May 14, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN — Jay Jacobs says he'll implement a plan to improve the Auburn athletics department that will include a turnaround of the school's major sports and an enhancement of the game-day experience for fans.
"I promise you this: We will improve,'' the Auburn University athletics director told the Auburn Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.
Jacobs said he told his senior staff Monday that he has accepted the findings and recommendations of a review committee that was commissioned by university president Jay Gogue. Jacobs said he has spoken to Gogue and has a plan to go forward.
"His expectations are high – and I intend to meet them," Jacobs said.
"What comes next sits squarely on my shoulders."
Gogue said in a letter posted on the Auburn website Monday the university will take steps to "improve overall operations of the Department" and that he is confident Jacobs "will move forward to put in place a plan to give the Auburn family what we all expect."
Jacobs said he accepted that challenge.
"We have much work to do, but I’m convinced that our best days are not behind us," Jacobs said. "I will continue to fight for Auburn. I will continue to defend Auburn, and I will continue to push us to get better every day."
Jacobs touched on some highlights of the athletic year, including the equestrian national championship and various NCAA appearances in other sports. "But we’ve also been through a tough time," he said, acknowledging the football team went 3-9 and the men's basketball team struggled.
Jacobs has already taken action, replacing football coach Gene Chizik with Gus Malzahn, and removed softball coach Tina Deese after failing to reach the NCAA Tournament.
"Our coaches need to perform better. Auburn fans want to win, and so do I," he said.
Jacobs said his decision to replace some coaches while keeping others were "judgment calls an AD has to make. Some may agree with me and others may disagree. I have made my call and I expect results."
Jacobs said his guidelines for his program going forward will include:
• Improving "our overall operations so we’re sharper and even more professional."
• Enhance the "game day and game weekend experience."
• Refining "how we interact and communicate with fans and alumni."
• A need to "keep developing our major sports and our Olympic sports."
• Continued improvement of athletic facilities "in a smart way that makes sense for Auburn."
Jacobs said Auburn fans have been resilient throughout, as evidenced by the fact the school led the nation in spring game attendance with 82,000 at last month's A-Day Game.
"The energy and optimism surrounding our football program is undeniable," Jacobs said, calling the attendance "a true testament to the loyalty and spirit of the Auburn family.
"I want to be clear that regardless of how well we are performing across our other goals, I know how important winning is to our fans.
"I don’t know what the final score will be this year, but I can promise you this: We aren’t going to back down from anybody."
Jacobs said Malzahn "has shown he’s everything we hoped he would be. He’s a tireless worker. He’s a fierce competitor. He’s a great ambassador for Auburn."
Jacobs said while this season was a disappointment in football and basketball, "we have a lot to be proud of – and a lot to focus on. We have a great history -- and a great future.
"You don’t have to look back very far to realize that when we win, we all win," he told the business leaders.
Jacobs pointed to the programs that have had success in the academic year, including the national champion equestrian team and teams that qualified for NCAA tournament play, including soccer, women's golf, men's golf and men and women's tennis.
Jacobs said Auburn has achieved success in the classroom as well.
"Academically, our student-athletes are performing at the highest level since I’ve been at Auburn. We recently honored 309 student-athletes with a 3.0 or better GPA, by far the most we’ve ever had. The Academic Progress Rate data the NCAA will soon release will bring more good news on the academic side," he said.
He said he was proud of the Auburn compliance staff.
"You can have the same confidence that I have in the way we operate our program — with integrity," he said.
Jacobs reiterated that he will no longer accept "baseless attacks not supported by the facts" in the media directed toward his university.
"I am going to fight for Auburn," he said. "When others get the facts wrong, I am going to do what’s right. I am going to defend our institution."
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