Out-going Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs leaves a mixed legacy behind him.
Under his watch, Auburn won its first national title in football since 1957. He was also in charge during the Tigers’ worst football season ever.
While the Auburn softball program has become elite, Auburn’s once elite women’s basketball and baseball programs have largely been lost in the woods for the past decade-plus.
His hirings of Gus Malzahn and Bruce Pearl were universally lauded as outstanding. Neither has produced the expected results.
His leadership resulted in a staggering increase in revenue generation which has helped Auburn stay at the forefront of the college athletics facilities arms race, with a suite of stadiums, arenas, weight rooms, locker rooms, and practice facilities to rival any in the nation. On-field success across the board for Tiger athletics hasn’t come anywhere close to matching the off-field progress.
During his 12 years, Auburn has had, but a few scant brushes with NCAA trouble. His last six months have been rife with off-field scandal and embarrassment from men’s basketball to softball.
Largely as a result of those scandals, Jacobs will be stepping away from Auburn athletics no later than June of 2018. From his days as a football player in the early 1980s until now, he’s only spent part of one year off the Auburn campus.
It was time.
Jacobs’ love for Auburn could never be questioned. His competency in leading one of the biggest, richest, most high-profile athletic departments in the nation could be. For too long, Jacobs’ primary qualification for the position he held seemed to be his love for Auburn.
That’s not good enough anymore. In fact, when searching for its next athletic director, close ties to Auburn should be viewed as a negative.
It’s time Auburn goes outside the “Family” to find the next man or woman to lead its athletic department.
Auburn needs fresh ideas. Auburn needs the perspective of someone who hasn’t come up through the ranks on the Plains. Auburn needs someone who’s formative years didn’t come in Lee County, someone’s who’s mentors don’t shout, “War Eagle.”
Auburn needs to hire an athletic director who will similarly hire other people to work there who come from the outside with their own fresh ideas, their own different perceptions and perspectives. The Auburn Athletic Department has become far too incestuous. Auburn athletics needs to be flooded with new blood throughout.
I recognize the value of institutional knowledge and passion, but Auburn’s first, second and third criteria for Jacobs replacement must be competency. Auburn needs to find the best person for the job. Period.
Not the best person for the job who loves Auburn. Not the best person for the job with Auburn connections. Not the best person for the job who’s worked in the SEC.
The best person for the job.
Unfortunately, while the Jacobs’ era gasped to a conclusion, Auburn missed the opportunity to hire many administrators who fit that mold, watching their SEC rivals snatch them off the market.
What should Auburn be looking for in its next athletic director? Exactly what Alabama, Tennessee and Florida found when hiring Greg Byrne, John Currie and Scott Stricklin in the last year. Any of the three would have been home runs for Auburn. All three should be contacted by whoever’s tasked to make the new hire, one, to make sure they’re happy where they are, and two, to receive their recommendations about what and who Auburn should be looking for.
Auburn needs an outsider.
Auburn needs an outsider with a proven track record of raising money and hiring successful coaches.
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