In the pantheon of stories wherein the object of affection was “loved to death”, one can point to examples ranging from the fictitious, and therefore benign, to the very real and lethal. From Steinbeck’s Lennie to Warner Brothers’ Hugo to Mark David Chapman; the object of love and affection of each of these characters ended up dead at the hands of a well-meaning, but misguided, devotee.

Unfortunately, the entire Auburn athletics program is in the clumsy, but well-meaning, hands of its own Lennie/Hugo/Chapman. There can be no question about the sincerity and depth of feeling towards Auburn held by Athletic Director Jay Jacobs and his staff. Jacobs was a member of the Auburn football team under coach Pat Dye and he no doubt wishes to see his beloved alma mater reach the heights to which all members of the Auburn family hope, and – let us be clear - expect her to attain.

No matter how well intentioned, Jacobs’ vision seems to be clouded and he is in danger of loving Auburn sports to death.

The historic failures of the football team in 2012 are well-documented. The alarming statistical trends under Coach Gene Chizik have been similarly reported. In this modern era of college sports, where football reigns supreme and all athletic departments do their level-best to “keep up with the Jones’,” Jay Jacobs is failing Auburn…or rather, he is loving her to death.

The most troubling facet of the current athletic morass at Auburn is the staunch, one might even say “blind”, support of any and all decisions made by Jacobs and Chizik. It is one thing for the average man-on-the-street to say that he trusts Jacobs to do the right thing. It is quite another for members of the Board of Trustees and the “journalist” masquerading as the de facto mouthpiece of the Auburn Athletic Department, continue to prop up the bumbling of Jacobs on the basis that Jay is a “good Auburn man.”

When did being a “good Auburn man” become the grounds by which all is forgiven? How did loving your University become a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for gross financial and institutional mismanagement, the likes of which, in the private sector, might even be grounds for legal action? “Sorry for that little defrauding the shareholders thing, your Honor.” “Oh, no worries, son, you’re a good Auburn man…”.  Maybe Ken Lay should have tried that…

For every contrary voice that clamors for Jacobs and Chizik to be dismissed, there are two that claim the contrarian to be a lesser “Auburn man/woman”, followed inevitably by the cliched, and frankly, senseless, calls for the contrarian to “Read the Creed”.

An excellent idea, that. Let’s read the Creed, shall we?

I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.

Does anyone believe that Jacobs and Chizik are “earning” their pay? This is, in fact, a practical world and in such a world, results/earnings are measured by performance. Jacobs and Chizik are failing woefully in this area.

I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.

Few would argue that both Jacobs and Chizik are educated and intelligent men.

I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.

It is not our intent to brand Chizik or Jacobs as liars, but the fact remains that they are not being honest with the Auburn family when discussing the current state of the athletics program. Any number of rationalizations can be made for the use of “coach speak” during a press conference, but at this point, the Auburn family deserves a healthy dose of honesty from both Jacobs and Chizik about the blatantly obvious issues that face not only Auburn football, but all of the sports programs at Auburn University.  Their failure to be honest about our program demonstrates a deep lack of respect for those of us who support Auburn Athletics.

I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities.

There is plenty of room to make arguments about physical failings on the Auburn football team, the timidity exhibited by far too many players and the alarming rate of off-field legal issues here.

I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all.

There is little doubt Chizik does not condone the well documented after-hours activities of a number of Auburn players, but when the public perception of your program means everything, there is a very legitimate reason for concern about the apparent ineffectiveness of his message.

I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.

Chizik’s sincerity in his message of faith and charity seems legitimate and well-intentioned. There is, unfortunately, no room in today’s modern sports landscape for charity without wins. Lament that fact if you must, but a fact it remains.

I believe in my Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God.” 

Again, there is no doubt of Chizik’s devotion to this message, but a great patriot and servant of his Lord does not necessarily a great football coach make.

And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.

Jacobs and Chizik both clearly love Auburn and, as the Auburn family, we love and embrace them.  It has, however, become painfully obvious that neither is equipped to handle the rigors of their respective offices.

To be fair, the Creed is a wonderful aspiration but a rare accomplishment. It is the secular equivalent of the exhortations of Jesus: a laudable, if often unattainable, goal. The Creed, or rather the selective citation of it, should not be the measure of a member of the Auburn family nor should it be the criteria by which any future members of the Auburn Family are judged.

Auburn is at a cross-roads. College football has become a multi-billion dollar, cut-throat industry. It is no longer a Saturday diversion that occupies only the minds of fans during the week. Football is the driver of an economic force that, to the dismay of much of the academic establishment, determines how and upon what a school spends hundreds of millions of dollars. It is therefore imperative that the athletic department be viewed through a lens that is more representative of the true state of the industry.  Hard decisions must be made, honest evaluations must be expressed and, if necessary, changes must be made.

Right now, change is needed from the top down in the Auburn athletic department: Jay Jacobs, Tim Jackson, Gene Chizik and any other holdover from prior regimes must be dismissed so that our beloved Auburn is not loved to death by well-meaning, but misguided and ill-equipped adherents.

 

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