Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville's decision Wednesday to sack his new offensive coordinator, Tony Franklin, just six games into the season, will surely light up the switchboards on Paul Finebaum's controversy-fueled radio show in Alabama.
It's also the kind of coaching soap opera for which Auburn and Alabama have become synonymous. What a fantastic coincidence that the abrupt move comes the same week the Tigers face Arkansas, whose coach, Bobby Petrino, was once involved in another famously bizarre moment in Auburn coaching history: The secret 2003 Thanksgiving plot to oust Tuberville.
Tuberville hired Franklin away from Troy prior to last season's bowl game for the specific purpose of transitioning the Tigers from a power-running team to a spread team. It hasn't gone well. Auburn ranks near the bottom of nearly every offensive statistical category nationally and last week suffered the indignity of losing to -- brace yourself -- Vanderbilt.
Let's look at the big picture for a second, shall we? Auburn is 4-2, not 2-4. The Tigers remain ranked in the AP and coaches polls. Auburn's program -- 46-11 since 2004 -- is not imploding like Tennessee's or like Nebraska's last season, and the Tigers are hardly the first team to struggle with a new offense.
But Alabamans aren't generally ones to concern themselves with the big picture. Auburn fans have made no bones about voicing their disgust toward Franklin. They are undoubtedly panicking worse than a Wall Street investor right now.
Apparently, Tuberville is too. I can't say I blame him. In the fickle world of Alabama and Auburn football, his own job is never completely safe, even with a 13-0 season on his recent resume. Finebaum, the unofficial barometer of public opinion when it comes to Alabama sports, began beating that drum in a column Tuesday.
But the timing of Tuberville's move could not be worse. While archrival Alabama is sitting pretty at No. 2 in the country, Auburn is suddenly embroiled in chaos. While Nick Saban is gaining more reverence by the week, Tuberville can only be losing public confidence. Unless Tuberville suddenly finds a magic panacea to cure Auburn's offensive ills, the uncertainty surrounding his program could linger into next season. Think Saban won't be using that against him in recruiting?
One down season is not the worst thing in the world. Auburn could have grinned and beared it, and if need be, Tuberville could have made a change after the season with little fanfare. By making the move now, he's taken an issue of X's and O's and turned it into a PR nightmare.
I wonder who's eating it up more: Finebaum or Saban?