Tuberville couldn’t get Auburn over the hump

Published 3:37 pm Thursday, December 4, 2008

Before we look at who Auburn is going to hire, it’s time to revisit Tommy Tuberville’s time as head coach at Auburn University. While he didn’t help Auburn win any national championships, he did help establish a very solid Auburn program.

He was the last SEC coach to finish the season undefeated. He’s had one of the best records against top-10 teams in recent memory. There haven’t been many coaches who have had a better record than Tuberville in the conference.

Auburn won the SEC once. They also made their first BCS bowl appearance, a 16-13 win over Virginia Tech.

However, one of the best things that Tuberville has done was what happened off the field. You never heard about any Auburn players getting in trouble with the law. Auburn had one of the highest graduation percentages of its football players in the SEC. His teams always had a good camaraderie. They might not have been the most talented teams, but they usually made up the difference with heart and grit.

Also, there wasn’t even a hint of NCAA infractions while Tuberville was coaching at Auburn, a school that has been one of the most penalized schools. That’s a pretty big accomplishment. Probation has always haunted Auburn through the years, but there hasn’t even a thought about it since 1998.

That’s the good news, but the bad news is that Auburn really hasn’t been a serious contender in the SEC West. While they could sneak up and beat Florida two years in a row, they lost the most important games those seasons. In 2006, the West was decided by Auburn’s embarrassing loss to Arkansas, and a loss to Mississippi State in 2007 really doomed any chance of Auburn winning the West.

This is a pattern that Tuberville can’t break. It’s what happened in 2001 when a win over Alabama would have sealed the West, but then Bama left Jordan-Hare with a 31-7 win. Of the five times Auburn has been at the top of the West, it has only resulted in two SEC Championship Game appearances.

Auburn under Tuberville has beaten many top 10 teams, but they always found a way to slip up when they couldn’t afford to. That probably led to his demise more than anything else. Thus, Auburn just couldn’t allow its football program to fall behind any more than it had.