Auburn, Ala.--Tommy Tuberville and athletic director Jay Jacobs ended a lengthy meeting on Wednesday with Tuberville being fired as head coach of the Auburn University Tigers multiple sources tell Inside the Auburn Tigers.
Auburn players were sent text messages late this afternoon and told to report to the football complex for a team meeting at 6 p.m. CST. The meeting lasted approximately 10 minutes and was an emotional one with the head coach struggling to say goodbyes to his team.
Tuberville and assistant coach Eddie Gran broke the news to the players. Other coaches were on the road recruiting and didn't have had a chance to return for the meeting.
Offensive lineman Jared Cooper (right), safety Zac Etheridge (4) and linebacker Craig Stevens (far left) were part of a somber group of players who left the meeting with Tuberville and Gran. AU officials told them not to do interviews.
Tuberville met with president Jay Gogue and Jacobs over the past three days to discuss the future of the program. The coach is expected to get a nearly $6 million buyout, the same amount of money he would have had to pay Auburn if he left for another coaching job.
Jason Bosley, a senior center on the Auburn team, said he is very upset by the news. "Please tell me this isn't true," he said. "Why would they do this? This just doesn't make any sense at all."
Tuberville's team just wrapped up a disappointing 5-7 season on Saturday with a loss to archrival Alabama. The Tigers were the preseason pick to win the SEC West title.
Auburn finally acknowledged that Tuberville was out as head coach by releasing a statement at 6:47 p.m. on Wednesday stating that Tuberville had resigned, but coaching staff members tell Inside the Auburn Tigers that the head coach was fired.
In the statement, Tuberville is quoted as saying, “The last 10 years have been a great time in my life, both professionally and personally. It’s been a great place to coach and live, and we’ve had a lot of success along the way. I’m going to remain in Auburn and help the Auburn family however I can. I’m very appreciative of the coaches, players, staff and Auburn fans over the last decade.”
Jacobs was quoted as saying in the statement, “Tommy and I have had the opportunity to discuss the direction of the program. Through those discussions, Tommy felt it would be in his and the program’s best interest to step aside as Auburn’s head football coach.
“We appreciate everything Tommy has done for this program, this university and the Auburn community over the last 10 years,” Jacobs stated. “He has established a strong foundation to build upon and we thank him for the standard he set. We wish Tommy and his family--wife Suzanne, and sons Tucker and Troy--nothing but the best.”
The AU statement also noted that Tuberville’s contract and those of his assistant coaches will be paid through private funds (Tigers Unlimited money). Jacobs was unavailable for comments on Wednesday night, but is expected to answer questions at an 11 a.m. press conference on Thursday.
Tuberville began his 10th season as Auburn’s head football coach with a record of 80-33 with the Tigers along with a 49-23 mark in Southeastern Conference play. The Tigers slumped to 5-7 in 2008 and 2-6 in the SEC to make his AU record 85-40 with a 52-29 conference mark.
This year’s losing record ended Auburn’s streak at eight of consecutive bowl trips. His teams won five of those eight contests, including five of the last six.
Tuberville’s Auburn teams produced 35 first team All-SEC players, eight All-Americans, 24 All-SEC Freshman team members, two SEC Player of the Year awards and 29 of his Tigers have been selected in the NFL Draft, including five in 2008.
Tuberville’s most successful season came in 2004 when the Tigers set a school record for victories during their 13-0 campaign. He was named SEC Coach of the Year and won the American Football Coaches Association, Associated Press, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Paul “Bear” Bryant, Walter Camp and Schutt Sports National Coach of the Year awards. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Football Coaches Association and is on the group’s rules committee.
This year he was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and in May he and four other coaches visited U.S. military personnel on a week-long tour to Germany and the Middle East.
Tuberville had the fourth longest tenure of any head football coach in Auburn history behind Ralph “Shug” Jordan (25 years, 1951-1975), Mike Donahue (18 years, 1904-06 and 1908-22) and Pat Dye (12 years, 1981-1992).
Auburn’s 25th head football coach, he took over the program on Nov. 28, 1998 after four seasons at Ole Miss where he was credited with rebuilding a team decimated by crippling NCAA sanctions caused by the previous coaching staff. After being named SEC Coach of the Year at Ole Miss, he took on another rebuilding job at Auburn, a program coming off a a 3-8 season, its worst record since the winless 1950 campaign.
Tuberville’s coaching resume includes four years in the high school ranks, five years as a defensive assistant at Arkansas State University, eight years as an assistant at Miami and one season as defensive coordinator at Texas A&M. Tuberville was a three-year letterman as a free safety at Southern Arkansas University, where he also played on the golf team, earning two letters in that sport. Before that he was a football, basketball and baseball player at Harmony Grove High in Camden, Ark.
Tuberville showed early promise in his first coaching job at Hermitage, Ark., High. In 1979, his second year as head coach, he led the Hermits to a 7-3 record, which was the first winning season in school history. That success caught the attention of Coach Larry Lacewell at Arkansas State and earned Tuberville a chance as a college assistant. He received experience on defense in his five seasons at Jonesboro with his primary assignments being with the ends and linebackers, but he also coached defensive backs and linemen. In 1984, his final season at Arkansas State, the team advanced to the second round of the Division I-AA playoffs.
His first chance at the Division I-A level came at Miami under future NFL head coaches Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson. Tuberville paid his major college coaching dues with the Hurricanes, spending two seasons there as a graduate assistant and one as a volunteer coach while holding a variety of part-time jobs in Miami before becoming a full-time linebacker coach in 1989. His skills as a position coach were soon evident and in 1993 he was named defensive coordinator. That season Miami allowed just 12.6 points per game, which was third nationally. That 9-3 Fiesta Bowl team was ranked fifth nationally in pass defense.
Tuberville got a chance to show his abilities in a new setting the next year at Texas A&M. Working as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for R.C. Slocum, the Aggies posted a 10-0-1 mark thanks to a defense which allowed just 13.3 points per game, which was fourth nationally. The Aggies gave up just 265.5 yards per contest, fifth nationally, and allowed 92.4 yards per game on the ground to rank sixth nationally.
After one season at Texas A&M, he was named the 33rd head coach at Ole Miss on Dec. 2, 1994. His first season in Oxford, the Rebels posted a surprising 6-5 record. The only losing season he suffered in Oxford came the following year when the Rebels were 5-6. Ole Miss started that season with just 61 scholarship players, 24 short of the NCAA limit. Despite a lack of numbers, the Rebels looked to be on their way to another winning campaign in 1996, but dropped three of their final four games when injuries played havoc with an already thin depth chart. In 1997, with the NCAA sanctions ended, the Rebels returned to the bowl scene and finished with eight wins.
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