Monday, May 25, 2009

Auburn misses tournament

NCAA baseball's NCAA Tournament was just unveiled and the Tigers were left on the outside looking in.
Auburn finished the season with a 31-25 record and 11-19 in SEC play. Auburn tried to help its cause late, winning four of its last five. Before that stretch, though, the Tigers lost 12 of 13 SEC games.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

News and notes from Chizik's Columbus visit

Auburn coach Gene Chizik met with his team Wednesday evening before the players beginning summer classes today.
Among the players in attendance were incoming players receiver DeAngelo Benton and defensive lineman Nick Fairley – both of whom were once considered questionable as academic qualifiers.
Chizik said Wednesday night before his meeting with the Columbus/Phenix City Auburn Club at the Green Island Country Club that he is excited to have the newcomers onboard.
“We’re excited about both of those guys,” Chizik said. “As a matter of fact, we just met today and everybody’s on board and ready to go. Tomorrow’s going to be really a new beginning.”
For Benton and Fairley, it is certainly a new beginning.
The rest of the team, though, has apparently adapted to the new coaching staff.
“As I told our football team today, ‘There’s nothing new for you now. You know us. You know our expectations. You know what we’re demanding,’” Chizik said. “There’s nothing new. We need to just get back to work. They’ve had 10 days off, so this will be a good time to start.”

BACK IN THE FOLD: When the Tigers open voluntary workouts this summer, tight end Gabe McKenzie will rejoin them.
McKenzie left the team this spring to deal with what Chizik vaguely termed “medical things.” All spring, Chizik said he remained optimistic McKenzie would rejoin the team.
Now it appears McKenzie has made his way back from his mysterious medical condition.
“Gabe’s going to be working out with us,” Chizik said. “There are some health issues and things, but I really feel like we’re on the right path in getting Gabe back to where he was. We’re excited about watching the progress of him and we’re going to continue to monitor that.”
McKenzie split time between tight end and defensive end last season as a junior. He caught three passes for 33 yards after switching back to offense late in the season. McKenzie also recorded 11 tackles, including 2.5 for loss. His biggest highlight of the season came against LSU when he returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown.

BILLINGS ADDRESSED: Chizik confirmed that receiver Montez Billings isn’t through with his academic issues quite yet despite the fact Billings graduated on May 9.
Auburn’s leading returning receiver sat out the entire spring with unspecified academic issues. Chizik said Wednesday that Auburn is still working to make sure he can return.
“We’re still working through some academic issues in that regard,” Chizik said. “We’re going to continue to do that until we get everything ironed out, but right now we’re continuing that process.”
Chizik told The Star on Monday that he was “very confident” the situation would get worked out.
Though he avoided specific terms, Chizik stood by the stance on Wednesday in Columbus.
“I always try to take things on a positive slant,” Chizik said. “I’m certainly optimistic about it. We just have to work through a couple of kinks here and there. With all things working I think we have a good shot of getting that done.”

PROWLING: Earlier this month, Auburn made regional and national headlines with its recruiting tactic nicknamed the “Tiger Prowl.”
Several assistant coaches used a limo – complete with car flags and Auburn magnets on the side – to visit Alabama high schools.
Chizik said Wednesday that he knew the idea would get attention, but was surprised by how much the Tigers received.
“Certainly it caught some wind and probably got out there a little bit farther than we thought it would, but the bottom line is I think it got the attention of the guys we’re trying to recruit and at the end of the day that’s what you want,” Chizik said.
More importantly, Chizik wanted to send a message that the state of Alabama – where Auburn has fallen behind the Crimson Tide in recent years in recruiting – is crucial to Auburn.
“That doesn’t mean that other states aren’t really important,” Chizik said. “As you know, Georgia is really important to us, as is Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi and I could go on and on. We had to draw the line somewhere.
“The importance of recruiting the state of Alabama, to both the coaches and the players, is paramount to us. That was the statement we were trying to make.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Chizik in Anniston

Gene Chizik made his way to Anniston on Monday to meet with fans and the VIPs of the Auburn fanbase in and around Anniston.
While I couldn't make it, my colleague Joe Medley made his way to the event and addressed a few key issues with Chizik.
As you read yesterday, Auburn released Chizik's letter of agreement more than five months after it had been signed. The university revealed the letter of agreement because a contract has not yet been finalized. As I noted in my story yesterday, it is common for coaches to work with such agreements in place for upward of a year.
Chizik was asked about the contract situation and he assured the suspicion that this is nothing out of the ordinary.
"There's no holdup at all. I've been so busy and just been trying to run a thousand miles an hour, but we're getting all that worked through. There's no glitches. It's just finishing everything and finalizing everything, so it will be done soon."
Chizik also addressed some lingering player issues. For one, he talked -- in non-specific terms albeit -- about receiver Montez Billings' status.
Reporters were told for much of the spring that Billings was being held out with an unspecified injury. That was until April 14, when Chizik revealed this potential bombshell: "Montez right now, we’re trying to clear up an academic situation. We’re still working on that as we go."
That seemed very plausible until May 9, when Billings officially graduated from Auburn.
Also, receivers coach Trooper Taylor said in an exclusive interview two weeks ago that he doesn't currently expect Billings to be available in the fall.
“If he can’t do it or if he’s not going to be able to do it, I don’t need to count on him," Taylor sad. "I like the kid, but when you look at the guy and you watch him on tape and you sit in your room but you can’t use him, for me, I focus on the ones who can be out there.
“Right now, I don’t picture me counting on him. I have to keep explaining to him: ‘It ain’t that I don’t like you, son, but it’s not fair to the team for me to keep spending time with you if I don’t know if you’re going to be out there.’”
Chizik didn't necessarily shed light on the situation on Monday, but did, for the first time, sound optimistic the situation might be resolved with Billings able to play in 2009.
"We're still kind of reviewing that, and there's some things we have to do NCAA-wise right now to make sure that everything is going to work out, but we feel very confident at this point that it's going to happen," Chizik said.

That's all for now.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chizik's letter of agreement released

Auburn University released its two-page letter of agreement with head football coach Gene Chizik on Monday.
The agreement was fairly simple and included the base salary of $1.9 million annually over five years. Chizik is also eligible for bonuses based on his team’s academic success and on his own performance on an annual basis.
Auburn also agreed that, in the case of termination without cause, it would pay Chizik the base salary for the remaining term of his contract. The buyout goes both ways, meaning if Chizik resigned he would pay the base salary for the remaining years on his contract.
The agreement also said the two parties “will work together in a timely and cooperative manner to agree upon the remaining terms set forth in the contract to be executed.”
Chizik’s contract has not yet been completed.
The Anniston Star made an open-records acts request for all coaching contracts on Jan. 19, 2009. To this date, the contracts have not been released.
Several of those contracts, like Chizik’s, have likely not been finalized yet. That is at least a somewhat regular practice in college athletics. Some coaches go more than a year without signing an official and legal contract.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Auburn coach Gene Chizik visited Robertsdale Tuesday with at least one clear objective: tempering expectations of a fanbase known for going overboard.
Here's what Chizik said in Robertsdale, as reported The Mobile Press-Register's Mike Herndon:
"I don't want to paint a picture of doom and gloom, but I also don't want to paint a picture of delusions of grandeur. We're going to have to take some baby steps and we've got our work cut out for us. Offensively right now, we've got to find a quarterback, we've got to get more physical and we've got to get very consistent with what we try to do. Were we that in the spring? Sometimes."
That's not the most troubling part. That distinction belongs to Chizik's thought that the quarterback competition could last until late in August. Here's what he said on the topic.
"The position has not been won; that's the main point of emphasis. We've got some young guys who will come in and challenge for the job. Certainly the ones who have been on campus have an advantage of 15 days anyway, but the quarterback situation probably won't be solved until right before the season starts."
As 30 Rock characters Tracy Jordan and Liz Lemon would say, "TWIST!" (Side note: I looked for 20 minutes for a clip of the episode I'm referencing. Couldn't find it. Hulu, you have failed me.)
Keep in mind this flies in direct conflict with what offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said the last time we spoke to him.
Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle finished the spring as the top two performers. Barrett Trotter, who was also in the mix, suffered a significant setback with his ACL injury and might not be ready for the season.
Malzahn said Chris Todd, who sat out all spring while recovering from shoulder surgery, would get an opportunity to compete for the job but would have to move quickly to have a chance. So, too, would incoming freshman Clint Moseley. Fellow freshman Tyrik Rollison would also get an opportunity, but still needs to qualify academically.
Regardless of who is in the race, Malzahn said he didn't want the competition dragging into the season as it did last year.
"You definitely don’t want that scenario. In fairness to the guys we’re going to have to name a guy as soon as possible as you can so you can let your teammates know and go into that first game. I would really hope it wouldn’t be late in the process."

Here's the other situation to monitor: Chizik said WR Montez Billings sat out the spring with academic issue(s). My first thought was the Brad Lester situation in 2007.
Billings graduated from Auburn last weekend.
My question is simple: If Billings' academic standing was at all in question, wouldn't the university have prevented him from graduating last week?
I frankly have no idea what to make of the situation. What I do know is Trooper Taylor told me last week that he doesn't count on Billings contributing to the team this fall. He said that could change any day, but right now he is going about his business as if Billings will not play.
Stay tuned for some important clarifications just as soon as we get them...

(Don't hold your breath.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Auburn fails to make grade in three sports

Here's my story from today's Anniston Star on Auburn's APR failure.

While Auburn’s men’s basketball team reached new heights under coach Jeff Lebo this year, the team failed to make the grades off the court.
Men’s basketball was one of four Auburn sports that failed to meet Academic Progress Rate scores. Men’s swimming and men’s track were the other two sports that fell below the required rate. Results were released Wednesday.
As a result, men’s basketball lost one of its 13 full scholarships, men’s swimming lost .99 of a scholarship and men’s track lost .03 of a scholarship. Men’s swimming and men’s track customarily have 9.9 and 12.6 scholarships, respectively.
The men’s basketball team self-imposed the penalty a year early, meaning the Tigers played with one fewer scholarship player during the 2008-09 season. It also means Auburn will have all 13 scholarships available for the coming season.
In a statement released by the university, Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs said the failure is “unacceptable.”
“We are committed to ensuring that every student-athlete in every sport at Auburn is given the support they need to succeed academically,” Jacobs said. “While we are pleased that 18 of our 21 sports met the NCAA’s benchmark for academic progress, we will not be satisfied until all of our sports reach this level. Failure to meet the benchmarks set forth by the NCAA under its academic reform program is unacceptable. In this case, we decided to be aggressive in getting this behind us, so the penalties have already been taken for the current academic year.
“Our most important academic goal is the graduation of our student-athletes, and we are committed to seeing that they have every opportunity to earn their degrees.”
The NCAA established the APR to monitor academic progress and retention among its universities. Programs are awarded for players that remain academically eligible and remain with the team.
The APR is based on a 1,000-point scale. Any score below 925 is subject to penalty, as the three Auburn teams were when they fell below the mark.
The other 18 sports teams, including football, finished above the 925 mark.
Only one SEC football team, Ole Miss, missed the cut. As a result, the Rebels will lose three scholarships.

Women’s golf 992
Women’s cross country 978
Gymnastics 976
Women’s soccer 976
Volleyball 967
Men’s golf 967
Men’s tennis 962
Women’s swimming 961
Football 959
Softball 958
Women’s tennis 957
Women’s basketball 950
Women’s indoor track 942
Women’s outdoor track 941
Men’s cross country 939
Baseball 938
Men’s swimming 920
Men’s basketball 899
Indoor track 894
Outdoor track 892

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Benton through Clearinghouse

Good news for Auburn today. The NCAA Clearinghouse has cleared incoming receiver DeAngelo Benton to play for the Tigers this fall, reported.
Benton graduated from high school two years ago but didn't have the grades to get into LSU either of the past two years. Two years ago Benton played at Hargrave Military Academy. After he again failed to qualify academically, Benton chose to take classes at Bastrop High School instead of going the community college route.
This time Benton made the grades. That's not the only difference. Benton signed with Auburn this time when LSU retracted its scholarship offer at the last minute.
The former five-star recruit will have an opportunity to play right away this fall. Receiver is one of the positions Auburn needs to upgrade, seemingly making this a good fit for the two sides.