Sunday, May 18, 2008

Let the speculation begin

AUBURN -- There's a coaching search on at Auburn, and here are my highly, highly speculative thoughts of how things will go.

First, don't expect a quick hire. Coaches Auburn might want have conference and NCAA Tournaments ahead, and it's not likely those coaches will interview until their seasons end.

Since a professional search firm has been hired to conduct the search, don't expect an abundance of leaks ... certainly not before the top prospects finish their seasons.

I expect Jacksonville State's Jim Case to be on Auburn's wish list. He's had the Gamecocks consistently competitive in their conference, and baseball has been among JSU's most consistently competitive programs in the Division I era.

I expect Troy's Bobby Pierce to be on the wish list, though he carries one big caveat with ties to Alabama. Alabama coach Jim Wells will retire some day soon, and Auburn doesn't want to lose another coach to Alabama.

I expect Auburn to make another run at Vanderbilt's Tim Corbin. He's done well at the hardest place in the SEC to win, and he was offered the job last time Auburn searched for a coach. Could his mind frame be different four years later, especially since Auburn is that far removed from all of the coaching upheaval that marked 2003 and 2004?

There's also former Tiger catcher Casey Dunn, now the head coach at Samford. He'll have his supporters on the inside, but how far will that take him?

I expect that Auburn will attract a strong field. Former Auburn coach Tom Slater, who resigned Saturday after his meeting with athletics director Jay Jacobs, recruited three consecutive top 20 classes.

Auburn started as many as six freshman position players this season. That includes slugger Hunter Morris, who was Boston's second-round pick last year but opted for college.

On the mound, freshman pitchers Cory Luckie and Grant Dayton showed promise.

Auburn, like other programs in Alabama, plays at a disadvantage because the state has no education lottery. Other SEC programs in lottery states have lottery-funded scholarships.

Still, Auburn has competitive facilities. Not so long ago, Plainsman Park was ranked as one of the nation's top college stadiums, and it's been upgraded since.

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