'Tis the silly season of college football coaching innuendo. UConn's Randy Edsall is talking to Dan Radakovich about the Georgia Tech job. Les Miles is talking to Michigan, probably profanely, though not from the shower. Because, as far as we know (and by "we" I course mean the Detroit Free Press), Les Miles doesn't shower with his male friends and associates.
But perhaps the biggest soap opera involves the possibly impending though not confirmed and likely not finalized though widely anticipated move of one Tommy Tuberville to the University of Arkansas. Paul Westerdawg broke the news to Bulldog Nation last night. Our Sports Blog Nation sister site Track 'Em Tigers is all over it with constant updates.
At this point media outlets all over the Arkansas/Mississippi/Alabama tri-state area are abuzz with rumors that Tuberville will be announced as the new head coach at Arkansas. Other outlets are saying that's, pardon the pun, hogwash.
Auburn AD Jay Jacobs says no one from Arkansas has contacted him about speaking with Tuberville. Of course, if Tubs were planning to resign the Auburn job and then take the Arkansas job, I don't think anyone at Arkansas would need to ask permission. By the time they got down to the heavy negotiating, he would be officially unaffiliated. Underhanded? Possibly. But in negotiations between a man who said he would leave Ole Miss in a pine box and a group who just ran off the guy who took them to the SEC Championship game last year, I think all bets are off.
You also have to admit there's a certain irony to anyone at Auburn feigning surprise at the idea that University officials would talk to a sitting head coach without going through his AD. Jacobs was not around to fly Air Lowder nonstop to Louisville in 2003, and his stewardship of Auburn athletics has been generally clean and competitively successful. But I can't imagine he would be too surprised by a Hawg Blitzkrieg on his coach.
If this deal gets done I think it will get done over the weekend. If last year's Saban saga taught us anything (besides the fact that even 4 million a year can't deliver you from the death grip of an angry Charlie Weatherbie), it's that coaching tug-of-war matches don't age well. Arkansas is alleged to have all sorts of folks coming up with cash to line Tuberville's pockets, including former Razorback/current Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and various members of the Walton family (the retailers that is, not the salt of the Earth farmers with the touching bedtime ritual).
For what it's worth, Tuberville appeared shocked over the rumors, but did not want to be quoted about them according to the Huntsville Times' Phillip Marshall. Tuberville was reached while on a hunting trip in Arkansas. Those recruitniks among you are probably aware that we are in the midst of a recruiting contact period, one of the precious times when coaches can hit the road and convince players and their mommas face-to-face to sign on the dotted line. I'm not sure why Tubs was in a deer stand in Arkansas rather than some young nose tackle's living room. But I do find it odd.
As a general rule, there's one good reason not to be quoted in the newspaper during a situation such as this. That is to avoid saying something which you will regret seeing in print later. If there was 0% chance of Tuberville leaving the Plains, that would not be a problem. I think what this means is that Tubby may not have called U-Haul yet, but he's willing to listen. His people may be listening, and are probably making some forceful requests of their own regarding assistant coaches, program operation, etc.
And they should. We're not talking about succeeding Jim Grobe at Wake here. We're talking about a place where people file open records requests to get your cellphone records and sue you because they claim you aren't earning your state-paid salary. And those are the alleged supporters of Arkansas football. We're also talking about a place where the smart money says Darren McFadden won't be playing next season. He's also got a nice situation at Auburn. The roster is loaded with young talent, and the SEC West isn't any less difficult when viewed from Fayettenam than it is from Allbarn.
Another interesting twist to consider: Tuberville's contract with Auburn. I haven't seen it, but I've seen other coaches contracts, and one provision they often contain is a so-called "No Contact" provision. These provisions are not uncommon in executive employment agreements, especially in competitive markets. They typically state that if the employee initiates or entertains contact with another employer, the employee either has to pay some penalty, or their contract may be voided by the current employer. Of course, that's cold comfort if Auburn, you know, really wants to keep the guy.
It's hard to say which way this one goes. But I think Tuberville stays at Auburn. Even if his agent Jimmy Sexton had nothing to do with these rumors, he has to be pleased as punch over them. The fact that whispers from the hillcountry sent many of the Auburn faithful into spasms of dread can only mean one thing to a seasoned negotiator: leverage. My guess is that Tuberville gets a nice contract extension done by Sunday morning, and that it's a merry Christmas at the homes of Borges, Ensminger, Muschamp et al as well. Because you have to pay somebody a lot of Walmart money to get them to step aboard the crazy train that is Arkansas football. Tuberville's a gambler, but he's not demented.
Will Tuberville leave eventually? Probably. He's done too well not to attract attention, and Auburn fans (like the rest of us in the SEC) are a fickle bunch. I also don't think you can entertain offers every year or so without the Athletic Director making some contingency plans of his own. And, this year's Iron Bowl aside, Nick Saban is not going to be making his job any easier. But for the moment, Tuberville would be nuts to take the Arkansas job. So would you. So would I. And that's not meant as a swipe at the Arkansas fanbase as a group. That fanbase includes a lot of wonderful people who are passionate about football. But as the events of the past year make clear there are a few of them who are woooo-pig-crazy. That you can take to the bank.