You know things have changed around Auburn when the hiring of a baseball and softball coach creates the kind of excitement usually seen when a five-star football prospect commits.
And things have definitely changed.
The first sign that things have changed is that Auburn paid $650,000 a year to hire Sunny Golloway as its new baseball coach. That’s the kind of money it takes to hire a baseball coach away from the University of Oklahoma, traditionally one of the wealthiest athletic programs in the country.
But Auburn has the money because it is one of the nation’s richest athletic programs. Auburn reported revenue of $106 million in 2011-2012, ninth in the country, according to statistics released last year from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education.
There have been some headlines about Golloway receiving that kind of money, making him the SEC’s second-highest paid baseball coach. But it is, in fact, money well-spent.
What kind of statement did Auburn make when it hired the University of Oklahoma’s baseball coach? A resounding one, to be sure.
The hiring of Clint Myers as softball coach was just as resounding, if not more. Has Auburn ever hired a coach who has won two national titles, as Myers did at Arizona State?
Coaches talk about needing a commitment from the athletic department to win, and Auburn has usually had that commitment because it has been willing to spend money. Now, though, Auburn is showing some insight to go along with its commitment.
I’ve never been an advocate of hiring a coach simply because he or she has ties to Auburn. That’s the easy and inexpensive way of doing business.
The second sign that things have changed at Auburn is that it did not hire Casey Dunn as the baseball coach. Dunn may have been a great hire. His record certainly indicates that he is qualified.
But Auburn spent the money and hired one of the more successful coaches in the country. Golloway’s hiring is more inspiring and shows that Auburn will be a major player in coaching searches.
Suddenly, Jay Jacobs’ image among Auburn fans has been rehabilitated. Indeed, the hiring of Golloway and Myers indicates that Jacobs has the understanding to resurrect many of Auburn’s athletic teams. He already had the resources.
His long-term success, though, will largely be determined by how Auburn fares in football, the overall health of the department and the school’s compliance with NCAA guidelines.
In my view, the general health of the department is reflected in two factors - finances and the SEC all-sports standings.
Auburn is among the nation’s elite when it comes to the economics.
That’s why finishing 12th in the most recent all-sports standings is baffling and unacceptable. There should be a better return on $106 million.
So when the results don’t match up with the investments or the revenue, there is only one thing to do.
Change the culture.
Best I can tell after the hiring of Golloway and Myers, Jacobs is beginning to do that.