By - Keith Smith
It's always the kids who suffer the most when there is a broken family. That's never been more true than with the Auburn Family.
Those "kids," are the Auburn fans -- and what's broken here is the leadership in the athletic department.
The troubles within the football program are well documented. The fastest decline of a national championship team to a losing record in the modern era. Four top 20 recruiting classes in 4 years, but almost 40 of those recruits are no longer on the team. Gene Chizik, the first coach to win a national championship for the school in more than 50 years, gone after only 4 seasons.
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But football isn't the only sport struggling at "The Loveliest Village on the Plains."
The once-proud basketball program, that produced pros such as Charles Barkley and Chuck Person, has been horrible for some time. Baseball, which once was a perennial participant in regional and super-regional play, now rarely makes the SEC tournament. Women's basketball was constantly a top 10 program, but not anymore.
All these sports have one common thread -- their coaches were hired by current Athletic Director, Jay Jacobs.
Now, I'm not one to single people out, and I certainly hate to advocate for someone to lose their job, but in all seriousness, how is this man still employed? Are ADs no longer judged by the success (or failure) of the coaches they hire?
Jacobs fractured the football fan base again earlier this week with the hire of former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. Malzahn directed that phenomenal offense led by Cam Newton in the national championship year of 2010 before heading off to Arkansas State in 2012. He led them to a 9-3 record in his first head coaching gig.
Half the fans are ecstatic to have Malzahn back, due to the excitement his spread offense brings. The other half were hoping for a bigger name with more head-coaching experience. Obviously it will be a while before we know if this was the right move, but based on Jacob's prior record of hiring success, I wouldn't go reserving any tickets for the SEC Championship Game next year just yet.
I fall somewhere in the middle on the hiring of Malzahn. It seems like a step back for Auburn to me. I know wins on the playing field are all that matter, but there are times when you need to win the press conference, too, and based on the metric descent of this team in less than 24 months, I believe this was one of those times. Even if you lose out on keeping some of the kids in this year's superb recruiting class, I think a bigger splash was necessary.
That said, the hire could have been a lot worse.
While former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino may have had more on-field success (and certainly brought more experience), I said all along that would've been a horrible hire for a school that focuses its attention on promoting a "Family" atmosphere. Taking Alabama's defensive coordinator Kirby Smart would also have been the wrong move, in my opinion.
Only time will tell if Malzahn was the right hire, or if Jay Jacobs continues to make a shambles of what was once a great athletic program.