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What, Really, Has Changed?

By on December 1st, 2018 in Football 19 Comments »

What are the colors of your stripes as a Auburn fan?

What has changed at Auburn? Personally, I think we as fans have.

Let me explain.

Imagine, if you will, just one year after a remarkable 10-win season with unlooked for and miraculous wins over both Georgia and nationally ranked Alabama in the Iron Bowl you turn your attention to the following scenario: An Auburn football team struggles mightily both offensively and defensively under its long-standing head coach the very next year.  The team starts the year ranked in the top ten but then falls to no fewer than five SEC opponents, including an unranked, low spirited team from the East, and is blown off the field by five touchdowns by a number-one ranked Alabama team under an all-time winning coach with a new and revolutionary juggernaut of an offense.  Attendance at home games drops as the season progresses, media pundits outside the state openly question whether the Auburn coach will stay, and are aghast at what the Auburn administration chooses to offer its head coach after this catastrophic season, especially in light of how the team underachieved in every measurable category on the field of play.

What about the Auburn faithful? What is the response by both students and alumni? What sort of articles were published in the Plainsman about this now beleaguered coach who is the only link to a national title in recent memory but has suffered twenty something losses in the last five years? What is the highly questionable action the school administration chooses to do in light of this turmoil?

They added his name to the stadium.

“We love you Shug, God Bless you and War Eagle!” Alabama governor George Wallace, October 6, 1973.

Ralph “Shug” Jordan and his team were in a world of hurt in 1973. Just one year after the famous 10–1 “Amazins” of 1972 that culminated in the celebrated “Punt Bama Punt” Iron Bowl win, the Auburn team was embarrassed both at home and around the SEC with punishing losses to Tennessee, LSU, Florida, a woefully inept Georgia team, and was shut out in the Iron Bowl by Bear Bryant’s team who won 35–0 with the aid of Bama’s new wishbone offense that shattered the Auburn defense.

What sort of articles in were in the Plainsman during all of this?

Read that article in full here.. Alabama was a 24-point favorite and STILL beat the spread, winning by five touchdowns.

Were there any disparaging comments about Shug Jordan and his coaching ability? Any questions about getting a new coach, paying Shug off or openly questioning his commitment, ability or opining how much of a mistake it was to hire him?

I don’t see a single one. Instead I see advertisements like this.

Auburn Plainsman, Volume 80, Issue number 9, Thursday, November 29th, 1973.

Coach Jordan lost 21 games in the six years prior to 1973, didn’t have a season since 1958 with fewer than two losses prior to the 1972 Amazins, and had only three Iron Bowl victories in the previous ten years against Bear Bryant. In 1973, his team finished 6–6 after losing in the Sun Bowl against Missouri, his third bowl loss in five years.

Additionally, just prior to 1967, Coach Jordan had a four year stretch (1963–1966) in which the Auburn team lost 21 games, including its single bowl appearance against a 6–4 Mississippi team (1965 Liberty Bowl).

Gus Malzahn has had two Iron Bowl victories in six years against Nick Saban (equaled only by Les Miles and Hugh Freeze since Saban came to Tuscaloosa, I might add), lost five games this season just one year after a ten-win season and November victories over both Alabama and Georgia.

And what has been the response by the public and the media? A sharp contrast to what was published and expressed way back then. Even if you include articles in the Plainsman by a star football player on the team who would join his fellow teammates on a protest walkout just three months later (legendary Thom Gossom and the short-lived 1974 Mustache protest ).

We thought differently about our team and coaches back then and treated them remarkably differently, too, even though the usual political and social aspects of living in our country were much the same: at the tail end of a lengthy and controversial overseas war, turmoil and open warfare in a troubled Middle East, foreign opposition centered in Moscow and Beijing (known at Peking at the time) with a slight softening due to economic realities, troubled Presidential administrations from both major political parties, and even some opposition from our NATO allies. Women’s rights, social divides due to race, ethnicity, age, voting turmoil, embargoes, pollution, oil prices, etc. You name just about any social, political, or economic issue other than access to the Internet, they were likely present then too in some form or fashion.

At least we’re not having to deal with all the Bicentennial hoopla, but even that smarmy smiley face is still with us as an emoticon.

Nevertheless, we still extended a level of trust and understanding to our coaches, tendered with a respect for their efforts for us. Sometimes I wish we could return to that type of loyalty to the team, the institution it represents and to a head coach that just recently helped us contend for shots at a national title.

I don’t know about anyone else, but my navy and burnt orange stripes say let’s give Gus another chance to improve as we did for Shug 1974. He fundamentally changed his offense to the veer and had another glorious 10-win season before retiring in 1975, earning the deep respect of his longtime friend and adversary.

Bear Bryant tips his hat to his rival on the eve of their last Iron Bowl together in 1975.

“Thank you all, and I will forever be very grateful” said Auburn Head Coach Shug Jordan at the 1973 ceremony announcing the name change for Auburn’s stadium



  1. Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

    All I am going to say is this. If alabama thought that way and compared their mediocre coaches to the Bears bad years, theyd still have mike shula and not Saban.

    • Solojoe says:

      You can hammer me for saying this but I'm not sure comparing Malzahn To Shula is exactly apples to apples.

      Shula in the 4 years he was at Bama never beat LSU or Auburn, not once, even in the one 10 win year he had. He also never had them in contention for a national championship at the end of any of those years and only once was better than .500 for the year.

      Gus Malzahn not only has wins against all our major opponents in the SEC but he has also beaten them when they were #1 and we were not expected to win. Never been at .500 or below either, not in his first year nor in his worst year and I'm not sure Auburn has ever had a football coach they can say that about.

      He also has had us in the national championship game once and in the national conversation more than once while he's been here. Would he get us there again, not sure. Definitely not if the AU leadership is not giving him full support to do what he deems necessary as alluded to in the recent stories.

      I often wonder if a lot of what we think and say about AU Football is influenced by what is currently going on across the state and the state next door.

  2. Thanks for a good post Sully. I needed to read something good on Auburn about now.

  3. Tigerpharm says:

    Enjoyed the read Sully.

    And I miss the old days too. But sadly it’s like that famous line in Margaret Mitchel’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, those days are … “Gone with the wind.”

  4. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    Great read. The class of ’74 says thanks!

  5. WDEGirl says:

    “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” – Maya Angelou

    Gus Malzahn has showed us who he is in the last 5 years:
    – these are now all his recruits and his development of talent ( or no development of talent)
    – every year same excuses: we’re young, we lost a lot of players, I like where we are headed next year, etc.
    – 1-4 in bowl games ( 1 win is against Memphis in Birmingham Bowl)
    – losing record to top 3 rivals; AL, UGA, LSU
    – no Offensive Linemen in last recruiting class
    – as someone already pointed out, the recruiting classes are trending to more and more 3 stars
    – doesn’t make adjustments at half time
    – literally gives up or slows down in games; tells players at half time “We got this” – this is evidence of lack of motivation and doesn’t seem to motivate the players
    – unclear who really calls plays? is the offensive coordinator just a figure head? who is developing the QB’s??

    So someone please tell me, how does he turn this around? this is Gus telling us who he is

    • zotus zotus says:

      No doubt Maya Angelou is on to something.

      … and, as you point out, Gus showed all — who cared to look — exactly who he was (and will be) as a Head Football Coach at Auburn University.

      Everything ol’ Gus knows about being the man in charge of a Football Program, Gus learned by being the man in charge of a Football Program in High School.

      He is out of his depth (in so many ways) in this league.

      That’s not going to change. What’s that they say about insanity?

      P.S. For you folks out there who want to put Coach Jordan’s name in the same sentence with Gus Malzahn’s name, when you’re talking about their stewardship of the Auburn Tiger Football Program –I’ve got something to say to you. And, I’ll say it this way: … to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, “I knew Ralph Jordan. Ralph Jordan was a friend of mine. Listen up podna, Gus Malzahn is no Ralph Jordan.”

    • tigrrr tigrrr says:

      Well he led us to a NC when he first arrived as OC and to the NC game as a head coach in his second year of head coaching. He beat our rivals.

      That is why we need to keep Gus. He can outthink the other coaches (yes even Saban and Smart), and if the powers that be leave him alone and we get behind him we will find out how good he really can be.

  6. H.Howard1492 says:

    Great analysis. Have we become win at all costs fans like the folks in west Alabama? We used to be much different but sadly we seem to be getting more alike.

  7. Sullivan013 Sullivan013 says:

    Let me clarify something.

    This article is about response of fans and critics to circumstances about the Auburn Football team in two different eras while highlighting what I perceive are some remarkable coincidences – 10 wins seasons and victories over rivals followed by underachieving seasons with 5 SEC conference and rivalry losses.

    What I was attempting to show was the disparity between how fans of the program reacted in 1973 and now in 2018. If you read anything more into this such as direct comparisons between the two coaches in each era, you’re somewhat missing the point of the article.

    Or perhaps, you may be reinforcing it.

  8. Tiger4Life says:

    All I know is the “It’s a new day” Gus of 2013 has (sadly) left the building– and I believe we need that kind of energy again.

  9. Times have definitely changed. I have wondered many times if Shug, along with his record, would have been retained in the current era.

  10. Orange Talon Orange Talon says:

    I think I know the point your trying to get at, but I’m not sure your comparison helps your cause. There’s an awful lot to unpack when you compare the 70’s to today, as you know college football, Auburn, the world, everything has changed so much over that 40+ year period that your point of reference is blurry – it’s simply not the world nor times we live in (ie. state of the art facilities costing millions, stadium expansions costing millions, a new scoreboard to play the latest hype video at 1700 db costing millions, all topped off with a 7 year-$49M dollar contract for the guy responsible for it all including the 7-4 record)

    If you feel the modern day Auburn fan complains to much, expects to much, demands to much, then just say that.

    • tigrrr tigrrr says:

      Then folks would just ask for the facts to back up his claim. I think the article is very thoughtful as it is.

      I lived through the Shug years from 10-8 to Sullivan to Beasley to the Amazins to the retirement. It was different except that the machine was in place across the state. Inventive coaches can beat that. Shug did. Gus did.

      They win a few % points more, but they have to live with the fact that they never know when “IT” is coming. Unfortunately neither do we. We have ultra highs and substantial lows. They have remarkable consistency in the machine. Which do you want?

  11. Solojoe says:

    Let's look at this in a different way. Let's pretend that Rich Rodriguez had accepted the job offer to take over Alabama back in 2007.

    First off, Alabama probably would not have had anywhere near the success they have had the past ten years under Saban and judging by how Rich Rod did at Michigan, most likely would be on to another coach by now.

    Because there was no Saban, there would be no Kirby Smart at Georgia and I would venture to say that Mark Richt (and his 10-win-per-year average) would still be at Georgia.

    I'd argue that Richt was fired because he couldn't beat Saban and take Georgia to a National Championship like Saban was doing with Alabama. As it stands even Kirby hasn't accomplished much more than Richt did (be wary Kirby, your time might be getting shorter also, especially if you keep making dumb 4th & 11 calls) at Georgia. Heck, I even wonder if Les Miles would've been let go of his job at LSU.

    With all that, do you think the pressure to replace Gus Malzahn this year would've been as great as it has been? I'm not so sure. Would people look at his (year 6) record of winning the SEC West Division 2 times, the SEC Conference once and getting to the NC game once in a different light rather than in the shadow of the Alabama/Saban success?

    Would the fact that he has not had a .500 or worse year since he's been here be seen as a positive rather than a 'meh'? Would making a bowl game every year he's been here mean as much as it used to in days gone by? Would we be looking at Gus' tenure at Auburn as somewhat of a success if our orange and blue glasses didn't have the crimson tint it's gotten in the last decade?

    In my opinion, the college football world changed a whole lot especially in the SEC when Saban took over at Alabama. It was a perfect storm that doesn't happen very often if ever again. To Sully's point, did we let it change us as fans? Should we? Is that a good thing?

    • Orange Talon Orange Talon says:

      “Would people look at his (year 6) record of winning the SEC West Division 2 times, the SEC Conference once and getting to the NC game once in a different light rather than in the shadow of the Alabama/Saban success? Would the fact that he has not had a .500 or worse year since he’s been here be seen as a positive rather than a ‘meh’? Would making a bowl game every year he’s been here mean as much as it used to in days gone by? Would we be looking at Gus’ tenure at Auburn as somewhat of a success if our orange and blue glasses didn’t have the crimson tint it’s gotten in the last decade?”

      Don’t know. But here’s how I look at those 6 years:

      2-4 against LSU
      2-5 against GA
      2-4 against ALA

      1-4 in bowl games
      0-1 in SEC Conference Championship
      0-1 in NC

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