Hi. My name is Jerry Hinnen. I write for an Auburn website named The War Eagle Reader. But you may also remember my former blog, The Joe Cribbs Car Wash, for having once written that you “could [not] possibly be so shortsighted” as to hire Gene Chizik as Auburn’s head football coach.
I wish I had not written that, for any number of reasons. I am sorry. But I’m not writing you today to apologize. I am writing for two reasons.
The first is to tell you how excited I am about the future of Auburn athletics.
Like most Auburn fans, my favorite team and the one I follow most closely is the football team, and like most Auburn fans these days I cannot wait to watch our Tigers this fall. Thanks to what coach Chizik has accomplished in assembling his coaching staff; in putting together an exciting, unified, and hard-working Auburn team on the field; in making a concerted effort to connect to Auburn fans in methods both traditional and innovative; and in he and his staff’s hard work on the recruiting trail, I believe our football program has a bright, proud future ahead of it.
But there’s much more to my excitement than that. The future looks just as bright for our basketball teams, thanks in large part to the Auburn Arena, which I have no doubt will become one of the country’s truly unique, truly special basketball venues the moment it opens. Thanks to the hire of Tony Barbee, whose professionalism, energy, and immediate recruiting successes have suggested there’s nothing but success ahead in his Auburn tenure, it’s my feeling that Auburn now has two head coaches worthy of the building they inherit. Much as I don’t expect a championship as soon as this season for coach Chizik, I’m not expecting Barbee to produce an NCAA Tournament berth in 2011, but it doesn’t matter; for the first time in many years, I am thrilled to see where Auburn men’s basketball takes us even regardless of the destination.
Of the three so-called “revenue” sports, Auburn baseball has always been the one I’ve felt least invested in, but that’s changing with the increase in baseball coverage thanks to the Internet and this year’s charge under John Pawlowski. Pawlowski came to Auburn with a reputation as a pitching guru, but he has adapted to forge one of the SEC’s strongest teams on the back of the conference’s best hitting and a juggled rotation that’s gotten the job done even without the benefit of a traditional ace. I don’t think anyone would disagree that it’s been an outstanding job of baseball managing, and as with the football and basketball teams the future at Plainsman Park could be even better than the present.
Our Olympic sports programs also seem to be in good hands, though I’ll take a moment to say how particularly encouraged I am by the Auburn volleyball team’s progress under Wade Benson. As a sport I’ve long had something of a soft spot for, it was disappointing to see that program lag so far behind the rest of the SEC for so long; having it on solid footing is a personal pleasure.
Because of all these reasons and more, I believe this is a particularly great time to be an Auburn Tiger. I live a long, long way from the Plains, but I feel like I can sense the “buzz” from here. When I remember that dark November of 2008–when our football team was flailing, our men’s basketball team was still searching for improvement, our baseball team was a nonentity–it seems hard to believe that not even two years later, I would be irrepressibly optimistic about all three revenue sports and many more beyond. I am thrilled beyond anything I would have hoped ta that time.
So this is the second reason I am writing: to thank you. You hired Gene Chizik. You hired John Pawlowski. You oversaw the approval and construction of the Auburn Arena. You hired Tony Barbee. If these are the reasons for my renewed excitement and optimism for Auburn athletics, then the first reason is the work you have done in bringing them to Auburn.
Thank you for that.
I am not suggesting, Mr. Jacobs, that I agree with all of your decisions as Auburn athletic director. Some, such as inability to retain swimming coach David Marsh, continue to give me serious pause. I am not suggesting that your successes to date mean you should be free from criticism in the future. There remains the possibility that the coaches I just praised, whether through failure or scandal, will fail to make good on their current promise.
But that possibility seems so distant that today, right now, with all three revenue teams so firmly on the path to sustained success, I am not remotely in the mood to criticize. Your actions have helped make Auburn athletics a joy again for me and many other Auburn fans. I cannot speak for them, but you have my gratitude, at the least.