Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Alabama In Struggle To Keep Up With Auburn

We've been saying here at all along. Alabama can no longer legitimately claim to be in the same league with Auburn. Whether it be athletics, academics or overall student enrollment, Auburn has become the dominant university in the state of Alabama.

I first wrote about this after last year's Iron Bowl. It was incredible the number of emails I got from very upset Alabama fans (I say fans because most who pull for the Tide have never set foot on campus). The language used in those emails made them impossible to re-print. But believe me, they were hilarious.

But now comes independent confirmation that what we've been saying at FSITS is true. Last week Knoxville News writer John Adams wrote the following after Alabama's appearance at SEC Media Days...

Bama better, but still chasing Auburn
By John Adams
July 26, 2006

HOOVER, Ala. - It wouldn’t be SEC football media days if there weren’t a gaggle of Alabama fans hanging out in the lobby of the Wynfrey Hotel, hoping to get a glimpse of their favorite sportswriters.

Just kidding.

The fans were there because the Tide was there. First came running back Ken Darby and defensive back Ramzee Robinson, Alabama’s two player representatives at the media gathering; then came head coach Mike Shula.

As a woman hit Darby up for an autograph, I overheard her saying a relative had named her baby after Darby. Such are the fruits of a 10-2 season, Alabama’s first winning record since 2002.

A young Alabama fan was wearing a T-shirt with the headline: "Got 12?," a reference to Alabama’s 12 national championships, some of which were legitimate and others which might has well have been determined by an impromptu survey at a Tuscaloosa barbershop.

Tide fans always have a presence at the media days, but the turnout was noticeably larger Wednesday. Success will do that, especially when it follows the Dark Ages of Alabama football. Before last season, Alabama had been embarrassed by two coaches (Mike DuBose and Mike Price), abandoned by a third (Dennis Franchione) and turned in to the NCAA by a fourth (Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer). Oh by the way, it also lost 15 games in two years.

The losing stopped in 2005. The Tide posted a record that might have been acceptable under Gene Stallings, if not Bear Bryant. It was quite a year for the second-best football program in the state of Alabama.

While the Tide has been battling to overcome UT, the NCAA and the sins of past coaches, Auburn has established itself as one of the country’s most solid programs. It also has established its superiority over Alabama with four consecutive victories. "We’ve been hearing about that (since last season’s game)," Robinson said Wednesday. "We were still hearing about it in Dallas (at the Cotton Bowl). "That’s just more motivation, more fuel to our fire. We get so much negative energy about it. So we’re really looking forward to that game."

All the anticipation and motivation won’t change the facts. Auburn has surpassed Alabama decisively.

Who has the best coach? Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville.

Who has the hottest assistant coach? Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges.

Who has the more proven quarterback? Auburn’s Brandon Cox.

Darby gives Alabama an experienced, talented running back. Kenny Irons gives Auburn a better running back. Alabama’s best receiver is Tyrone Prothro. His career is still in doubt after suffering a horrific injury in last year’s Florida game. Auburn’s top receiver is Courtney Taylor. He’s not only one of the best wide receivers in the SEC; he’s healthy.

When The Sporting News ranked the SEC by position in its preseason football publication, Auburn ranked higher than Alabama at every position. Its advantage on offense was overwhelming. TSN ranked Auburn’s offensive backfield first, its receivers fourth and its offensive line first.

Alabama’s respective rankings were seventh, eighth and sixth.Got the message? "Got 12?" is history. Here’s reality: Alabama has emerged from the Dark Ages, only to find itself in Auburn’s shadow.

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