When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Thomas Jefferson wrote those words in 1776 as the fledgling country known as America severed ties with England. Is it now time for the Auburn Family to declare the causes which impel them to a separation?
Our stated mission at the Never to Yield Foundation is to promote a positive image and combat the negativity from anyone who seeks to do Auburn harm. For the last six weeks all of us connected to the Never to Yield Foundation have struggled with this concept. What do we do; what should we do when the negativity and the harm seems self-inflicted?
We cannot stand idle.
As the Auburn Tigers limped to a 1-5 start, the latest and most egregious offense a loss to moribund Ole Miss, there are many Auburn fans who leaned more and more toward severance. Opinions differ as to what should be severed.
At the very least, however, what appears to be a solid majority of Auburn supporters have reached a tipping point. Something needs to change.
The muddled mess of the 2012 football season is the catalyst. Who could have imagined that a team with this much promise and potential for success would be so miserably inept in every phase of the game.
With the loss to the Rebels, Auburn not only became the sacrifice that allowed Ole Miss to end a 16-game league skid, but the Tigers also replaced the Rebs as the team with the longest SEC losing streak.
This isn’t about wins and losses, necessarily. All teams endure seasons that don’t rise to meet even moderate expectations. This Auburn team has plumbed that abyss and seems destined to sink to new historic lows. What we are seeing on the field today goes far beyond the worst anyone could have imagined, worse than even our most bitter rivals could have devised in their darkest dreams.
Certain underdogs at Vanderbilt (shocking) at at home against Texas A&M (unexpected) before closing the SEC slate against top ten Georgia and top-ranked Alabama, this Auburn team faces the unthinkable prospect of ending the season without an SEC win. That hasn’t happened since a peanut farmer was in the White House.
The last Auburn team to go winless in the SEC? Doug Barfield’s 1980 squad. His last.
Before that, Shug Jordan’s 1952 Tigers finished 0-fer in the league, with only wins over non-conference Wofford and Clemson. It was Jordan’s second season at Auburn where he had inherited a team that had gone 5-29-4 in the four years prior to his taking the reins.
For the record, Jordan went on to win six or more games 20 times in the next 22 seasons.
The current 1-5 debacle is a precipitous fall from the national championship heights of 2010. There are those in the state and national media who would claim that the success of that magnificent season has spoiled an Auburn fanbase unaccustomed to winning.
They would be wrong.
Since the SEC landscape shifted in 1981, only one team has won more games than Auburn. No team can match Auburn’s three undefeated seasons. Auburn is on par with the best of the league in SEC wins, SEC Division titles and SEC Championships.
That’s who we are.
What we see in 2012 is a team that has the capacity to be the worst team in the modern history of Auburn football. That’s unfathomable. It isn’t acceptable. There is no excuse.
A few weeks ago we counseled patience. At the time no one could have anticipated the monumental collapse of the football team.
We still counsel patience, but now we are compelled to counsel patience with each other. The current state of Auburn football is so dysfunctional that opinions on the resolution will vary wildly and also be rife with passion and pain.
It serves no purpose and only strengthens the opposition when we fight from within. Our house cannot be divided. We must stand together as we always have. We must support the athletes. We must support the program.
But that does not mean blind devotion. We must view the situation clearly and encourage those with the authority and capacity to do so to take whatever steps necessary to restore Auburn football to its accustomed place.
There’s no question at this point that changes must be made. The current path cannot be continued.
The question is how pervasive should the changes be?
Is it enough to shuffle the internal football staff?
Has head coach Gene Chizik crossed the invisible line of no return? Or does the underlying issue run deeper?
The historic implosion of the football team obscures a more painful and enduring truth.
Every major sport at Auburn is currently in an untenable state.
The Tiger baseball team, once was a perennial NCAA contender, now struggles to make the SEC tournament. In the last twelve seasons, Auburn posted a winning record in SEC play just twice. The Tigers haven’t played in a Super Regional since 1999. Auburn hasn’t made the College World Series since 1997. The Tigers have won a grand total of three SEC Tournament games (3-12) in six tournament appearances since 2000. On a positive note, Auburn has made three straight SEC Tournament appearances (with the expanded format).
The Tiger basketball program, while never a persistent national presence, has been competitive. In the last six years it has languished. Former head coach Jeff Lebo never managed to get the program off the ground. In six seasons Lebo broke .500 in the SEC once and had only a single NIT appearance to his credit. Auburn hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2003, and was just 8-8 in the league that season. New head coach Tony Barbee brought high expectations, but faces a difficult task of rebuilding a program that had very nearly bottomed out. In two seasons Barbee is just 9-23 in the SEC.
The Auburn women’s basketball team was once a national force. The Tigers had one quality season under former coach Nell Fortner but have otherwise performed below expectations.
The overall health of the Auburn athletic program in terms of performance is at the lowest ebb it has been in memory. We have the facilities. We have one of the best fanbases in the country. But something isn’t right. We should not be where we are. We cannot remain here.
We love Auburn. We have no doubt that those who make decisions for Auburn at every level of the athletic department share that love.
We trust that those who make the decisions will make them in the best interests of Auburn, its students, its athletes, its alumni and its fans. Even if the decision is difficult and even if the decision means letting something you love go.