Dave Didion sat behind his desk in the Auburn football complex. It was 1999, and the announcement had just come down that he would be returning to the NCAA, where he’d been a few years earlier.
“I’m going to miss it,” Didion told me that day. “This is a great place with great people. It’s the best place I’ve ever been.”
And now, 14 years later, Didion is coming back. He’ll be on the job April 22 as associate athletic director for compliance. He’ll work with senior associate athletic director of compliance Rich McGlynn. That’s two men with strong connections and great respect at the NCAA.
Let’s put one thing to rest: No matter what anyone tells you, the hiring of Didion had nothing to do with any real or perceived compliance issues at Auburn. It was in the works long before the dual hatchet jobs of last week. He wanted to work on a college campus again and particularly wanted to work at Auburn. It is as simple as that.
A prominent coach who was at Auburn during Didion’s days told me Thursday that Didion is the best compliance person he ever worked with.
“Some of those guys,” the coach said, “start saying no when you walk in the door. Dave always tried to help you find a way, within the rules, to do what you needed to do. He was a very positive guy who wanted Auburn to win in everything and wanted them to do it the right way.
“He was a tough guy, too. He would do all he could to help you, but if you didn’t listen, if he told you that you couldn’t do something and you did, there was going to be hell to pay.”
I’ve talked to Didion a handful of times over the years. He’s always been the same friendly but plainspoken guy who spent his lunch breaks playing basketball at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.
Didion, an Ohio State graduate, loves basketball. Loves it. Loves to play it. Loves to watch it. He will do all he can to help the Auburn basketball program. He likes to play golf. He likes to laugh. He’s the kind of guy you’d like to sit down and have a cup of coffee with or, if it is your pleasure, drink a cold beer with. At the same time, he is extremely bright.
I actually had heard on Thursday that Didion’s return was in the works. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite have it nailed down enough to report it. It got out Friday, I would guess because that was his last day in his job as director of enforcement at the NCAA.
Like all compliance officials in big-time college athletics, Didion walked a fine line when he was at Auburn. His No. 1 job was and will be to make sure Auburn operates within NCAA rules. But those rules are often not so clear.
I look forward to seeing Didion again and talking to him again about college athletics and life. And Auburn people should look forward to his return.
He will make a difference.
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