June 21st, 2016
Down 7-0 in the second inning of a must-win game, it would have been easy for softball fans to count us out.
Many of the Oklahoma people around us at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium did just that at the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City.
But as I wrote on Twitter, the Auburn Tigers modeled what it means "Never to Yield."
Whitney Jordan got it started with a 3-run home run, and the comeback was on.
Two runs later, with a swing as perfect as her 4.0 GPA in mechanical engineering, Kasey Cooper hit a 2-run homer, and we were tied at 7.
The Sooners smashed one over the wall in left, but Tiffany Howard brought it back. It was a catch, Tiffany says, she has practiced "a gazillion times."
Emily Carosone's walk-off grand slam capped the largest comeback in WCWS history.
And though we came up one run short the next night, the Auburn Family could not be more proud of our team.
The outstanding showing of our softball team highlighted what was a sensational spring for many of our women's sports.
Gymnastics got it started, knocking off our in-state rival in front of a sellout crowd at Auburn Arena. Coach Jeff's Graba's team earned a No. 1 regional seed for the first time, and Caitlin Atkinson was the SEC Gymnast of the Year.
Coach Flo and our women's basketball team advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Women's tennis produced a season of firsts: our first top 10 ranking, our first time to host a regional, and our first Sweet 16 appearance. In just five seasons, Lauren Spencer is already Auburn's all-time winningest coach.
Coach Greg Williams and our Equestrian program ended the season in true Auburn style: celebrating a national championship and an SEC Championship by rolling Toomer's Corner.
Going back to last fall, soccer under Coach Karen Hoppa enjoyed the best season in program history, advancing to the Sweet 16.
Our student-athletes are excelling in the classroom as well. Fourteen Auburn teams had perfect Academic Progress Rate scores for the most recent reporting period. Seven Auburn teams ranked at the top of the SEC in multi-year APR scores.
More than 200 Auburn student-athletes made the All-SEC Academic Honor Roll. And 40 percent of our student-athletes are on track to graduate with honors.
In the same way a championship team benefits from having first-class coaches, our student-athletes benefit from an extraordinarily dedicated team of academic counselors.
Thank you, Dr. Waters
The "head coach" of our academic team is Dr. Gary Waters, who is retiring this summer. Dr. Waters represents everything Auburn stands for. He is a good man and a good friend.
In addition to athletic and academic success, our three other core goals are: playing by the rules, managing our money and providing an outstanding gameday experience for our donors and fans.
Rules compliance will always be a priority at Auburn. We are in the longest stretch in school history with no major NCAA violations.
Financially, our continuing commitment to fiscal responsibility resulted in an operating surplus. Auburn, unlike the vast majority of D1 schools with football programs, does not rely on general revenues from the University.
Our commitment to provide the best gameday experience in college athletics is being recognized.
A recent SEC survey ranked the gameday experience at Jordan-Hare Stadium as THE BEST in the conference.
Facilities are a big part of that, and we are constantly seeking to improve on what are already first-rate practice and competition venues.
Even more important than any arena, ballpark or stadium, are the people who fill them.
Thank you, Auburn Family
That's where you come in. Thank you for being the Auburn Family, which is the best recruiting tool any school could ever have.
We'll soon be counting on you again to fill Jordan-Hare, 87,451 strong.
Coach Gus Malzahn's team opens the season with five straight home games. With a challenging schedule in college football's toughest league, we will need the unfailing support of the Auburn Family.
In our bowl victory, our defense shut down a quarterback who went on to be picked in the first round of the NFL Draft. That defense, paired with Coach Malzahn's renowned offense, will be fun to watch as they "Earn It" this fall.
Looking ahead to winter, Coach Bruce Pearl says Auburn Arena's home-court advantage is as good as any in the country. With his most talented Tiger team yet, I'm looking forward to following our men's basketball team in the Big Dance next spring.
In the ultra-competitive SEC, the margin between competing for championships and not can be narrow. While our "big 3" men's sports - football, basketball and baseball - were not able to match the achievements of many of our women's programs, I'm confident we have the right pieces-coaches, facilities and student-athletes-in place to lead us to consistent success moving forward.
I'll conclude with one more softball story.
At the team's homecoming celebration at Jane B. Moore Field, Coach Clint Myers said these words:
"I've been to the World Series nine times. And I was shown one picture that brought tears to my heart. We were there (in OKC), and there were 2,000 fans standing here and cheering to an empty field."
As one of those 2,000 fans put it the night before, "It's awesome, but what do you expect from Auburn fans?" Indeed. We've come to expect nothing less.
At Auburn, we strive every day to be the best school for the best athletes.
Thank you, Auburn Family, for helping us get there and stay there.
You can also follow me on Twitter at @jayjacobsauad.