Dec. 18, 2013
Jay Jacobs, left, and Gus Malzahn chat the day before the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – Jay Jacobs, his ninth football season as Auburn’s athletics director almost done, surveyed his program Wednesday morning and saw progress almost everywhere.
Seven months after he spoke to the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and promised things would improve from the trying times of the fall of 2012 and spring of 2013, Jacobs was back. The mood was far different.
The football team is 12-1 under first-year head coach Gus Malzahn, ranked No. 2 and preparing to play No. 1 Florida State in the BCS Championship Game. Baseball coach Sunny Golloway and softball coach Clint Myers, with championships on their resumes, have come to town.
Jacobs, who serves as the chairman of Southeastern Conference athletics directors, met with reporters after his talk and touched on numerous subjects.
Jacobs has no concern about Malzahn to Texas talk
Malzahn has signed a letter of agreement; contract to come
“We haven’t gotten together yet. We were both on the road a lot last week. We haven’t had a chance to get together yet, but we will.
“… We are going to do whatever is necessary to win this game, then we’ll take care of that. The way he’s been operating, I’ve had to go to him. He’s been more focused on his team.”
A buyout amount has not yet been agreed on. Until it is, he is subject to the $2 million buyout in his original contract.
Jacobs doesn’t think Malzahn will come back for more
“I don’t think so. I think what he and I shook hands on Thursday night before the SEC Championship Game is it.”
Contract negotiation was over in minutes
“It didn’t take very long. It’s somewhat unique, but he wanted to be here. As we had said, we were going to do what was fair for him and fair for Auburn. That’s what we did. It was about a 15-minute visit.”
Rewards coming for Auburn assistant coaches
“That will be Gus’ responsibility. We visited late last week, so it’s up to him. He’ll be visiting with those guys on his time frame. I don’t know if it will be before the national championship or after. We want to do everything we can to keep this staff together, and that’s what we intend to do.”
College head football coaches are making lots of money
“With the appetite of our fans and stakeholders, I think it will just keep going up. You look around the country and see what the career span is at one place and the intensity of the work that they do, we demand it. People demand that. They demand the best. Where it ends, I don’t know.
“A few years back we said this is going to end at some point. It’s almost doubled since we said that. It’s the market we are in.”
Coming back from last year's troubles
Staff changes and more
“I’m going to keep demanding excellence. Those coaches are proven winners and men of character. That’s what I expect and what the Auburn family expects. We did exactly what we said we were going to get done. The presidential review committee came in and made some recommendations. We added to it. I thought it was important for the business leaders of the community to hear what we had done. We were serious about it, and we are going to continue to be.
“Certainly, this football season has been one for the ages. I’m so proud of Gus and his staff and these players. To go through what they went through last year and be able to pull it together is quite remarkable.”
Dealing with criticism was a learning experience
“I was critical. I was having a hard time with our lack of success. We sell emotion. This is a business of highs and lows. You have to learn how to navigate through those. It was a tough year for me personally, having played here and what it meant to and my family. You can’t protect them from all of that.
“Coming out of it, they’ve learned something. They’ve grown spiritually, mentally and otherwise. Smooth sailing doesn’t make good sailors. You go through a storm like that, it changes you. For me and my family, it changed us for the better. I can certainly see how going through as much thunder and lightning as that could turn people in a different direction.”
Winning is the bottom line
“It’s like my dad told me. ‘When it gets too rough for everybody else, it is just right for me and you.’ I’ve repeated that lot the past 12 months. You have to take the peaks with the valleys and keep everything in perspective, but the bottom line is this business is about winning. We are going to do it the right way. It’s obvious this is a place you can do it all and do it the right way.”
Change must come for major schools
“There has to be some kind of new structure in place. There has to be some way these five conferences we all play in, you have to look at them differently in some way. It doesn’t make any sense for us not to be able to feed our student-athletes as much as we want to every day. That goes back to student-athlete welfare. Some of the rules are archaic for what we are trying to get accomplished.
“We have to do something about the agents. We’ve got NFL prospects, and we need to find a better way to educate them on what their prospects are of earning a living, just like we do for a chemistry major or a business major. We have to find ways to do those things.”
Could the major schools leave the NCAA?
“I think that if the frustration stays level, like it is now, and there are no spikes, we’ll find a way to work it out the way it is. If there are more roadblocks, people’s inability to make concessions to do what is best for the student-athlete overall, I could see just about anything happening. We haven’t had that conversation at the Southeastern Conference. The commissioners will have a lot of input into what the structure will look like.
“Where we are right now, if we can keep making progress and get a new structure in place, I think we’ll be good under the current system. I think that people’s patience and tolerance of taking one step forward and two back, I think that’s over.”
Still hope in Tony Barbee’s fourth season
“I’m looking forward to SEC play. Those guys are playing together for the first time. We will just see how it goes. We have increased our funding for men’s basketball about 30 percent in the last three years. We’ve made a tremendous investment. I think we are more athletic. I look forward to seeing us play (in the SEC).”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: