Friday, October 28, 2005

Tuberville Hits Pay Dirt With SEC Fans

By Jay Coulter
Football Saturday In The South
Have you ever known someone who knows just what to say and when to say it? Blame Tommy Tuberville for whatever you wish, but you’ve got to give him this, the guy knows how to get an audience when he needs one. And he knows exactly what to say and what buttons to push.

Unless you’ve been under a rock this week, you’ve undoubtedly heard the national commotion Tuberville has created by speaking out against the BCS and specifically ESPN. Tuberville made the common sense remark that ESPN has too much power in determining who plays for the national championship.

Well if you listened to Dan Patrick yesterday you would have thought someone had bitch slapped his mother. I admit to being a regular listener to his show. Is he annoying? Yes. But he has the best guests in all of sports. In the three plus years listening to Patrick I can never recall him raising his voice like he did to Tuberville.

Tuberville handled it with his usual class. You could tell by Patrick’s behavior that Tuberville had hit pay dirt. Dan was doing more than protecting his company; it was like he was protecting a secret…a big one.

The most amazing thing about this whole week has been the response from other fans in the SEC. I spent part of today reading message boards from other schools, primarily LSU, Alabama and Georgia. Without exception everyone who posted agreed with Tuberville.

Most admitted to not liking him but all agreed with him. I found out today that this is not an Auburn issue. This is an SEC issue. Tuberville hit a nerve with the national press and a nerve with the fans of the SEC.

Privately, many of my Alabama and Georgia friends have admitted to wishing that we had a shot at the national title last year. They did because it was bad for the SEC not to have a chance with an undefeated team. A year later, these two teams may be looking through the window like we did a year ago.

One person in the media who did come to Auburn’s defense was Rick Reilly, the noted columnist for Sports Illustrated. While I still haven’t forgiven Reilly for writing the story about why Bo Jackson shouldn’t win the Heisman Trophy back in 1985, he did concur with what most of us in the southeast have been saying.

Reilly, commenting on the Dan Patrick Radio Show said, “Dan, Tommy Tuberville did get one thing right…ESPN does have too much power.” It’s interesting to note that he was the only one on Patrick’s show that wasn’t an employee of ESPN or Disney Inc.

So does this hurt Auburn? Of course it doesn’t. ESPN doesn’t care about Auburn. They care about ratings. They have a contract to carry SEC games and to show the teams who draw the most viewers. That’s why Auburn has been on ESPN more than any other college football team.

Will ESPN’s College Game Day of which Tuberville aimed most of his criticism ever come back? They’ll be back in a New York minute. I’ll make a prediction - if Auburn and Alabama win out, Chris Fowler and crew will be on campus in late November for the Iron Bowl.

It will make for great drama and most of all hype. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what ESPN is all about?

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