Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mr. Barkley, Kindly Zip It.

 

Do you ever get a War Eagle premonition? Do you ever hear one sports story in the news, and in the back of your mind think, "They are going to tie this back to Auburn somehow"? When Turner Gill was hired at Kansas, my first reaction should have been, "Good for him". Instead, I was thinking, "When is the Outside the Lines piece going to air that mentions Auburn". I should have known that the first person to speak up and tie Gill back to Auburn, would be none other than Charles Barkley.

Speaking with Kevin Scarbinsky, Barkley lobbed jabs left at right at Chizik and reiterated his appreciation and desire for Turner Gill:

“Turner would’ve been the right hire,” Barkley said. “I still think he would’ve been the better hire.”

“They have done a great job in recruiting, but the face of the school will always be the head coach,” Barkley said.

“Let’s not kid ourselves. As far as name recognition, Auburn is at a decided disadvantage. Not just in the state. In the SEC.”

Personally, I’ve had enough of this. After the great coach exodus of 2008, I will admit I was all for Turner Gill. He had some name recognition, he had Buffalo in the right direction, and of course, it would have been a Public Relations boom for the school.

Then something changed. I actually looked at Gill’s resume. I took off my Orange and Blue glasses and looked through more subjective eyes. Why was Gill now “the man”? I'll leave it to Jason Whitlock to explain:

As a black member of the media, I know what I’m expected to do today — shout that Gill’s hiring as Kansas’ new football coach is a bold step for college football mankind, a terrific hire by Lew Perkins and the culmination of Martin Luther King’s dream.

The problem is, unlike most of Gill’s prominent supporters in the media, I’ve actually watched his Buffalo Bulls play numerous times. Never once have I been impressed. Not even on the night when Gill’s Bulls ended my then-12th-ranked Ball State Cardinals’ Cinderella season with a shocking 42-24 victory in the 2008 MAC championship game.

In 2008, he won the MAC East with a 5-3 record in a year when the MAC’s four best teams all played in the West. It was the equivalent of winning the Big 12 North in 2009, the difference being Nebraska won the North with a Bo Pelini-crafted defense.

Looking at what Gene Chizik has done in his first year at Auburn something is very plain to me. When it came down between Gill and Chizik, Auburn made the right choice. Gill would not have been able to bring Gus Malzahn in. Ditto for Tracy Rocker and Jeff Grimes. Possibly Trooper Taylor, but that’s just conjecture. The fact is that Chizik was prepared. He sat down with a plan for Athletic Director Jay Jacobs; saying here’s what I want to accomplish and here’s who I’m bringing in to help. Gill did not and I’m not the only person who’s heard that Turner Gill lost the Auburn job in the interview. Let’s not forget, Gill did interview for the job and was given the time of day by the Auburn brass.

The biggest difference? Turner Gill, at his core, is still a Nebraska man. He will still bleed Husker Red and will continue to be until he dies. He had no previous ties to Auburn.

Chizik on the other hand, knew first hand what makes Auburn special. He knew the traditions and the legends. He knew the fan base and the community. That is what sets him apart. Auburn got as close to an Auburn man as they were going to get. I honestly feel Chizik regrets taking the Iowa State job. That he wasn’t ready at the time and jumped at the Head coaching chance to early. Watching him in interviews and seeing him during the Auburn Every Day program it just becomes more and more evident that Coach Gene Chizik gets “it”. “It” of course being the unnamable things that make Auburn special. If you’re an Auburn fan you get “it”. You understand “it”. “It” is that feeling you get in your chest whenever you watch Auburn play, that warm buzz that reverberates through your body whenever you hear the fight song, and that understanding that yes, Auburn is a special (but often overlooked) place.

My real issue however, isn’t with Gill or with Chizik. Auburn has made their decision and it has (for now) paid off in its first go-round.

No, my issue is with Barkley. For bringing up this dead-horse issue again and for being hypocritical. This quote in particular stands out:

“Let’s not kid ourselves. As far as name recognition, Auburn is at a decided disadvantage. Not just in the state. In the SEC.”

You know who could change that perception? How about you Charles Barkley? You’ve got a national television audience every night on TNT. You never refrain from giving an opinion (good or bad) or ANY subject. I’m sure there are contributions Barkley may have given behind the scenes to Auburn. However, there are two sides to that coin. Outside from some face time during Auburn’s 2004 Undefeated run, you’ve been noticeably silent about Auburn football. It should stay that way. I will gladly listen to Barkley when it comes to hiring a Basketball coach. However, when it comes to football? Never. Does North Carolina care what Michael Jordan think about Butch Davis? Nope.

Here’s the picture Barkley has painted to the media and to the public about what Auburn University is:

EJ: "Auburn is a pretty good school. To graduate from there I suppose you really need to work hard and put forth maximum effort." Sir Charles: "20 pts and 10 rebounds will get you through also!"

EJ: "Did you graduate from Auburn?" Charles: "No, but I have a couple people working for me who did."

"when I was recruited at Auburn [university], they took me to a strip joint. When I saw those titties on Buffy, I knew that Auburn met my academic requirements."

Those are all actual quotes from Barkley. Granted, most were used as humor and probably shouldn’t be taken seriously. However, if Barkley is so concerned with Auburn’s public perception, then he’s persona alpha who can start to change it.

I’m not asking him to sugar coat his speech. Not in the least. All I want, and all I’m asking is that he quit giving opinions about football and drop the Turner Gill subject (of which he’s blissfully ignorant). It’s done. It’s over. It’s time to move on.

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