I Guess They’re Just Words: An Open Letter To Auburn University’s Leadership

To Whom It May Concern:

I’m sure you’re aware that Auburn University has a creed. It’s in pretty much every promotional piece the University puts out. You have famous alumni repeating various parts of it which is edited together and shown in the pre-game video at all the football games. Before the video era and the eagle flight, the 75,000 in attendance would repeat it together. It’s nostalgic and, since it was written by Auburn’s first football coach over 100 years ago, it might’ve even added to the reason why football and Auburn are so intertwined.

[And for those of you who don’t keep up with minor league (re: college) football, Auburn University’s football coach, Tommy Tuberville, was released from his duties yesterday. The buyout in his contract was $5.1 million dollars. That’s NOT to coach, folks.]

And since Auburn and football are so intertwined, I thought I’d do a little compare/contrast with the creed and your actions from yesterday as reported in the media. The creed itself is in bold, my commentary in italics:

I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn.

So, I guess winning nearly 70% of your games for 10 years isn’t earning enough? The only undefeated SEC championship season we’ve had in 22 years isn’t earning enough? Being SEC West champions or co-champions 5 of those 10 years isn’t earned? Beating Alabama 7 of 10 times isn’t earned? Graduating more players than any SEC school other than Vanderbilt isn’t earning enough? 20 players having better than a 3.0 GPA isn’t earning enough? Dealing with disciplinary measures of trouble making players isn’t earning enough? Guess you CAN’T count on what you earn.

Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.

Granted, this season was awful. It was truly painful to watch. Yes, this was because of a stupid decision on an offensive coordinator the head coach made. And no Auburn fan is happy about not going to a bowl game for the first time in 8 years. So, no question, there’s a problem that needs to be fixed…especially with the Evil Crimson Empire thumping their chests again for the first time in a decade and crowing about national championships. But one thing Tommy Tuberville did was rebound when times got tough…think of that beautiful 2004 season following a very disappointing 2003 season. Guess writing a big, fat check and hiring a shiny new coach now constitutes hard work.

I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.

I’ll refer you again to magnificent graduation rates and grade-point averages that soar above most football factories. I guess our minds and hands only have to work skillfully enough to fill in the “pay to the order of” and “amount” and signature lines on checkbooks these days.

I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.

The official word from the university is that Tommy Tuberville resigned. IF this was true, we wouldn’t owe him one wooden nickel according to the contract. Yet, somehow, we’re obligated to pay him? Hmmm. If you’re telling the truth, you might want to pay him a nice bonus…maybe even from university funds. You’ve said that no public or university funds will be used in the buyout. Hmmm. Who’s ponying up, then? Guess you’re not interested in respect or confidence.

I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities.

I guess paying a coach who RESIGNED $3 million in 30 days and another $2.1 million within the next year, not to mention the going rate for an SEC coach is a minimum $2 million per year, plus bonuses, is a sound business decision? Oh, yeah. We’re paying not one, but TWO fired offensive coordinators NOT to coach for two years, at a million per. Guess these are all sound business decisions when your biggest booster is a banker in these economic times.

A spirit that isn’t afraid? Just because they might raise a trophy over their heads in Tuscaloosa is no reason for us to fear. They’ve raised six in the time we raised, well, 1. Sure, we should’ve raised two more (’83 & ’04, at least half of that one), but the beauty of being an Auburn fan was that even though the Evil Crimson Empire was loaded with more talent and resources, we’d look ’em in the eye and get after ’em for 60 minutes. We’re 16-10 against ’em since 1982…it’s helped that we moved the game to home fields, too. Since when did we panic with their success? Guess they looked us in the eye and we blinked first.

Clean sports? The NCAA doesn’t even sniff around East Alabama anymore. Tommy was notoriously clean…and suspended STARS (re: Trey Blackmon, anyone? Brad Lester, anyone?) for low grades or public drunkenness CHARGES, for HALF A SEASON. Guess nine honest wins a year isn’t enough and we’ll get 11 with a snake-oil salesman who walks the edge of the rules.

I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all.

Again, half-season suspensions for any player even CHARGED with a crime was standard operating procedure. Anyone? Maybe it was school laws we’re looking for…again, starting tailbacks at Auburn didn’t play until mid-October for low grades. Anyone? Guess discipline and respect for the rules are subordinate to scoreboard lights.

I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.

Tommy was widely known as a player’s coach. Openly loves his wife and kids and talks about it. He even was the first college football coach to hire a team chaplain on his football staff. He was known for his kind treatment of reporters. He was tireless in visiting the numerous Auburn Alumni chapters around the country and always had time for autographs and photos. Compare and contrast this with past Auburn coaches Pat Dye–who they named a freakin’ field after for smaller accomplishments than Tuberville–and Terry Bowden. Anyone? Guess representing a university well doesn’t count for much anymore. Just win, baby.

I believe in my country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God.”

This last summer our football coach went to Iraq and played football with the troops. Again, I’ll refer you to the hire of a team chaplain on that last section…and, just so you know, the Evil Crimson Empire hires motivational speakers to come in every now and again. Our guys could walk down the hall for spiritual counsel from somebody that played there, somebody that they had a relationship and a context with. I’ll refer you again to the human touch thing. Guess we should be just like all the other schools and bring in hired guns, huh?

And because Auburn men and women believe in these things,

Ummm. Well. Hmmm. Actions speak louder than words, trustees. Or is the romance and intent of the words all that matters anymore? Guess public perception of these words is better than actually sticking to them.

I believe in Auburn and love it.

It’s an “if-then” proposition, Auburn leadership. My belief and love is founded on the reality of what we collectively say we believe in and you’re not sticking to your end of the “if” proposition…

…and since love is a choice,

…you make it awfully hard to love you today. This may take a while for me to make that choice again. And for my feelings to follow that choice, well, it may take a bit longer. At least major league football is honest about hired guns and mercenaries.

Guess you’re hoping that we’ll all fall back in line when we’re back in Atlanta and/or Pasadena…

Guess you think that we’d rather win doing things the way everybody else does them than be competitive in an honorable manner…

Hope and think again.

War Eagle, anyway.

Brent McKinney
Class of 1987