AUBURN, Ala. – Asked to explain why Auburn’s star-studded search committee unanimously settled on the decision it did last Tuesday, Pat Sullivan deferred to a fellow school legend.
The 1971 Heisman trophy winner listed off Ralph “Shug” Jordan’s seven Ds of success.
“Not only to be successful in football,” Sullivan said, “but in life.”
Accompanied by Sullivan’s descriptions, the seven Ds were:
- Discipline: “Any successful person must learn to discipline themselves before they can discipline others.
- Desire: “To excel, you have to have that burning desire in yourself and on the field.
- Determination: “This is what makes you keep on keeping on.”
- Dedication: “A man must be dedicated to achieving his ultimate goal.”
- Dependability: “A man is only as good as his word.”
- Desperation: “How calmly and efficiently we can perform in desperate situations determines what degree we will succeed.”
- Dammit anyway: “When you have done everything you can do and things still seem to be going against you, you have to reach down and find something in your inner self.”
Sullivan, Bo Jackson, Mac Crawford and athletic director Jay Jacobs came to a unanimous decision Dec. 4 in deciding former Auburn offensive coordinator and Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn was 7-for-7 on the Shug list.
“I am confident that our new football coach,” Sullivan said, “exemplifies all these characteristics.”
In his first week on the job, Malzahn has already publicly displayed desire, determination and dedication in hastily hiring both coordinators and multiple assistants, in an attempt to desert 2012’s 3-9 disaster and usher in 2013 preparation as quickly as possible.
By continuing to reach out to former verbal commits Trey Johnson and Reuben Foster – who reopened their recruitment after Gene Chizik’s firing – Malzahn might be showing a healthy dose of desperation and dammit anyway.
If his return to the Plains doesn’t go well right away, Malzahn will face the most heat. But some of the responsibility also falls at the feet of that search committee.
Sullivan, Jackson, Crawford and Jacobs vetted Malzahn after nine days of rumored interest in Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and Louisville coach Charlie Strong (who have stayed put) as well as scandal-tied Bobby Petrino, who Monday was named Western Kentucky’s new coach.
University president Jay Gogue characterized the quartet as “a tough group” who knew they would inevitably take criticism for whomever they selected for this rebuilding effort.
“They don’t have to be involved with us in any way,” Gogue said, “but they made the decision to take on this task and be very engaged and do the very best for Auburn.”
Auburn certainly wasn’t alone this month in coaching searches. From SEC foes Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee, to major-college programs Wisconsin, North Carolina State and Colorado, to mid-major upstarts Arkansas State, Kent State and Louisiana Tech …
“I can almost guarantee you that every college out there that’s looking for a coach, the fanbase is divided,” Jackson said. “But you know something? By working hard this offseason, recruiting, and then getting back on the field this fall, this will all be forgotten. A lot of people won’t even remember what we were fighting about, and that’s just how families are.”
Malzahn took a moment on his induction night to acknowledge the committee, flush with a pair of Heisman holders, an expert businessman and his new boss, Jacobs.
“I’ve had a chance to interview a lot of different times, and this was a different committee,” Malzahn said. “Whether I’d have gotten the job or not, I was proud to be a former Auburn person and watch the way they went about their business. First class.
“It’s an honor that they chose me, and I don’t take that lightly.”
Malzahn has already hit the road visiting recruits, but was back at the football complex Tuesday afternoon. The NCAA’s dead recruiting period begins Monday and lasts through Jan. 3.