By GLENN GUILBEAU
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
BATON ROUGE – It happened again in 1993 when first-year Auburn head coach Terry Bowden, a 37-year-old kid out of nowhere – or Samford University – came in and promptly went 11-0 overall and 8-0 in the SEC with a win over Alabama.
But, as is often the case when Auburn has a great season – it was on probation – and couldn’t go to a bowl, much like in 1957 when it won the coveted asterisk national championship with a 10-0 and 7-0 mark.
Auburn has had some great moments, which is what deals with the devil promise, but it has been unable to recover from the undefeated curse.
Things appear hellish again this season as Auburn (1-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) heads into its home game against No. 17 LSU (2-1, 1-0 SEC) at 5 p.m. Saturday on ESPN following a 29-16 home loss Saturday to Texas A&M.
Jordan-Hare, no matter how they like to pronounce it, has been more welcoming to the visitors of late. It may have the biggest video board in the world, but it is only covering up scars as Auburn is 0-6 at home in the SEC since late in the 2014 season. It is also 2-10 in the SEC overall beginning with a 41-38 loss at home to Texas A&M on November 8, 2014.
Bowden, who ran an offense much like Steve Spurrier’s state of the art spread attack at Florida, stayed undefeated through most of 1994 before losing to Alabama and finishing 9-1-1 and still on probation from previous coach Pat Dye.
Then, gradually, though, he dipped to 8-4 and 8-4, regained form for a 10-3 season with a Southeastern Conference East title before the bottom fell out. Unpopular at Caveman Auburn because the fan base and powers that be viewed what was a great offense as not enough like “what Coach Dye did” and frankly feminine, Bowden was fired before he could even get through half the 1998 season as he started off 1-5 overall and 1-4 in the SEC. Defensive coordinator Bill Oliver took over and finished 3-8 and 1-7. Bowden is now coaching at Akron.
Tommy Tuberville, a hot coach at Ole Miss, entered in 1999 and gradually built the program back up, but nearly got fired himself before a breakthrough, 13-0 season in 2004 in which it won the SEC title. But Auburn’s Alabama-inspired inferiority complex that leads to rash firing and hiring was fueled once again as an undefeated season would not mean a real national championship. Undefeated Texas beat undefeated USC in the BCS title game in January of 2005.
Just four years after the perfect season, Tuberville finished 5-7 and 2-6 and was fired. He is now the coach at Cincinnati.
Gene Chizik was the next great coach hope. He was Tuberville’s defensive coordinator for the perfect 2004 season and had left to be Texas’ defensive coordinator in 2005 and ’06 and then Iowa State’s head coach. He had taken a Cyclone program that had gone 4-8 and 1-7 and made it 3-9 and 2-6 in 2007. He continued “rebuilding” in 2008 and went 2-10 and 0-8.
Auburn did not look too closeley, though, and brought him in. After going 8-5 and 3-5 in 2009, he kept coaching Tuberville’s players and a fellow he signed named Cam Newton to a 14-0 and 8-0 season for the SEC and national titles in the 2010 season.
Things quickly went south as Newton left after one season, though, and Auburn was 8-5 again and 4-4 in the SEC for fourth in 2011. Then it was 3-9 and 0-8 in 2012 as Chizik proved to be a coordinator impersonating a head coach and was fired. He is now the defensive coordinator at North Carolina.
Auburn then mimicked its Chizik history by hiring another coordinator who got hot under its watch, but on the other side of the ball. Gus Malzahn was Auburn’s offensive coordinator from 2009-11, then the head coach at Arkansas State for a season, following the Chizik Trail. Like Bowden before him, Malzahn had his greatest season in his first season as he went 12-1 and 7-1 in the SEC for the league title before losing the BCS national championship game to Oregon and finishing 12-2. He has been going downhill ever since.
Since that magical season, which included two freakishly lucky late victories over Georgia and Alabama, Malzahn has proved that he is also a coordinator disguised as a head coach. Since that win over Alabama on the missed field goal return, Malzahn is 16-13 overall and 6-11 in the SEC regular season. The offensive genius is currently 94th in the nation in pass offense and 10th in the SEC with 194 yards a game. The so called quarterback guru is 86th nationally and 10th in the SEC in passing efficiency at 123.6. Last year, Auburn finished 12th in the SEC in pass offense and 10th in passing efficiency.
“He’s a brilliant offensive mind,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said last spring when Malzahn got a raise and an extension through 2020. “There’s a bunch of schools in this league that would love to be in our position with a guy like him.”
No one treats coaches better than Auburn … after they’re fired. Malzahn by next year will join a host of others paid for years after getting fired as the curse continues.
GUILBEAU SEC POLL: 1. Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC). 2. Texas A&M (3-0, 1-0). 3. Arkansas (3-0, 0-0). 4. Florida (2-0, 1-0). 5. Tennessee (3-0, 0-0). 6. Georgia (3-0, 1-0). 7. Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1). 8. LSU (2-1, 1-0). 9. Auburn (1-2, 0-1). 10. Mississippi State (1-2, 1-1). 11. South Carolina (2-1, 1-1). 12. Missouri (1-2, 0-1). 13. Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1). 14. Kentucky (1-2, 0-1).
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I think we need a little break here, a little recovery.”
—Alabama coach/workaholic Nick Saban after finally beating Ole Miss following two straight losses to the Rebels.