Monthly Archives: December 2008

Toomer’s Rumors and Boomers resurrection 12.29.08

I’ve been planning a state of the union. Not really planning, just thinking about it. But where to start. This was the strangest year yet for Auburn football. Auburn fans have never had to cope with regime change under the full blogtastic weight of the internet. In that, we were alone in the SEC, save for the Volunteers. Rumors of defections and coordinators galore, yes. But never the hyperactive trauma of a head coaching firesignation / search. There were riots. Shoes were being thrown. Hecklers. Forest fires. Pirates. And now suddenly Chizik is an anchor with a white hot vision. And now suddenly, Gus Malzahn. And now suddenly, we can sleep. Zzzzzzzz.

War Eagle.

I’m gonna start it back up. The whole W0rks-style thing Jerry does? It’s too fun. I gotta do something.  Jerry’s is a bit more succinct than TR&B ever was / will be, but I gotta do something. .

Speaking of Jerry…

jerry-hinnen

Jerry Hinnen. Spencer Hall. You never see them together…

Chris Shelling Jr., you sweet holiday angel!

Earlier today, I was driving at high speeds with Billy Childish. The car in front of me had a bumper sticker reading: SABAN/PALIN ‘O8 with a picture of palin wearing a bear bryant hat. I sped past them and mimed the throat slash motion to the driver. Jihad.

Of course, I wish the young man would have made the right decision, but perhaps his deviance will expedite the polygamizing of the Tide come whenever the game is. Make them your wives, Utah… cause I mean, even Mike Shula had Bama back for a two loss season.

By the way, the AP has deemed Bama finally winning some games as the number one story in the state of Alabama for 2008. That we started losing games is number two.

“I came here to help him win and that’s what I’m going to do.”

tigerz

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Who Da’ Mahn

Combine Auburn’s offensive production against Vandy, Tennessee, Arkansas and Bama

and you only get six more yards than Tulsa got against UTEP.

Score one for The Chiznit.

(tip of the finger to Chris Shelling Jr.)

UPDATE: Auburntron links an ESPN interview with Malzahn.

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Thanks Tommy…

AU96’s pièce de resistance. Where’s the Kleenex? War Eagle forever.

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Eltoro

Ditto, Auburntron — suit this dude up.

“I talked to Coach Chizik and told him ‘War Damn Eagle!’” Freeman said. “I told him that I was going to sign with Auburn and there wasn’t any doubt about it. I’m so ready to be a part of the Auburn Family. I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

Freeman said his first conversation with Chizik went very well. Freeman believes Auburn found the right guy for the job.

“I know a lot of people say that they don’t like him for the job because of his record at Iowa State and this and that, but I believe in Chizik and I believe in Auburn University!” said Freeman. “I absolutely believe they hired the right guy. Me and Coach Chizik and the rest of the Auburn Family, we are going to get this thing back right.”

Freeman was hardpressed to hold back his excitement about Chizik and signing with Auburn.

“I heard Coach Chizik has coached three Thorpe Award winners, well damn, he better get ready to coach a Dick Butkus Award winner. It’s on now!” Freeman said. “We’re coming back. Me and the boys are coming! I’m ready! WAR DAMN EAGLE! I just can’t wait to be a part of the Auburn Family.”

Auburn has lost eight commitments, one of which it has since gotten back, since Tommy Tuberville’s resignation Dec. 3. More commits have said they are now looking at other schools. Freeman said he had a message for the decommitments and other potential recruits.

“If Auburn can’t get’em, we’ll beat’em…If we can’t get’cha, we’ll beat’cha,” Freeman said.

Merry Christmas to you too, Eltoro. I needed that. War Damn Eagle.

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The Cask of Spirito Della Tigre

By J.M. Comer

My mind swims and wallows in a dank pit, Dearest Reader. It wanders as the darkest day of the year, Dec. 21, the first day of winter approaches. Last night, I sat in my warm library with my two dogs hundreds of miles from the Plains of Auburn. My Edgar Allen Poe collection of short stories and poems was in my lap and my mind drifted to a place between sleep and waking …

catacombs

The thousand injuries of Optimisme I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon the last insult I vowed revenge.

I spied him from the shadows as he staggered down the street, drunk from enthusiasm, after the Chizik celebration.

His knitted winter hat was forced to the back of his head with a single festive bell, and the beads of a New Orleans festival both orange and blue hung from his neck. His dress shirt was emblazoned with the symbol of my Tigers, his Tigers, our Tigers.

M. Optimisme was an older man of wide girth, a man of privilege. His head shook from laughter as he swayed to and fro along the cobblestone streets.

His hat bell jingled. The holiday celebrations had come early for him. He placed his hand on a lamppost to steady himself and leaned back to take in the night air, bathing in the artificial light. His laughter boomed through the empty streets. It sickened me to hear it.

But I approached him with a cautious creep, my hand coming from the gloom to rest on his wide shoulder.

He started, spun around and exclaimed, “By Dye’s pants! Young Comer! Ha ha! What a fright! Why do you hide in the shadows? Tonight is a rebirth! A celebration!”

His breath reeked of meat, heavy cream and wine. My old friend had filled himself this evening at the celebration.

“Why, I did not see you there at the coronation,” Optimisme said. His large finger poked hard at my chest; his squinted eyes peered at mine.

I coughed. “I did not feel like a celebration was in order, my dear Optimisme. These are times for reflection.”

“Bah,” he cried, swiping his hand in the air, clearing invisible cobwebs of doubt. “You think too much my dear Matthew. You still mourn? Chizik is one of ours. He’s home again!”

I chuckled, falsely, and glanced sideways at this old man. His teeth looked worn and yellowed. Behind them, his fat tongue lolled with the pleasure of his words.

cask2

He had a weak point — this Optimisme — although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine.

“I’ve been searching for you my friend,” I said with false cheer. “I have procured a cask of what passes to be 2004 Spirito Della Tigre, but I have my doubts.”

The man’s eyes rolled lazily behind heavy shut lids, but quickly snapped wide. “You jest! Impossible! 2004? A good year, but I am not a fan of the House of Tuberville’s methods.”

“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to pay the full price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain.”

“Spirito Della Tigre!”

“I have my doubts, it is a 2004.”

Again he cried, “Spirito Della Tigre!”

“I fear that such a year will not come again,” I said, placing his arm in mine. “A dear friend of mine, M. Henderson, is a fan of the House of Tuberville’s 2005 Sacco di Croyle Numero 11. He thinks it is superior.”

“He is foolish,” exclaimed old, tired Optimisme. “I frown upon anything after 1988.”

At his last accusation, my teeth clinched behind my lips.

He spat, “I have lived long … I have drank deep. For me, the 2004 had a slight aftertaste … it is bitter to me. But then … I didn’t drink my fill. We must go to your vaults.”

I patted his soft back, saying, “Now is a wonderful time to savor the 2004 again, but I must warn you, dear Optimisme, the cask lies deep within, near the catacombs. I couldn’t possibly ask you to venture there.”

cask

… ah, Dearest Reader … I’m awake and back in Poe’s Baltimore and the year 2008 draws to a close. I’m sure to brick up dear old Optimisme in the dark vault with these words, that hopefully I’ll eat some day. I’ll eat them with glee and you can watch … if they prove to be unfounded.

(To see how the rest of the story turns out, please click here.)

But dear God, the football program of Auburn University: I’ve never been associated and loved anything that can make so many stupid, expensive, embarrassing mistakes in so short a time. And then it repeats them a few years later.

We’ll never know what really goes on behind the scenes. But I’m just sick of the croynism, men looking out for themselves, their money and their friends instead of what is best for Auburn.

But I do know this: Gene Chizik was not the best coach available or the best fit for Auburn; he was the only coach available that made the old, white men comfortable. He said what they wanted to hear and gave them the hope to relive an era that is dead. I can guarantee that the “Society of the Black Book” is about to make a comeback. Big time.

These same cronies pushed, prodded and questioned the best coach I’ll probably ever see at the helm of our university, Coach Tommy Tuberville. He’d had enough and left.

The Auburn football program has been left in a terrible position from a power struggle and ineptitude.

I hope this is the last hurrah of the idiots. The last gasp behind the brick wall.

But it is disheartening that this is all happening once again to Auburn, an institute of learning that never seems to learn.

We’ll make it through this. We always do. War Eagle. We’ll all be there for you Tigers. Give ’em hell in 2009.

But for now, it feels like we’re all hanging in a place between the wreckage and the promise.

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Thom Gossom’s “As I See It” – Back to the Future

We could have gone to “the mountaintop”, the big stage, become media darlings. Instead, Auburn University, my alma mater, is again attempting to go “Back to the Future.”

Auburn’s first new head coach hire of the 21st century, is now mired in racial controversy. ESPN, CNN, and daily talk shows are having a ratings bonanza at Auburn’s expense. Damn, here we go again.

I, like most Auburn lovers, believed Auburn officials when they gave the impression they would do something bold in choosing the next head football coach at Auburn, maybe reach for the stars, command the stage, play in prime time, get the cutest girl on the block, get national billing on shows like 60 minutes, Jay Leno. Big names were thrown around, Spurrier, Petrino, Houston Nutt; great upcoming coaches were interviewed, Johnson at Georgia Tech, Patterson at TCU. We had a chance to be on the digital, high tech, newfangled, world stage and what did we do? We chose cable.

We forced out a winning coach supposedly for a new sleek 21st century model of head football coach with all the accompanying bells and whistles. A coach that recruits five star players who not only want to play for him but emulate the coach in their young lives.

Here’s what the back room boys at Auburn did with this wonderful opportunity? They hired a guy with a 5-19 record as a head coach? They hired a guy who had jilted the University once before because he wanted to be a head coach and thought the University of Texas could do that for him better than Auburn. They hired a guy that suddenly sprang from nowhere. They hired a guy the majority of Auburn people didn’t want. They hired a guy that would have been fired in 1-2 more years at Iowa State. They doubled his salary. Finally, they hired new Auburn head coach Gene Chizik because according to athletic director Jay Jacobs, “Chizik was a good fit.”

Look at what we could have had. The best new age, new media, bells and whistles, sleek 21st century model coach to come down the pipe this century is Turner Gill. Gill has turned the worst program in America into a league champion. On the field, he takes care of business. But more importantly, he has the “it” factor. The brother’s got “it”. The “it,” that could have made Auburn a lead dog in the SEC sled.

Surprisingly, he agreed to talk to Auburn.

Gill speaks from his heart. He’s a shining star. He’s about motivating young men. Coming from small town Texas by way of Nebraska, he knows small town, rural, down home people. In my mind, the perfect “fit for Auburn.” On top of it all, the dude just happened to be black. Hell, we could get the best young coach in America, make Auburn the number one news story right up until he played his first game next fall, and made Auburn the first top twenty college football program to hire a minority head football coach. We would be on the right side of history. Imagine a recruit deciding if he wanted to just go to college and play football or if he wanted to make history while also playing football for an African American pioneer and a forward thinking University. Every Auburn person I talked to white or black was fired-up about the guy. Gill’s skin color was just the cherry on top.

But Gill wasn’t a good fit for Auburn AD Jay Jacobs and the small band that guide his hand. The reasons for not hiring Gill were conjured up right out of the 1960’s. In other words, let’s find something he can’t do. The reasons I read were, “He did not have SEC coaching experience.” “Why didn’t his alma mater Nebraska hire him last year?”

The Auburn brass made a big show of interviewing Gill, “look at us, ain’t we done come a long way.” By most measurable criteria and intangible characteristics, Gill is the better of the two candidates. But to them Gill wasn’t “a good fit.” Favored Auburn son, Charles Barkley and others are crying racism. Gill is black and has a white wife. Chizik is white and safe. At the introductory press conference for the new coach, Auburn’s President Dr. Gogue, did not bother to show up. His message: “This is your show, Jay Jacobs. Your job depends on it.”

Can Chizik win? He should. He’s a good coach. Auburn has talent and can recruit talent. Although, I can imagine rival coaches telling young black men that the AD at Auburn says Gill did not fit at Auburn, then asking. Do you think you will fit there?

The back-room boys will make sure Chizik gets good coaches. If smart thinking makes a comeback, Rodney Garner will be hired from Georgia. Garner a former Auburn player is the best recruiter in the conference.

Given the same circumstances, Gill would win just as many games, but also put us on a national recruiting basis, which then puts us on a national championship track. He could walk into a recruit’s house as Nick Saban walks out. Auburn would rise to the top of the media parade. Imagine; Positive attention, for the athletic department, the alumni, recruits, fund raising, the University; 21st century thinking.

The Auburn faithful are deflated. Good friend Sherman Moon, an Auburn teammate from the 70’s says, “We were expecting, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Brad Pitt, and we got Orlando Bloom.”

Chris Wilson, lovingly referred to as “Fat Daddy” in my memoir Walk-On says, “When I found out he had a white wife, I said, ‘I understand.’ Unbelievable.”

Mary Pope, my down the street neighbor says to me, “you and Charles (Barkley) got to go up there (Auburn) and straighten them out.”

All three of these individuals are white.

Most Auburn people are upset. They should be. We are all stained by the alleged racism. Our university is stained. We are being dragged through the mud because a few good ole boys, a few gatekeepers, feel they know what’s best for us all. And what they think is best is to go backwards, to the good old days, a time gone by.

They are counting on the Auburn Nation being good Auburn people and falling in line and supporting the new coach and team. We will. That’s what Auburn people do. We support our team in good times and bad.

The latest incident reminds me of an instance from “Walk-On,” concerning the decision to recruit Auburn’s first black athlete in 1968. One member of the then Auburn board of trustees questioned whether, “the state of Alabama, is ready for a black athlete?”

Auburn needs dynamic leadership. Visionaries that see the future, see down the road, not continually looking back over our shoulders trying to go backward. Memories are about yesterday. Dreams are about the future, tomorrow.

Thom’s book Walk-On, My Reluctant Journey to Integration at Auburn University, is available in Borders and Walden bookstores, J&M Bookstore, the Zoo Gallery in Destin, FL, and at walkongossom.com

Thom is featured in HBO’s recently released documentary “Breaking the Huddle.”

You can watch a promo here.

Here’s the thing I wrote on Thom a few months back…


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Filed under As I See It by Thom Gossom, Coaching Search

Press Conference

I’m sure everyone’s seen it by now.

I just got around to it.

Somethin’ about the way he said, right at the beginning, ‘We always had the conversation, where do we want to end up? Where do we want to be?” …

… he totally sounds like a preacher.

“Where do we want to end up… final destination… great vision… Dr. Gouge … final resting place… and I say that I’m blessed… (the way he looks down to swish the wife and kids joke)… relationships… I feel blessed … my pastor is here, he’s still praying over me… ”

Seriously. This is Sunday morning. Every head bowed and every eye closed. It’s the total inflection and meter of a preacher. Bro. Chizik. I dig it. At least at the pulpit.

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