Good ol’ Bobby Lowder. He finally got Tommy Tuberville.
Took him five more years than he hoped it would. The unofficial Emperor of Auburn was forced to swallow that 13-0 season that Coach Tubs orchestrated on the Plains in 2004, the one that should have put the Tigers in that year's BCS title game.
There was also the 11-2 run in 2006, the 7-1 SEC mark in 2005, those annoying 42 victories between 2004 and 2007, which equated to an 82 percent winning percentage.
But Lowder — the Alabama banker and businessman who reportedly owns everything to do with Auburn save the school's name — apparently wasn't pleased with any of that. He had tried to run off Tuberville during the 8-5 season of 2003. Might have succeeded, too, if it hadn't leaked that the Auburn brass had flown to Louisville on the Emperor's plane to lure the mercenary punk Bobby Petrino while Tubs was still the coach.
That thwarted coup left the Auburn family with a big, black eye and Lowder temporarily living low. It also made Tubs the people's champ after the 13-0 season and six straight wins over Alabama between 2002 and 2007. His salary even topped $3 million annually this year.
But everything changed this fall. In positively Phillip Fulmer-esque fashion, the Tigers likewise slipped to 5-7 and were crushed 36-0 by Bama last Saturday. Tuberville resigned on Wednesday, the school paying him $5.1 million to move on.
“There's no doubt that we can get this thing turned around,” Tuberville had told the Auburn media on Sunday. “I didn't turn into a bad coach overnight. I know this program better than anybody.”
What he should have known better than anybody was that Auburn pretty much remains Lowder University, and once Tuberville's undefeated 2004 season dimmed a bit, the Emperor of Auburn would again be ready to run him off.
But the bigger question is where is this headed in general? Tuberville won 85 games during his 10 seasons on the Plains. Fulmer won 100 more than he lost over 16 seasons. Only one team can win the SEC in any given season, and Florida, Alabama, Georgia and LSU all have clear advantages over the rest of the league in terms of in-state talent, overall tradition or both.
In Tennessee's case the Vols must recruit nationally to win. In Auburn's case the Tigers must compete against Alabama, which has a bigger tradition and more in-state clout, Lowder's singular finances aside.
Not that Auburn learned anything from its Petrino incident, apparently. ESPN reported on Wednesday that a representative of Auburn attempted to contact Texas Tech coach Mike Leach through intermediaries, about the Tigers position, even though it wasn't yet officially open.
Auburn may or may not eventually pay Saban-like money to battle the Tide coach for state supremacy, but one posting on al.com certainly took a swipe at the Tigers' search as it began: “There are several Auburn fans who have been critical of Alabama's hired gun tactics and the $4 million (a year) price tage for (Nick) Saban. Let the double standard begin.”
The standard is out of hand almost everywhere, and getting worse. Before long, contracts will have one-year guarantees, if not one month. Coaches will have a guaranteed job until they lose ... one game.
But at least one Chattanooga resident who graduated from Auburn in 1981 has launched a personal crusade against Lowder U. that reasonable alums may wish to consider elsewhere.
“Whenever Auburn calls me asking for money,” says Signal Mountain resident Wells Blake, “I ask if Bobby Lowder is still on the board of trustees. When they tell me he is, I ask them to call back when he's off it.”
Until then, he sees a far-fetched but silvery lining in Tuberville's ouster.
“Maybe we can hire him at UTC now,” Blake said.
E-mail Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...