Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs was kind enough to sit down with the Ledger-Enquirer this week for an interview that touched on many subjects. The majority of it can be found here on our Web site, but as always, not everything made the cut.
That’s where the vast expanse of the Internet comes into play. Here’s what didn’t make it into the regular edition of the paper. Call it the scraps. Call it the stuff that was on the cutting room floor. Or, as we like to do, call them B-sides. And if you doubt that the “leftover” material can be good, remember, at least according to Wikipedia, that Gloria Gaynor‘s “I Will Survive,” the Doobie Brothers‘ “Black Water” and Rod Stewart‘s “Maggie May” were all B-sides. And those are some solid songs.
So, without further adieu, the remainder of the Jacobs interview:
Auburn ranked sixth in football revenue for the 2007-08 school year, according to a recent report in Street & Smith’s SportsJournal. How pleased are you with the money that’s coming into the program?
“We’re certainly very pleased with the Auburn people giving back to Auburn, which is a large part of that. That was actually for last year, the report was from last year. Certainly with the economic times that there are, it’s far more difficult for everybody, including our fans in the Auburn family, but I certainly am proud of the job our folks are doing in Tigers Unlimited. But with the demands of winning, the expectations that each of us at Auburn have for all of our teams, and building a $90 million basketball arena, we budget wisely and conservatively and try to do things as good stewards of the athletic department. We’ve been able to put a little bit of money away for a time like this year, where it’s level funding for all of our sports and all of our support areas, but we certainly do appreciate it. But there are demands that we’ve already obligated those funds to, it’s going to be about a $5 million annual debt service just on the new basketball arena. So I’m certainly proud of that fact, but in order for us to continue to provide for our team so they can win academically and athletically, we have to continue to find ways to generate more and more revenue. And certainly can’t do it without the folks that provide financial support to us through Tigers Unlimited. So we haven’t actually seen all that money come in, because they include promise-to-gives for future times. But certainly are excited that we’re up there at the top in that area and don’t know exactly how the economy this year, what kind of spot it’s going to put people in so they can fulfill those pledges that a lot of that report was based on.”
Have you spoken with Tommy Tuberville since December?
“No, I haven’t.”
Is that unfortunate considering the relationship you two had when he was the head coach?
“When he came to me and said that he he didn’t want to coach anymore, after getting through those couple of weeks there, I think the best thing was just to give him his space. But no, I haven’t spoken to him. But he’s a guy that loved Auburn and I wish nothing but the best for him and Suzanne and Tucker and Troy and Miss Olive.”
When he resigned, it was announced that he would take on an ambassador role for Auburn University. Has he done so?
“I don’t think so. The president offered that for him. He’d be assistant for the president. I think he had lost 15 pounds (after his departure) and he was exhausted. I think that maybe hopefully he’s taken some time to make sure he’s in good shape mentally, physically and spiritually as well. But I don’t know if he’s doing anything with Auburn at this time.”
Former offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, now at Middle Tennessee, had some unflattering things to say about Auburn recently, saying that there was a great distrust between the coaches and administration and that the tension at the athletic complex was palpable. What do you think when you hear something like that?
“I wish nothing but the best for Tony. I wish nothing but the best. We certainly appreciate his time here and just hope he has nothing but successes the rest of his life. It sounds like, based on what I saw, that’s he’s at peace where he is and we’re going to continue to do things the Auburn way. But he’s a brilliant offensive mind and I wish him nothing but the best.”
How much has changed in football since your playing days in the early ’80s?
“The recruiting game has completely changed. And football has changed, but particularly in our Olympic sports, I know that’s not what you’re asking about, but when you have 10th graders making a commitment. But the reason that is is because they’re so much more informed now because of the Internet, they can learn more about an institution, the good, the bad, the whole deal, so actually in some cases have more access to more information and can make a better informed decision on some of the foundational things, and so the recruiting game is completely changed. Somebody made the comment, there are two seasons, there’s the fall and there’s recruiting season. And people’s attention to those things. It’s made it more challenging, particularly for the student-athlete. There’s always somebody asking them now what they’re going to do and every time they respond, it ends up somewhere, being broadcast some way. So I think that’s a different dynamic, but now you can only sign 25 where at one time you can sign a lot more than that. So it’s highly competitive for those top 25.
What about the game itself?
“The game hasn’t changed that much. I think it goes through phases, but basically in this league, you’ve got to be able to play defense and run the ball and mix it up on offense. That really hasn’t changed very much. And that’s what I like about this offense. I think they were maybe sixth or seventh in the nation in rushing. But it’s a fun offense that the guys like to play in, because you never know where we’re going to hit you, and that’s a fun deal compared to when I played the wishbone, and we were either right, left or up the middle. There wasn’t a lot of guessing.”
You were teammates with Bo Jackson and Auburn’s strength coach when Tracy Rocker was at the school. Were those players unique talents in a football sense?
“In 2004, with Carlos Rogers and Carnell (Williams) and Ronnie (Brown), those were those kind of guys. (Marcus) McNeill. Those were those kind of guys. And they’re not only great players but great people. And there’s a direct correlation between your aptitude in the classroom and your aptitude on the playing field, and you can’t not be competitive in the classroom and be competitive on the football field. It’d be short-lived, today in particular, as academically challenging as it is as much as you have to learn on the football side. So those guys, Bo Jackson and Tracy Rocker and those I mentioned, and countless numbers in between, they’re good, solid people, they know how to work, they have a good work ethic, and that’s where this program has to get back to in a couple years is get back to those quality people and those quality athletes. But we’ve got a lot of great, quality athletes here; we just don’t have (enough) of them. Our troops are depleted, and it’s going to take a couple years, but Gene (Chizik) and his staff, they’re putting a foundation back in this program, because they both see, and these other eight assistant coaches, they know what great looks like, and that’s what they’re building here. And it’s going to take some time. And so it’s a tough environment with our current guys, but I’ll tell you this: you won’t be more proud of how they work and how they behave themselves and compete in the classroom and on the field, but we’ve just got to get some more guys to help those that are currently here.”
What’s the status of the new $92.5 million basketball arena?
“It’s on budget and right on schedule. We plan to be in there August of 2010 and open up the season there for women’s and men’s’ basketball in the fall of 2010. It’s going to be an unbelievable place for folks from Columbus, Montgomery, the Auburn area to go and watch basketball. It’s going to be a unique facility, it’s going to be a family atmosphere, it’s going to be real tight. It’s going to be one where you can sit on the concourse and order popcorn and you’ll be able to continue to watch the game. There won’t be any walls between the concourse and the court. It’s going to be a really state-of-the-art facility, one of the best in the nation.”
Is there a plan for what to do with Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum?
“Athletics operates one-third of that facility, and our plan has been now we’re in our third year of our five-year plan, is to be completely out of that facility, because how we got to it was about a $30 or $40 million cost in infrastructure that needs to be done to that facility — heating and air and electrical and plumbing. That’s how we got to the new basketball arena. And so I would suspect that the arena once we’re out of there, and we’ll be out of there in two years, once athletics is out there, there is still health and human performance, Kinesiology is still housed there along with some other support, academic areas. And as soon as those decisions are made about where they’re going to go, I would suspect that Beard-Eaves is coming down. Because you still have that cost down there to continue to operate. You’ve got to spend some money, and it probably wouldn’t warrant it to keep it.”
With Auburn being so football-centric, do the other sports get overlooked?
“The ones that matter the most, which are those student-athletes, know that they’re not overlooked. That’s the No. 1 concern of us and all of Auburn people. And what a great group of student-athletes. We just took about 30 of them out to Richard Quick‘s memorial service. And if people had the opportunity to get to know, and some people do but many don’t, had the opportunity to get to know our student-athletes, they’d be so impressed with them, not only as world-class athletes but just as people. Yeah, you would like more interest to be shown in all of our Olympic sports, but it certainly doesn’t take away from our commitment to them or our experience that the student-athletes are having. They’ll be national champions for the rest of their lives, and they’ll be better citizens for having competed here, whether they won a championship or not. You wish that there was more exposure for those so that people can really see the quality of individuals and the championships, but the world we live in now, the shock effect seems to be what grabs the headlines, and sometimes whether they’re accurate or inaccurate, those are the things people seem to gravitate toward.”
How do you get away from it all?
“I hang out with my girls. I have three daughters, 17, 14 and 11. I don’t do much of anything. I played golf one year ago. That was the last time I played golf. One time. And I’m going to play here in the next few days with some buddies of mine. It’ll be a scramble. I hope. But I hang out with my girls. And recently, 4½ months ago, we stared fostering two little girls, they’re 4 and 2. And that’s all full-time. So I’ve got a 2-year-old, a 4-year-old, an 11-year-old, a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old. All girls in my house. So that’s what I’m doing and it’s wonderful that I can take my work home or bring my home to work, because it gives me the best of both worlds. It gives me the opportunity to continue to develop my daughters, and they get the opportunity to see what great looks like when they see these exceptional student-athletes that we have here at Auburn. So they’re role models for them.”
You sound outnumbered in your home?
“I was outnumbered when I got married. [Laughs] But it’s a blessing. And the foster thing was something that my wife and I had wanted to do for a while, and we went through the licensing last September and got a license in January and got two little girls the first week of February. And it’s a ministry for us. We’re just trying to stop a vicious cycle, and our goal is for these little girls to go back to their home and hopefully sooner rather than later they’ll be able to do that. And then we’ll try to help somebody else out. There’s a verse that says, to whom much is given, much is expected. And we’ve been very blessed. We have three healthy daughters and an incredible wife and mom, we just felt like we needed to do a little bit more. Hadn’t always felt that way. And it was a process, and now we feel like with our youngest at 11, now is the time to maybe help somebody else that is struggling in a way we can’t identify with, so that’s what we’re doing.”