March 7, 2016 - Dateline March 1 and the staff at al.com holds a panicked conference call.
“Gentlemen and ladies, we have a problem,” the head of the editorial board declared. “Have you seen the recent Forbes Magazine article that ranks Auburn University as the top college in the state of Alabama? Did you notice that it finished 43 spots ahead of our Crimson Tide? We’re not even going to get into the fact that the University of Alabama also trailed Samford in the Forbes rankings, the readers won’t care about that, but this Auburn thing is problematic.”
“Was this the same report from a few weeks ago that showed that Auburn graduates earn more money than graduates of any other state school?” a frightened voice in the back exclaimed.
“No, no,” the editorial director moaned, banging his palm against his head in frustration. “That was a national salary potential report. We skimmed past that a few weeks ago. Auburn ranked 140th nationally, Alabama was 500-something.
“But now we’ve got Auburn ranked first in pay and as the state’s best school. This is at least the third year they’ve been ranked as the best by at least one organization. I need to know how we’re going to spin this and pronto.”
“Well, I could whip up an article about how Clemson’s best defensive player getting injured showed how Alabama turned the national championship game,” Tide beat writer Michael Casagrande piped up.
“I could write several pieces about how Bama’s awesome and spectacular recruiting is spectacular and awesome. I could also interview past and present Tide players about why they think Auburn’s education is rated too highly,” Tide shill John Talty added.
“Yes, yes, write about the title game. Write something about that any time there is good news about Auburn. Call it diversion. Definitely write some recruiting pieces. Ask former Bama players who their favorite Tide player is. And write something about how great Nick Saban is. We need that every other day at minimum.
“I’d shy away from asking the players about how good Auburn’s educational standing is, however. We wouldn’t want to stir that up and get recruits asking too many questions,” the editor cautioned. “But we need more. Write some stuff about Trent Richardson coming back to the NFL. No, it doesn’t matter that nobody’s signed him and he doesn’t even have an official workout that we know of. Those guys love them some Trent. Write about how Eddie Lacy isn’t even fat any more.
“Here’s an idea. Get that guy we assigned to Auburn, Brandon Marcello to write something about how ten staff members, including the defensive coordinator, leaving Auburn is a sign of the Tigerocalypse. While he’s doing that, Talty, if you’re not too busy, do a piece about how eight assistants, including the defensive coordinator, left Alabama but that’s normal and no cause for worry.
“Get Creg Stephenson to wonder aloud whether Auburn’s transfer quarterback is too small to play in the SEC. Marcello should really question whether Auburn’s transfer linebacker is going to change his mind, even when he says clearly that he isn’t.
“And get Drew Champlain to draft up something condescending, maybe like ‘What does Auburn have to offer that’s better than Alabama?’ We have to keep the masses distracted and that’ll be like raw steak waved in front of a starving lion for the Tide folks.
“All of that is distraction,” the editor complained, “but we need something to directly defuse this piece. The less traction it gets the better. The average piece about Alabama gets like 600 comments. I want this buried with 100 or less. Ideas?”
“Well, how about this,” a member of the headline crew suggested. “What if we simply didn’t mention Auburn in the headline? What if it just said ‘The Best College in Alabama’ and we didn’t even put a photo of anything Auburn related next to it?”
“Yes!” the editorial director shouted wringing his hands with glee. “If they want to know who was rated best, they’ll have to actually open the link. Nobody’s going to do that! Leada Gore, you write the piece. Make it brief and make sure you don’t mention Auburn in the lead paragraph. No need to make it easy. Make them look for it. Get to work people. Chop, chop.”
Look, we get it. Alabama football is a juggernaut at the moment.
We all know about 16 (or whatever number is used). We all know about number one recruiting classes. Those things have been hammered into our consciousness by a Tide obsessed media day after day after day. We’ve seen the shirts at Wal Mart and Target and Hibbetts. We’ve seen the flags, stickers and magnets on trucks and cars. We get it. The Alabama football team has had an incredible run over the last several years. Some would say unprecedented.
While our cross state rivals have been accumulating shiny trophies and confetti showers, Auburn University and its students are winning where it counts.
Auburn graduates make more than their counterparts from any other state institution.
Auburn University is ranked first in the state by Forbes Magazine based on criteria including student satisfaction, success after graduation, student debt, graduation rate, academic success among students and how the university has performed in the last three Forbes rankings.
That’s the kind of winning that resonates long after trophies have tarnished and the confetti’s been swept away.
We congratulate our rivals on their success on the football field.
We’ll celebrate what happens outside the painted lines.