now within an hour’s drive. Tommy Tuberville has already taken a gig writing a weekly column over at Auburn Undercover. It will be interesting to see what commentary, if any, comes from that camp on the current team as this year rolls along.
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