ATLANTA – After hanging up the phone Thursday, Justin Hayles was puzzled.
“I just thought it was odd,” Hayles, 24, of Auburn said. “They never told me who was funding the survey. I even asked for the person’s supervisor, and she didn’t even know what to tell me.”
Hayles was one of 500 Lee County citizens – which encompasses Auburn, Opelika, Smiths Station and parts of Phenix City and Waverly – randomly polled for the hot-button question: who do fans want to see hired as Auburn’s next football coach?
It appears those questioned are all season-ticket holders at Jordan-Hare Stadium or members of Tigers Unlimited Foundation, a university alumni donor system. Hayles, an Auburn grad who works in Valley, Ala., is among the latter group.
Hayles said he was asked for his favorite and least favorite selection as coach, given the options of Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn, former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino (ousted by scandal in April) and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
What threw Hayles for a loop was this: it wasn’t clear whether Auburn University was gathering data to actually assist with the search process.
“I can’t remember if (the surveyor) gave me her name or not,” Hayles said. “One question they did ask toward the end, if I went to church, how often was it – every day, a couple of times per month, once a quarter, once a year.”
The Opelika-Auburn News reported Friday that professional pollster David B. Hill, an Auburn grad, was in charge of the mysterious survey.
Friday morning, with a number of fans confused as to the source of the poll, Auburn Director of Public Affairs Brian Keeter was reached by the Ledger-Enquirer, asked if the university was involved.
“We don’t know anything about it,” Keeter said. “I mean, what you just told me is the first I’ve heard of it.”
Rumors have run rampant as to how far along Auburn’s four-man committee of athletic director Jay Jacobs, former Heisman winners Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson (celebrating his 50th birthday Friday) and famed businessman Mac Crawford have progressed in their search.
“I’m okay with them waiting it out,” Hayles said. “I’d rather they take the time to find the right fit for the job. I know they’ve got recruiting deadlines and that kind of stuff, but I’m hoping they take the extra couple of days or a week to figure it out.”