About an hour before Auburn's game with Tennessee Tech on Saturday, the Sporting News writer who has fueled speculation about Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville leaving for Texas A&M seemed to back off his previous writings.
Tom Dienhart, speaking by telephone during the Tiger Tailgate Show, acknowledged that the odds of Tuberville leaving Auburn are probably long.
He went on to say that the case for Texas A&M is better than some Auburn fans might acknowledge. He made good points, though I think he overestimates drop-off at rival Texas.
I also think he and others overestimate the Saban Factor as it pertains to Auburn, and the notion that Auburn's coaching staff wants to get out of town before Nick Saban gets Alabama reloaded.
Yes, Nick Saban is an excellent coach who will have Alabama at a high level. Based on improvement Alabama has shown this season, he has the Crimson Tide ahead of schedule.
But Saban had SEC- and national-championship teams at LSU, and Tuberville went 3-2 against him during Saban's LSU stay. I doubt Tuberville and his staff are ready to pick up their families and move just because Saban works at Alabama now.
I've said it on podcasts and on radio, and here's what I think in blog form.
I just don't see the sense in Tuberville leaving Auburn at this stage of his life and career, especially for what essentially is a lateral move.
Never mind what he or anyone says. Just match words against common sense and probable motivations. It made a lot more sense for Tuberville to leave Ole Miss for Auburn nine years ago than it makes for him to leave Auburn for Texas A&M now.
I've heard the rationales to the contrary.
One, Tuberville is not on speaking terms with Auburn's Board of Trustees. May be, but he's supposed to be on speaking terms with the athletics director and president. Wasn't that what SACs was all about?
Two, Tuberville wants revenge for the Jetgate debacle of 2003. Well, four years have passed. Every year Tuberville continues to work at Auburn and take more than $2 million off its hands, he's getting revenge.
Three, A&M has deep pockets; the school can pay any buyout and come at Tuberville with a Saban-like contract offer. Perhaps, and that's what keeps me from totalling dismissing Tuberville-to-Texas A&M talk.
My theory on what's happening here is that Tuberville is helping Texas A&M, and vice versa, whether intentionally or not.
My guess is that published speculation about Tuberville and Texas A&M is based on at least one of two sources: Jimmy Sexton, Tuberville's agent, and A&M insiders. The talk helps Sexton position Tuberville for possible tweaking and/or sweetening of the coach's contract at Auburn after this season. The talk also helps Texas A&M, if it really has other coaches in mind.
I've covered college sports for 20 years with many searches. I've learned all about what I call the "diversionary candidate," a coach who looks like a viable candidate, usually because of connections to a school. Search insiders leak that coach's name to throw media and the public off the scent.
Because of that coach's connection to the school, perhaps he doesn't mind the school leaking his name. He can help old friends.
Assuming he's secure with his current school ... and Tuberville is at Auburn ... having his name leaked doesn't hurt him. It could help him with possible contract renegotiations.
It's a win-win on both sides.
I could be wrong about all of this. I might be covering a coaching search in a month or so.
My experience and the pragmatics I see for Tuberville right now tell me otherwise. We shall see.