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Auburn Football: Jay Jacobs' Job in Gus Malzahn's Hands
By Brett Mixon (Featured Columnist)
March 19, 2013
The Auburn football program is not any different than the other schools in the Southeastern Conference not named Kentucky or Missouri.
Put simply, the success of an athletics department in the SEC is measured by the success of the football team. Unless you are the aforementioned Kentucky or Missouri, who boast very strong basketball programs.
Because of that, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn carries the burden of Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs' fate in his first season as head coach in 2013.
Jacobs is not shy to jump on to social media outlets like Twitter to tout any success that Auburn athletics has these days.
But there are other, less-than-stellar but more important facts that Jacobs fails to mention about the Auburn athletics department under his guidance.
In the 2012-2013 academic year, the two revenue generating sports (football and basketball) that consistently flash the Auburn brand on national television are a combined 3-23 in Southeastern Conference play.
The football team, of course, went winless in SEC play and the basketball team went 3-15 in the conference. The season ended with Auburn losing 15 of its last 16 games.
After Ole Miss won the SEC basketball tournament, Auburn basketball now has the longest NCAA tournament drought (10 years) of any team in the conference.
And don't look now, but the third revenue-generating team on the Auburn campus, baseball, started off conference play by getting swept by No. 2 Vanderbilt.
Speaking of Vanderbilt, only once since 2008 has Auburn won a football game, won a basketball game or won a baseball series against the only school in the SEC that did not have a formal athletics director or athletic department for much of the last decade. That win came on the diamond when Auburn won the series against the Commodores in 2009.
Don't forget that Jacobs is also responsible for the massive buyout that he fought to give former head coach Gene Chizik after the 2010 BCS national championship. Had there been teams knocking down the door to hire Chizik, it may have been more understandable to give him such a large buyout figure.
That was far from the case and now Auburn is on the hook for the $7.5 million dollar buyout owed to Chizik.
Things aren't much better in the sports that aren't considered the cash-cows of college athletics.
Auburn men's swimming dynasty was derailed in 2013 after 16 consecutive conference championships. The Auburn men had hung an SEC championship banner in the Martin Aquatic Center on an annual basis since 1996. Until this year.
It gets worse.
Jacobs gets paid a nice chunk of change for such poor performance. According to USA Today, Auburn's AD gets paid $615,000 a year, good enough for 10th in the SEC and 29th in the nation. It's more than Alabama's Mal Moore, whose teams combined for four national championships in the 2011-2012 academic year. It's more than Georgia's Greg McGarity, whose football team has celebrated back-to-back SEC East championships and is primed to contend for a third straight Eastern division crown in 2013.
Anyone looking objectively at the Auburn athletics program cannot make an argument that the resources and facilities aren't there to be competitive with anyone in the nation in college athletics. Auburn has proven over its history that it can win with anyone in the SEC and in the country in football, men's and women's basketball and baseball.
Other than the 2010 SEC West champion baseball team and the obvious 2010 BCS national championship, Auburn athletics has mostly been mediocre in the major sports since Jacobs' hiring on Dec. 22, 2004. He can't get credit for the 2004 undefeated season on the gridiron.
Despite the mediocre performance in all of the sports, the noise surrounding Jacobs' job security did not rise to a deafening level until this fall, when Auburn fielded its worst football team in the modern era. That is because it's football that fans of the SEC and big-time donors to the athletics department hang their hat.
There was seemingly a tug of war between some powerful people involved with Auburn athletics during last year's 3-9 campaign.
On one side, there was an "underground" movement to fire Jacobs along with Chizik, as indicated by an exerpt in an Oct. 30 article by Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News:
It's believed that, behind the scenes, someone on Auburn's behalf has reached out to gauge the interest of a potential candidate to succeed Jacobs as AD in the near future. It's someone who, like Jacobs, is a former Auburn player, but unlike Jacobs, has successfully managed a multimillion-dollar business.
That potential candidate is former Auburn kicker Scott Etheridge. He interviewed for the AD job that went to Jacobs in 2004.
It was only a week later on Nov. 5 that Scarbinsky indicated some powerful people were also in the corner to retain Jacobs. Like former trustee, Earlon McWhorter:
"I consider Jay a friend," McWhorter wrote me in an email, "but as always, my real concern is Auburn and what is best for Auburn, and I strongly feel keeping Jay Jacobs gives us the best chance to get through some difficult times."
Supporters of Jacobs will be quick to point to the fact that he has kept Auburn "in the black" when it comes to fund-raising and managing the department's finances. While having a strong bottom line on the income statement is important, it's not the true measuring stick for an athletic department.
Wins and losses are the true bottom line.
If we're being honest, to make money at a school like Auburn, breathing is the only thing that is required. Nothing proves that further than Auburn being ranked ninth nationally in athletic revenue in 2011-2012, according to Jon Solomon of al.com. Auburn raked in $106 million dollars in revenue.
Seventy-three percent of Auburn's athletic revenue came from football, the highest percentage among any school in the top 10. Among those schools in the top 10, Auburn had the lowest 2012 win total on the football field.
Just as the noise surrounding Jacobs' job security escalated with the performance on the football field, it will soften if Malzahn proves Jacobs made the right hire by rebuilding the Auburn football program into a team that Auburn fans can be proud of.
In the end, the decision regarding Jacobs' job status will be made by President Gouge. However, the countless calls that came into the president's office asking for Jacobs to be relieved of his duties last fall will be muted if the Tigers can put together a strong 2013 season that shows promise of a bright future.
Even though a total body of work similar to that of Jacobs' would get the average working person fired in a heartbeat, he'll have a chance to remain Auburn's AD if football is successful.
It's a win-lose situation for Auburn fans. A strong showing on the football field will mean that the person holding Auburn athletics back will continue to keep the department floundering in mediocrity while collecting his paycheck.
That's life in the SEC.
The Auburn football program is not any different than the other schools in the Southeastern Conference not named Kentucky or Missouri. Put simply, the success of an athletics department in the SEC is measured by the success of the football team...
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