Five years later, the powers that be at Auburn got their wish. They fired Tommy Tuberville.
The week of the 2003 Iron Bowl, mega-booster (and trustee) Bobby Lowder provided a jet for then-president William Walker, then-athletic director David Housel and two trustees to make a clandestine trip to Louisville to woo Bobby Petrino to replace his former boss. Tuberville survived the coup attempt, then grabbed all the power by going 13-0 in 2004.
Tuberville didn't deserve to be fired Wednesday. He'd earned the right to a bad year and his program wasn't rotting from the inside out. But a 5-7 2008 season sapped most of his power, and according to The Birmingham News and the Paul Finebaum Radio Network, Tuberville is finished at Auburn. The final nail in the pine box was a 36-0 loss Saturday at Alabama, but Tuberville planted the seeds of his dismissal much earlier.
Tuberville doomed himself with two major mistakes this year. First, he hired offensive coordinator Tony Franklin from Troy without allowing Franklin to bring in assistants who would teach his offense. Second, he fired Franklin days before the Arkansas game, costing his team a likely win that ultimately would have made it bowl eligible.
Even as Tuberville won 42 games between 2004 and '07 and beat Alabama six years in a row, Auburn fans and boosters grew impatient with Tuberville's stubborn allegiance to the "barbecue boys," a group of assistants with him since his first year at Ole Miss in 1995. Those assistants -- Hugh Nall (offensive line), Eddie Gran (running backs), Greg Knox (receivers), Don Dunn (defensive tackles) and Terry Price (defensive ends) -- remained even as Tuberville burned through coordinators. This season, the offensive assistants were asked to coach Franklin's spread offense, which was a radical departure from what they had coached before. That put Franklin behind the eight-ball immediately.
The offense didn't immediately prosper under Franklin, and Tuberville fired him days before a home game against a struggling Arkansas team coached by Petrino. Tuberville, the barbecue boys and tight ends coach Steve Ensminger took over the offense, and it sunk to new lows. The Tigers lost to the Razorbacks, and their only win the remainder of the season came against FCS school Tennessee-Martin.
Had Tuberville and the barbecue boys managed to find a way to work with Franklin, they might all still be employed today -- except for Franklin, who would have made a convenient scapegoat. Instead, Auburn is looking for a new coach.
And whether that new coach is Texas Tech's Mike Leach, Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson, Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp (a former Auburn defensive coordinator) -- egads -- South Carolina's Steve Spurrier or someone else, he should heed this piece of advice. Win, but also make nice with Lowder and the big-money boosters. You never know when they might get the urge to hop on a plane.