Online Now 1659

#PMARSHONAU: United or divided?

I don't know where the saga of the 2012 Auburn football season will end. I don't who, if anyone, will be fired or who will be hired.

I do know this:

If Auburn people allow those decisions to anger them and divide them, they will risk seeing their cherished football program continue a downward spiral that will become increasingly difficult to stop.

I certainly don't back down from my opinion that I see no good reason for university president Jay Gogue and/or athletics director Jay Jacobs to wait until the end of the season, two weeks from now, to make the hard decisions on who, if anyone, should go. But that's not the issue today.

The issue today is what Auburn people will do when the wait is over.

If there is to be a new football coach, it is very unlikely it will be someone who will please everyone. Whoever it is, whether it's Gene Chizik or an as yet unknown replacement, there'll be no guarantee of success. But if Auburn people choose to remain divided, that will be a near guarantee of failure.

College football at the highest level is a fragile enterprise. To be consistently successful, everyone must pull in the same direction. That means players, coaches, athletic administrators, university administrators and, just as importantly, the fans who support the program.

That doesn't mean everyone has to agree with every decision. It doesn't mean no one has a right to be disappointed when things don't go well and express that disappointment. But when that disappointment turns to anger, accusations and recriminations, when it becomes divisive, it eventually will show up on the bottom line of winning and losing.

It is popular for Auburn people to use Doug Barfield's years as an example of the bad times. We'll never know what Barfield could have done with unity in all those areas. Through no fault of his own, it wasn't there. We do know what Pat Dye did when all the parts came together in the 1980s.

LSU supporters remained divided for the better of two decades and the result was a parade of coaches and an exit from the national stage. In the 24 seasons between Bear Bryant and Nick Saban, only Gene Stallings lasted more than four seasons. And Alabama struggled.

What will it be as Auburn goes forward? Will there be unity and support behind whoever is the coach, new or old? Or will there be carping, complaining and mistrust?

As much as the man who leads the program, the answer to those questions will go far in determining whether Auburn football rises or falls.

That's life in college football.

Already have an account? Sign In