Hello, darkness and uncertainty, the two best friends of a Tennessee football fan. It wasn’t all that long ago that we met last, in fact it’s been just over three years.
Not a lot has changed since the last time the Tennessee football program and their fans were met with darkness, but two things have changed.
In addition to searching for their next head coach to replace the vacancy left by the firing of Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee Athletic Director, Phillip Fulmer has also decided to finally walk away from the game after more than two decades in association with the program.
Phillip Fulmer played on the Tennessee football team from 1968-1971, and then returned to the program in 1992 and served as the program’s head coach from 1992 until his termination in 2008.
In 2017, Fulmer returned to Rocky Top as the athletic director, in which position he served until January 18, 2021, when he was fired alongside Pruitt amid an NCAA recruiting violation investigation which could possibly land the Volunteers on probation.
As of now, Kevin Steele will serve as interim head coach until a permanent move is made. Whether the permanent head coach is Steele or not, whoever it may be isn’t exactly stepping into a gold mine. In reality, it could be said that they would be stepping into the exact opposite of a gold mine, whatever that may be. Where does this university and its football program turn now?
Well, here we are nearly a week removed from the firing of Gus Malzahn at Auburn. We’re also 24 hours removed from the early National Signing Day, and yet the Tigers are still weighing their options to replace the Arkansas native Malzahn.
It was said Thursday morning that if the Oregon Ducks didn’t make any moves with head coach Mario Cristobal, we could’ve very well been welcoming the former Saban assistant to the Plains.
But late Thursday, the Ducks signed Cristobal to a six-year extension worth $27 million. So there goes that candidate.
That leaves the Tigers with a more limited list of candidates. The list includes: Hugh Freeze, who is currently the Liberty Flames head coach, current Auburn defensive coordinator and interim head coach, Kevin Steele, Clemson defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, current Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Billy Napier, Alabama offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, current UAB Blazer head coach, Bill Clark, and current Ole Miss head coach, Lane Kiffin.
Sure, the names on that list have some experience and carry some weight, but do they have what it takes to get Auburn back to the competitive level of football that the fans are used to?
Over the last few days, I’ve been asked several times who I think the next head man on the Plains will be and now is when I will answer that.
I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Hugh Freeze will return to Power Five Football and the Southeastern Conference in 2021.
If a coach can win at Liberty, surely they can win at Auburn right?
After eight years, 103 games, two SEC West crowns, a trip to Pasadena only to lose to Florida State 34-28, Gus Malzahn’s time as the head man on the Plains has come to an end.
It is quite evident that Auburn fans everywhere have been waiting on this day for years, probably for the last four to five years.
It was announced Sunday morning that Auburn Athletic Director, Allen Green had made the decision to pull the rug out from beneath Malzahn’s feet.
In eight years, Gus had gone a mediocre-at-best 68-35, including 39-27 in the Southeastern Conference. Sure, Malzahn is a good person, but he’s not a college football head coach.
Especially when you’re in the same conference as Nick Saban, Kirby Smart, Dan Mullen, Jimbo Fisher, and Mike Leach. A conference that is littered with head coaching experience.
Tiger fans have already taken to social media to express their relief. One post even said ‘Are we even surprised?!?’ The answer to that question is no, absolutely not. As a matter of fact, it should’ve happened about four years before it did.
Sorry Gus, no more Waffle House victory meals, no more Toomer’s Corner, no more settling for 6-4 seasons, no more fist-pumping on the sidelines of Jordan-Hare Stadium. Your time there is up, the Bus is burnt, my friend.
In the meantime, Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will serve as interim head coach, while you enjoy your $21.45 million buyout.
It’s often been said that Bo Jackson is one of, if not the best all-around athlete to ever play sports. It’s often brought up in a debate between Bo and Deion Sanders.
Yes, the same Deion Sanders that played for both the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Braves in the same day back when Sanders was in his playing days.
But not only is Bo Jackson quite possibly the best athlete to ever step onto an athletic field, he’s also one of the best human beings around.
Back on April 27, 2011, the same day that tornadoes ravaged through Tuscaloosa, Jackson, an Auburn University iconic ambassador, set the bitter rivalry aside and decided to start Bo Bikes Bama in order to help raise money for the victims of the Tuscaloosa tornadoes.
The Bessemer, Alabama native has got to be one of the most thoughtful athletes ever, if he’s not, there’s something wrong. A person’s heart can’t get much bigger than that of Mr. Bo Jackson.
Tennessee returns to action for the first time in two weeks after an unexpected open weekend when it travels to No. 23/21 Auburn for a prime time kickoff on ESPN inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Volunteers scheduled home game vs. Texas A&M on November 14 in Neyland Stadium was postponed due to a combination of positive COVID tests and contract tracing within the Aggie Football program.
That game is tentatively scheduled for December 12 in Knoxville. All three of Tennessee’s currently scheduled November games are on the road, marking the first time since 1891 that the Vols will not play a home game during a calendar month.
Auburn was one of UT’s two additions to its 10-game conference schedule. The two teams are meeting for the first time since a 30-24 Tennessee win in 2018. The Tigers lead the all-time series 28-22-3.
Saturday’s game will be available for viewing on ESPN at 6 p.m. CT with Joe Tessitore (Play-by-Play), Greg McElroy (Analyst), and Allison Williams (Sideline), on the call.
The game will be available over the airwaves in the Smokey Mountain region by way of WIVK-FM 107.7 FM and WNML-FM 99.1, with Bob Kesling (Play-by-Play), Tim Priest & Brent Hubbs (Analysts), and Kasey Funderburg (Sidelines) on the call.
Saturday’s meeting will be the 54th all-time meeting between the Volunteers and Tigers. Auburn has won six out of the last seven meetings. The meeting will mark only the eighth meeting on the gridiron since 2000.
In Knoxville: Tennessee leads the series 14-10-2.
In Auburn: The Tigers lead 7-3-1.
In Birmingham: Auburn leads 10-4.
The two squads have met twice in the SEC Championship, tied 1-1 in Atlanta, Georgia. Tennessee’s biggest win in the series was a 42-point win over Auburn on The Plains in 1980.
Auburn’ s biggest win in the series history is 32 points, which has occurred twice, most recently in 2013 in Knoxville.
Tennessee’s record on November 21 games is: 9-5-1. They are currently on a five-game winning streak.
ttended my last game at Turner Field on July 13, 2012, when the Braves took on their National League East division-rival, New York Mets, out of Flushing, New York, a suburb of New York City.
The starting pitchers that night were Dillon Gee from the New York Mets and the Braves handed the ball to Auburn, Alabama’s Tim Hudson. Hudson is a 1997 graduate of Auburn University, where he was teammates with that night’s starting catcher, David Ross. Together in college, those two won the College World Series during Hudson and Ross’ Senior year of 1997.
When I was heading to Turner Field that afternoon, I could feel my chest getting tighter the closer we got to the field.
I knew that this would most-likely be the very last time I ever stepped foot into the place where I fell in love with the game of baseball.
That night it rained for three hours before the game ever got started and it was 12:30 before the game got started.
We started until the end of the sixth inning. Fittingly, Chipper Jones had the last at-bat I ever witnessed at Turner Field.
But this was much different than the first time I ever saw him at the plate in person, he didn’t get out.
In fact, he sent a ball deep into the Atlanta night, over the right-center field wall. He must’ve known I was in the stands, because otherwise, he would’ve probably gotten out as was often the case.
The Braves ended up winning the game 8-5.
Meeting Tim Hudson Five Years Later:
On April 7, 2017, my uncle, who coached my cousin’s travel ball team, called me to tell me that they would be playing a team out of Auburn, Alabama, called the Colt 45’s, and it was coached by Tim Hudson.
When he told me this, I knew immediately that I would be in attendance just to see the game.
But, I didn’t know it would result in me meeting the last pitcher I ever saw start at Turner Field face-to-face and having a conversation with him.
On April 8, 2017, I woke up early, my uncle picked me up and we headed to Lagoon Park in Montgomery, Alabama.
As I approached the field, I could see Tim was carrying his San Francisco Giants warmup bag, for those of you that aren’t familiar with him, he won a World Series title in San Francisco in 2014.
He was busy when I approached, so I waited until he wasn’t busy to get his attention. After his team had taken the field for pregame warmups, he approached the dugout that I was standing beside, I took this opportunity to yell “Tim!” And then motioned for him to come over to me. He did so politely.
I mentioned to him that my goal was to become a Major League Baseball broadcaster one day and then he and I talked a few more minutes, I asked him “Would you mind if I got a picture with you?” He responded “Absolutely brother, come on.” Afterwards I told him that he was the last pitcher a game at Turner Field that I attended, he said “Is that the game when it rained forever?” I said “It was, y’all didn’t start playing until 12:30 a.m., he responded “That’s it.” He and I both shared a laugh because we both knew how that turned out for the New York Mets, whom both of us hated. The last thing I asked him was “Who gave you the nickname ‘The Bulldog’ he smiled and said, “Two people are responsible for that nickname, Chipper and Bobby Cox, Chipper started it first because he said I went after hitters like a bulldog and after a few weeks, the skipper only called me “Bulldog”. I thanked him and before I sat down I said “Go Braves!” He said “Chop on, my brother.”
Alabama Basketball came into Wednesday night’s game vs. Auburn with a chip on its shoulder and almost all of the experts picking against them.
For Alabama, it was all about playing the role of dynasty destroyer as Auburn came into Wednesday night with an unblemished 15-0 record, ranked as the 4th-best team in the nation and as one of two remaining unbeaten teams in NCAA Division I Basketball. Alongside Auburn, was San Diego State.
The Crimson Tide carried a nine-point lead into halftime, 36-27. Alabama rarely, if ever trailed in this game. Shooting 42.9% from field goal range, 28.6% from beyond the arc, and an unbelievable 78.4% from the charity stripe.
Led by Sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr., with 25 points the Crimson Tide was able to put things in cruise control due in large part to Lewis’ unconscious effort.
Auburn was led by Freshman forward Isaac Okoro, who tallied 13 points in the Tigers’ lone losing effort of the season.
Auburn (15-1, 3-1 SEC), will head to Gainesville to take on the red-hot Florida Gators on Saturday.
Alabama (9-7, 2-2 SEC), will host Missouri in Coleman Coliseum on Saturday.
2019 was a rough year to be a sports broadcaster and journalist, I can’t remember a more deadly year surrounding one industry.
Sure, there have been more deadly years in the past, but I can’t remember when they were.
Maybe it’s because I am still in shock at the amount of sports broadcasters and journalists whom were welcomed into heaven over the past 365 days.
2019 started out pretty smooth, and then on May 25, 2019, things took a turn for the worst when then-Auburn Baseball, Basketball, and Football Voice, Rod Bramblett, and his wife Paula were killed by a teenage driver who was under the influence at the time of the crash and topped out well over the speed limit.
Rod was just 53, while Paula was 52.
On December 24, 2019, ESPN’s Edward “Ed” Aschoff passed away after a brief battle with pneumonia at the young age of 34.
On December 28, 2019, Louisiana Sports Journalist, Carley McCord, the daughter-in-law of LSU OC, Steve Ensminger, was killed in a plane crash in Lafayette, Louisiana while on her way to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, to watch the Tigers in the College Football Playoffs Semifinals against Oklahoma.
McCord was just 30-years-old.
While 2019 was a trying year for sports journalists and broadcasters like myself, I hope 2020 takes it lighter on this industry too many people with bright futures in this industry were lost in 2019.
Pictures: Daily Mail, Saturday Tradition and The Wrap).
Most all of us know former Auburn quarterback and college football head coach Pat Sullivan as the 1971 Heisman Trophy winner.
But very few of us know that he’d had neck cancer since 2003, due to his addiction to smokeless tobacco.
There is no doubt that smokeless tobacco took its tole on the Auburn great. Very few of us know that he coached football at Samford University on a feeding tube. In April 2018, Sullivan said one “feeding” would get him to halftime and then it was time to repeat the feeding tube process.
Pat was on a feeding tube for seven months and then was allowed to get off of it and live a ‘normal’ life again. In an interview, Pat says “If you were told to jump off a bridge, you wouldn’t do it. That’s no different than using tobacco, don’t do it, never, ever, stop fighting.”
Auburn and Alabama fans alike, will tell you, there was nobody quite like Pat Sullivan. Such a kind, courageous man.
Pat, even though you’re no longer here with us on earth, we’ll never forget you and the impact you left, not only on college football, but in the world we live in. You never gave up until your last breath.
You fought cancer for 16 long, painful years, now you can rest without pain.
Thank you for showing us what it’s like to be a warrior.
Saturday night, felt like deja vu. I felt like I had seen it before. In fact, I had seen it before, six years to the date earlier when Auburn returned a last second field goal 109 yards to pay dirt.
Although this one was under different circumstances, it will still stand the test of time.
When Zakoby McClain took the football off of an Alabama receivers hands, and returned it 100 yards to the end zone, everything slowed down and I was taken back to 2013.
All I could think about was: “Wow, I wonder what Rod Bramblett is saying now. What would he say if he was still behind the microphone?”
It was absolutely insane. When I got home, I was discussing the game with my brother’s girlfriend, and we were talking about the pick-six. She said “I wonder how he caught that.” I replied, “He didn’t, Rod had a hand in this one.” Her voice got shaky and she replied “He was watching over us.”
Say what you want about the Iron Bowl but when it comes to historic moments, there is nothing like the Iron Bowl.