“Knights of the TWER Roundtable”—it sounds good and it reads better, because these dudes know their stuff—they read their blogs and their Bibles and they, these dudes right here, that I’ve assembled and asked to answer hard, pressing Auburn questions (because I my very self want to know the answers), have some of the roomiest Auburn brains in the world, full of Auburn philosophy and poetry and prose and real world Auburn experience, geniuses all. I’m an editor and I’ve pretty much forgotten how to have an opinion, but the knights remember, thank God. And so our multi-part, pre-season Q&A series is renewed. Question the Second:
Four years removed from his firesignation, what is the status of Tommy Tuberville’s Auburn legacy?
Kelly Jolley: Tubs was a good coach. His legacy will reflect that, I think, at least eventually. Despite the Riverboat Gambler alias, Tubs was deeply conservative as a coach: He won a lot of games by being more patient than the opposing head coach, by being willing to settle for 7-10 points before halftime and a touchdown on the first drive of the second half, and then by surviving repeated late-fourth-quarter throws into the endzone or plunges toward the goal line. Even the Riverboat alias aided his essentially conservative approach: it put enough doubt into the opposing coach to nudge him toward a bad decision (although I do not deny that it occasionally backfired on Tubs). His biggest problem was getting his team to focus on the run-of-the-mill game, and almost every season brought a demoralizing loss to a team that should have been beaten. His teams rarely were able to right themselves when things got ugly early: he was not a play-from-way-behind coach; he had no such gift. But I will say this: if I were going into an apparently over-matched game, away from home, and where winning would require alternately exploiting and exasperating the other team, coaches and fans, Tubs would be on my short list of one.
Riley Downing: I think this is a 10 different people, ten different answers type question. I know many Auburn fans who never really took to Tuberville and were happy to see him go, others who required a national championship to stop pining for him. I personally look back at his time on The Plains very fondly. He arrived the year after I left school and I know the mess he inherited having witnessed it first hand back in 1998. He won a lot of football games and he generally avoided negative headlines for the school (that was not intended as a dig at Chizik). I was among his most fervent supporters, in fact, right up until about October of 2008. It wasn’t just the disaster of a season, though that was a big part of it, it was the overall direction of the program. When he got to Auburn he battled for the best recruits and he landed more than his share of top guys. While I hate to even bring him up in an Auburn preview, once Saban set up shop in Tuscaloosa, Tubs just seemed to stop fighting for players with the same energy. We started to hear “diamond in the rough” and “under the radar” a lot. He was still beating Bama on the field but he was getting whipped on the recruiting trail. Eventually, that took its toll on the program and we were not in great shape when he eventually did leave town. For some, that is enough reason to remember him in a negative light. I, on the other hand, choose to look back on 2004, which up until that point was my greatest season as an Auburn fan, and the six wins in a row over Alabama as the defining moments of his Auburn career. I hope that one day he is welcomed back to be honored in some way as an important part of our football history.
Kenny Smith: If ever a legacy kept status quo with the man, this one is it. Tuberville is cemented as an affable fellow who did well, but you would have liked a little something else. There’s no discounting how his players were such a big part of the 2010 run. There’s no ignoring the reverberations — the lost recruiting of 2008, for example — of what should have been. Tuberville had probably his share, and maybe more, of external obstacles and that isn’t lost on anyone. The trouble, though. with citing his impressive record against top-10 teams and his consistent run with West division titles is that it leaves you looking for what should have been.
My other answer here says something about two sides to the coin. Those cupboards were bare, man. The silver lining is that everyone played. (Jeremy got in for three snaps at Homecoming in 2009, by the way. Turns out he still had some eligibility.) But look at Auburn now. Marvel at that defensive depth chart. The upside to being left with bare cupboards is that you might just be able to front load it for the future, says the guy who hates the Cubbiesization of sports. (Wait ’til next year is a contagion.)
John Ringer: He took over Auburn at a time when things were down and made Auburn competitive again. He coached some of the best teams and players every to play at Auburn. Like all head coaches he was only as good as his coordinators and assistant coaches and some of those choices really came back to bite him.
He led Auburn to an undefeated season and a team that should have won the national championship. He beat bama six times in a row. Those things matter and they aren’t going away. Should Auburn build a statue of him or re-name the stadium after him? No. But Auburn should appreciate the good work he did while he was here.
Van Allen Plexico: Six in a row over Bama will remain one of the great Auburn football accomplishments for many years to come. Ten years of steady leadership, no real rules-breaking, mostly good assistant coach hires, some great players, some huge wins, and regularly beating down Saban–those all stand as credits to his legacy. And he is and was just a good, likeable guy. I appreciate everything he did for Auburn during his time. I will feel lousy about how 2004 worked out, not just for Auburn but for his legacy as a coach, till the day I die.
Ben Bartley: The man went through a lot at Auburn. He survived post-Brother Bill Oliver Auburn. He survived Daniel Cobb. He survived Jeff Klein. He created Brandon Cox—hero. Beat Bama six times. Can’t forget that. I watched him walk into Bryant-Denny in 2008. He held up 7 fingers. He didn’t look like he believed in the last finger, finger No. 7, but he held it up nonetheless. He had big ears and he talked kind of funny. He hired Gene Chizik. Gene Chizik got Cam. Cam got a national championship. Therefore, Tommy Tuberville more or less got Auburn a national championship. If and when Bill Ham fades into the long cold night of mayoral retirement I’d vote Tommy Tuberville for Mayor of Auburn.
John Carvalho: I think that Tommy Tuberville has a positive legacy among Auburn fans because of the 2004 season and his six wins over Alabama (and his penchant for tweaking Bama as the streak continued). His last season will be remembered more as a well-intentioned attempt at improving the team that backfired more than anyone could have predicted, at the worst possible time (during Saban’s rise at Alabama).
John Magruder: Tubby : his legacy is the enduring significance of the Iron Bowl. See, the more I think of Tubby, the more I wonder if he wasn’t mythologized. When he was at Auburn, he was the guy who found diamonds in the rough (Sen’Derrick Marks, Al Borges, etc,) the CEO coach who brought the best and brightest assistants to the plains, a man unafraid to gamble and win. At the end of his tenure, the offense was a quagmire, his coaches were mismanaged, his recruits weren’t making it to the field, and he was totally risk-averse. That kind of change doesn’t happen overnight, and while Petrinogate was clearly a huge error by our AD, I wonder if Housel didn’t realize that Tuberville was already slipping. So he probably could have been let go sooner. But the man just plain won Iron Bowls. If he hadn’t won Iron Bowl after Iron Bowl, there wouldn’t have been near the outcry about his double-secret near-firing, and we would have had a new coach far sooner.
Justin Lee: It was a strong era in Auburn football history, and that won’t change. Your only question now in retrospect is, in seeing so much NFL talent come from those Tuberville teams, how come Tubs could only get Auburn to the SEC Championship Game twice in 10 years? Still, 2004 will be remembered for as long as Auburn plays football, and today that run of dominance between 2004-2006 could probably stack up against any other three-year period in program history.
Amorak Huey: Tuberville is an Auburn great. He should always be celebrated for what he did for the program. Today, in 2012, I haven’t fully forgiven him for the way he seemed to check out near the end, for the way he let things fall apart. But that will pass with time, and eventually he will be remembered with only or at least mostly fondness.
More topics, including those more immediately relevant to coming-soon Saturdays, will be broached and coached throughout today and the rest of this week.
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