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When we broke ground on the Auburn Arena, I knew turning the shovels marked a new day for our basketball program. I knew it was a significant step forward for Auburn basketball. We finally had the facilities to compete and recruit at a high level.
Today, we are another step closer with the dawning of the Bruce Pearl era next month.
I don't know how long it will take, but I know Coach Pearl will make Auburn basketball relevant again. He has done it everywhere he's been. Remarkably, his teams have made the postseason 18 times in 19 years. Given time, he will do it at Auburn, too.
Auburn basketball tickets have been selling at a record pace this offseason. Fans know his team will play an exciting brand of basketball. They know that whatever happens this season, the team will play hard and they will be fun to watch. With Coach Pearl's staff recruiting at a high level, they also know the future is only going to get brighter.
Auburn University and Auburn basketball will get more exposure during the 2014-2015 season than ever before. Auburn will play a school-record 28 regular-season games on TV this season. We will play 11 games on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU, 14 games on the SEC Network and three games on FSN.
Fans will enjoy Coach Pearl's up-tempo style of play, but another reason to get your tickets as soon as possible is the improved home schedule. Our 13-game non-conference schedule features 10 teams that played in the post-season a year ago.
Our women's team promises to have an exciting season as well. Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy begins her third season at Auburn, where she has advanced to the NIT each of her first two seasons. Coach Flo has taken her teams to the postseason each of the last six years.
The exciting thing about this year's women's team is four starters return, and they will be joined by five promising freshmen. If you have never seen Coach Flo's teams play, I encourage you to come out and support them. Their pressure defense and quick tempo is exciting to watch.
Thanks Auburn Family
The support of the Auburn Family for the 2014 football season has been nothing short of phenomenal. During its broadcast of the Auburn vs. LSU game, ESPN reported that Jordan-Hare Stadium was the loudest stadium they had been in all season. That is a credit to the passion of the Auburn Family, but it's more than that. It's a home field advantage.
Auburn faces one of the nation's toughest schedules down the stretch, and we will need your support more than ever, at home and on the road. There is a lot of football left to be played, and Auburn is still in a great position to make plenty of noise as we make the turn toward "Amen Corner." I know we can count on you to continue to be a difference maker in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
One of our top goals as an athletics department is providing the best gameday experience possible, and you are a big part of that. You are a big reason Scout's Tailgater Magazine recently ranked Auburn #1 in the nation for best tailgating atmosphere. "Walking around Auburn on game day feels like a family affair, whether you're blood related or not," the article said.
As Athletics Director, I have the privilege of meeting countless outstanding student-athletes. The student-athletes we have nominated for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship in recent years have been among the most impressive. Since 2009, Auburn has had one Rhodes Scholar student-athlete and five finalist student-athletes, more than any other school in the SEC.
This year, two student-athletes have been nominated for the Rhodes. They are swimmer Tofey Leon and football player Patrick Young. Both are among the most outstanding scholar-athletes you will ever meet.
Tofey was an outstanding swimmer who is finishing his degree in biomedical sciences/pre-med. He has a 4.0 GPA and an impressive record of research in the lab. The winner of the Cliff Hare Award and countless other honors, Tofey has a scholar's mind and a servant's heart.
As outstanding as his accomplishments in the classroom are, I am most impressed by his heart for community service. He has made a difference at home and abroad. Tofey has volunteered many hours in a local prison ministry, meeting the emotional needs of incarcerated men with no one else to turn to.
A medical mission trip to Tanzania forever changed Tofey's life, convincing him to use his gifts to improve the lives of others. When he returned to the states, he promptly began volunteer work at Mercy Medical Clinic. If he gets the opportunity to study at Oxford, Tofey will use his knowledge to care for those who too often have no access to healthcare.
Patrick Young is an equally impressive young man, a bright light in a world that desperately needs it. A four-year football walk-on, Patrick knows the value of hard work. He knows nothing is given and everything must be earned.
Patrick has a 3.6 GPA studying biomedical sciences/pre-med. He has received several academic awards both from the Southeastern Conference and the Auburn Athletics Department.
As a football player, Patrick's success in the classroom and his work in the kinesiology laboratory are impressive. Football requires long days, with early morning workouts, class and tutoring sessions, team meetings and practice. For outstanding students like Patrick in demanding majors, that means a lot of late nights studying.
Like Tofey, Patrick has a real love for people. Younglife has been a vital part of his time at Auburn. He has served as a role model and impacted the lives of countless youth in the Auburn area through the highly successful program.
Patrick's life was also profoundly shaped by international missions. A trip to Peru changed his life, his view of the world and his belief about his place in the world. Patrick has vowed to one day work to give better care to the underserved as a result.
Tofey Leon and Patrick Young epitomize what it means to be Auburn men. They represent the very best of Auburn University. We are honored that they are nominees for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. They are the kind of student-athletes you hear too little about, so I wanted to share their stories. It is important to know that as members of Tigers Unlimited, your contributions provide scholarship support for outstanding young men and women like Tofey and Patrick.
In closing, I want to thank Associate Director for National Prestigious Scholarships Dr. Paul Harris for his outstanding work in shepherding our Rhodes candidates, and candidates for other prestigious scholarships, through the process. Dr. Harris' help and expertise has been a key part of our student-athletes' success.
I look forward to seeing you on campus during the home stretch of the fall sports season and as the winter sports season begins.
God Bless and War Eagle,