Auburn people, some of them anyway, love conspiracy theories. Whenever there is controversy, it must be the Board of Trustees' fault. Or somebody is somebody else's puppet. Or if it has to do with athletics, Pat Dye must be in there somewhere.
All those theories and more are flying around as the worst football season in 60 years nears its end. The masses want somebody's head or heads. They want head coach Gene Chizik gone or athletics director Jay Jacobs or even president Jay Gogue or all of the above.
Just off to the side is Board of Trustees, dominated by newer members and without the power-brokers of old. And that Board is restricted by policies that were put into place in the wake of SACS probation that came down nine years ago next month.
We could talk about what brought that about, but that would just spawn yet more conspiracy theories. So I'll stick to the here and now and how those days impact the current situation.
Gogue has made it clear that he has no intention of firing or reassigning Jacobs. And he has recently made it clear that his intention is to take a recommendation from Jacobs on how to move forward and to give that recommendation great weight.
What can the Board of Trustees do? Nothing. The president technically could be fired, but that's not going to happen, not now.
It's not that way at all schools. Trustees play powerful roles in athletics at big-time schools across the country. Always have. Bobby Lowder was never anything that unusual in college athletics. There are probably a dozen Bobby Lowders at Texas.
So why is Auburn's Board of Trustees all but helpless to do anything more than perhaps try to convince Gogue to move one way or another? Here's why:
On May 7, 2004, with SACS probation having coming down the previous December, Auburn's Board of Trustees passed, at the behest of president Ed Richardson, a resolution that defined the board's role in athletics. The resolution limited the board to policy-making and placed full responsibility for implementing policy, including hiring and firing personnel, in the hands of the president. As part of the changes in the policy, the board abolished its athletics committee and spread responsibilities among several other board committees.
Before that, the board was required to approve the hiring of the head football coach. The president couldn't do it on his own. That all changed in 2004.
That doesn't mean board members can't make their feelings known to Gogue. It doesn't mean they can't try to convince him. It doesn't mean they can't one day hold him accountable for bad decisions. But it means they can't tell him what to do or who to hire. It's as simple as that.
What Gogue apparently now intends to do, in a change of course from as recently as a week ago, is go about the process in the normal way. Jacobs will make a recommendation, probably on Monday, Nov. 26, two days after the Iron Bowl. Gogue can reject it, but he will most likely accept it. If the decision is to make a change, Jacobs will head the search for a replacement.
At least that's the way it appears as of now. Things can change, have changed and could well change again. But one thing won't change.
The Board of Trustees will not and cannot make this call.