Remove Jay Jacobs as Auburn's Athletic Director
A lot has been written in the past three months about Auburn’s meteoric crash to the depths of college football. There is not much more that can be written on the subject and, at this point, it is unsurprising that Gene Chizik will coach his last game at Jordan-Hare against Alabama A&M. What is surprising, however, is that President Gogue has reportedly decided that Jay Jacobs will be retained as Auburn’s athletic director. It is incomprehensible that Auburn’s President could objectively evaluate Jacobs’ career and conclude that he has been anything but a failure as Auburn’s athletic director. The Auburn Family must demand better from its athletic director, from its football program, and from its President.
Jacobs was named Auburn’s Athletic Director on December 22, 2004. Since he assumed control of Auburn’s athletic department, Auburn’s three revenue sports teams have drastically underperformed their SEC peers. Since 2004, Auburn’s men’s basketball team has accumulated a combined record of 40-74 in conference play. That amounts to a 35% winning percentage. Auburn’s baseball team has not fared much better, amassing a 101-139 record in conference play over the same period. For those keeping track at home, that is a 42% winning percentage. In fact, Auburn football is the only revenue sport to break .500 over the span of Jacobs’ tenure. The football team has gone 35-29 in conference play over the past eight seasons. That is a 54.7% winning percentage. In the past two seasons, however, Auburn’s flagship program has lost to its three biggest rivals—Alabama, Georgia, and LSU—by a combined score of 182-41. Keep in mind, that combined score will get even more lopsided after Auburn plays Alabama in a week and a half. If you combine Auburn’s conference records in its three revenue sports over Jacobs' tenure, the record is 176-242. That’s a 42% winning percentage. If you average the winning percentage of the same three sports, you come up with a 43.9% winning percentage. Auburn’s performance in its three revenue sports during Jacobs’ tenure should convince any objective observer that his reign as athletic director has been an unmitigated disaster.
Auburn hasn’t fared much better in its non-revenue sports, though there have been bright spots. Auburn’s men’s swimming and diving teams finished first in the SEC from 2005 through 2012, never finished outside the top ten, and won three national championships in the process. Auburn’s women’s swimming and diving program was also impressive, winning two SEC championships, two national championships, and finishing in the top ten every year. The equestrian program has also been very successful, capturing two overall national championships, one hunt seat national championship, and two conference championships during Jacobs’ tenure. During the same time period, Auburn’s women’s golf team has won five SEC championships and consistently placed in the top 15 nationally. Auburn’s men’s golf team has been less successful, finishing 5th, 3rd, 8th, 12th, 6th, 6th, and 2nd in the SEC. Auburn’s men’s tennis program has gone 4-7, 6-5, 4-7, 5-6, 5-6, 6-5, and 5-6 in conference play during Jacobs’ tenure. The women’s tennis program has been less successful, accumulating conference records of 0-11, 5-6, 6-7, 3-7, 3-8, 1-10, and 3-7 over the same time period. Auburn’s women’s basketball team has had one winning record in conference play during Jacobs’ administration, amassing conference records of 4-10, 6-8, 7-7, 12-2, 5-11, 8-8, and 5-11. Likewise, the volleyball team has only achieved one winning record in conference play while Jacobs has been athletic director, checking in with conference records of 2-14, 5-15, 3-17, 1-19, 8-12, 11-9, and 5-15. The same goes for the softball program, which has gone 15-15, 10-18, 13-14, 9-19, 11-17, 15-13, and 12-16 in conference play over the past seven seasons. The gymnastics team has consistently finished in the middle of the pack in the SEC, finishing 5th, 6th, 5th, 5th, 6th, and 7th since Jacobs was named athletic director. The soccer team has been moderately more successful, finishing its conference seasons with records of 5-3-3, 6-5, 7-3-1, 6-5-0, 5-4-2, and 3-3-1. In other words, the only sports that have had any sustained success during Jacobs’ tenure are the swimming and diving programs, the equestrian program, and women’s golf.
Jacobs’ administration has not only been plagued with poor results on the field, he has mishandled a number of personnel issues. Shortly after being named athletic director in 2004, Jacobs promoted Tim Jackson to be his second-in-command. Jackson had previously served as director of ticket sales, where he earned a reputation for poor customer relations. Jackson apparently treated Auburn assistant football coaches with the same disdain as he treated its fans. It has been widely reported that his obstinate refusal to allocate Will Muschamp additional tickets to the 2007 Chick-Fil-A Bowl played a significant role in Muschamp’s decision to accept a lateral position as Texas’ defensive coordinator after the 2007 season. Promoting Jackson has not been Jacobs’ only misstep. In 2007, he allowed David Marsh, the most successful head coach in Auburn history, to resign after a dispute arose in which Jacobs refused to allow Marsh to build swimming facilities that March insisted were necessary to keep Auburn’s program competitive with its peers. However, none of these personnel issues compare to Jacobs’ 2008 decision to pay $5.1 million to fire Tommy Tuberville only to turn around and hire former Auburn defensive coordinator Gene Chizik.
Jacobs’ hiring of Chizik was puzzling on many levels, most notably because Chizik had two years of head coaching experience during which time he had accumulated a 5-19 record. Jacobs hired Chizik after interviewing a number of coaches, including Texas Christian’s Gary Patterson. Patterson had directed TCU to five ten win seasons in eight seasons at that point. Jacobs was reportedly not impressed with Patterson’s interviewing skills and declined to offer him the job. It was later reported that Gene Chizik was on pain killers during his interview for the Auburn job. Nevertheless, it cannot be ignored that Jacobs’ hiring of Chizik led to Auburn’s first national championship in fifty-three years. However, even the most ardent Jacobs’ supporters would have to concede that Auburn’s success in 2010 came on the backs of Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. In fact, Chizik’s defense often showed up unprepared that seasons, forcing the team to overcome multiple touchdown deficits to win games. Moreover, Jacobs cannot even take credit for hiring the coach who spotted Cam Newton’s talent. Chizik himself admits that he had to be talked into offering Newton a scholarship by Gus Malzahn because Chizik did not want to sign a junior college quarterback. Chizik’s conference coaching brethren did not share his difficulty in spotting Newton’s talent. In fact, they recognized that the 2010 national championship had much more to do with Newton’s athletic abilities than Chizik’s coaching abilities. That’s why they snubbed Chizik and awarded Steve Spurrier with the 2010 SEC Coach of the Year award. This fact was apparently lost on Jacobs who extended Chizik’s contract, gave him a $1 million a year raise, and guaranteed his pay through the remainder of his contract, which at that time totaled $10 million. Auburn athletic advisors counseled Jacobs against offering Chizik such a one-sided contract but Jacobs could not be deterred, insisting that the University of Texas would hire Chizik to replace Mack Brown if Chizik was not locked down with a new contract. The notion that Texas would attempt to steal a 5-19 head coach after one good year was as laughable then as it is now. Jacobs also offered Auburn’s offensive and defensive coordinators multi-year contracts. When the staff is fired at the end of the season, Auburn will owe coaches severance pay in excess of $10 million.
Jacobs’ supporters argue that he has done enough to keep his job by increasing revenue, expanding facilities, and keeping Auburn teams off NCAA probation. It is true that Auburn’s athletic revenues have increased dramatically during Jacobs’ tenure. The Auburn athletic department collected $66.5 million in 2006 compared with $103.9 million in 2011. Auburn’s expenses increased at the same proportion, rising from $63.2 million in 2006 to $100.5 million in 2011. Moreover, A large portion of Auburn’s increased revenue has been generated by higher ticket prices and increased licensing revenues from the SEC’s new television contracts. In fact, higher ticket prices and donation requirements alone have accounted for $18 million of the $37.3 million dollars that Auburn’s athletic department revenue has increased during Jacobs’ administration. The remaining $19 million dollars was generated by increased television rights and royalties, most of which resulted from the SEC’s new television deal. Put more simply, the athletic department’s increased revenues have come out of your pocket and the SEC’s new television deal, not because Jacobs has done a masterful job running the athletic department. Furthermore, the notion that that an athletic director should keep his job because he has kept his teams off NCAA probation is absurd. That should be a minimum requirement for an athletic director, not a reason to keep one employed.
Despite Auburn’s on-the-field struggles during Jacobs’ tenure, Jacobs has negotiated a very comfortable salary for himself. According to Auburn University’s “Open Financial Reports”, Jacobs earns a monthly salary of $52,479.33. His second-in-command, Tim Jackson, earns a monthly salary of $24,069.99. Jacobs’ and Jackson’s earn a combined annual salary of $918,591.84, not counting any bonuses they may receive. That is a lot of money to pay the administration of an athletic department that wins 42% of its conference games. In fact, it is indefensible.
Auburn is at a crossroads. It is a foregone conclusion, at this point, that Gene Chizik will be fired as Auburn’s football coach shortly after the Alabama game. Based on the results above, the Auburn family should also demand that Jay Jacobs be relieved of his duties at the same time. After all, do you want to the man who hired a 5-19 head coach to play in part in the selection of Auburn’s next football coach? Moreover, do you think that any elite football coach will want to come to Auburn to work under an athletic director whose performance indicates that he is on thin ice? If you believe Auburn deserves better and should demand better, please sign this petition and join us in demanding that Dr. Gogue fire Jay Jacobs. Please also let him know that you will not contribute one additional dollar to the university or the athletic program until Jacobs is removed.
Auburn has a number of supporters who have run successful, large businesses who have volunteered to serve as interim director of Auburn’s athletic department while Auburn conducts a nationwide search for its next athletic director. Auburn must take advantage of this opportunity if it intends to maintain a successful athletic program going forward.