Tommy Tuberville, who turned around a troubled Mississippi program, now will try to do the same at Auburn for double the money and double the pressure.
Tuberville was introduced as the Tigers' football coach Saturday, replacing Terry Bowden. He signed a five-year deal Friday night worth an estimated $4.5 million.
An emotional Tuberville, wearing an Auburn tie, said the Auburn job was the only one that could have lured him from Mississippi.
"I was contacted by most jobs that were open," he said."This is the only one I considered. It's not about the money. It's about the opportunity. I think we can win a national championship."
Through four seasons at Ole Miss, Tuberville was 25-20 with a program that was under two years of NCAA probation when he arrived in 1995. The Rebels lost 26 scholarships, but Tuberville still guided them to three winning seasons, including an 8-4 record last year and a trip to the Motor City Bowl. With only five seniors this year, Ole Miss went 6-5, ending its season Thursday night with a 28-6 loss to Mississippi State.
After the game, Tuberville denied he was a candidate to replace Bowden at Auburn. But by Friday, he had agreed to become Auburn's 25th football coach and defect from one Southeastern Conference Western Division team to another.
"That probably makes it tougher, to play one of my schools that I dearly loved," he said. "But it's just part of the job."
At Auburn, Tuberville will begin his second rebuilding project. The Tigers are only a year removed from the SEC title game, but are now at their lowest point since Bowden took over amidst NCAA sanctions in 1993.
Auburn stumbled through injuries and off-field problems this season while struggling to a 3-8 record -- its worssince 1952.
Bowden, whose job security seemed to be a constant question despite being the most successful coach in Tigers history through his first five seasons, abruptly quit Oct. 23 when Auburn was 1-5.
| Tommy Tuberville looks to turn around Auburn. (AP) |
The program has resembled a free-for-all ever since. Defensive coordinator Bill Oliver took over for Bowden and fired offensive coordinator Rodney Allison. Accusations of a plot to oust Bowden plagued Oliver through Auburn's final five games and he withdrew from consideration for the head coaching job last week.
Oliver previously had said he would not return in any capacity except head coach, but Tuberville said he planned to talk with him.
Tuberville said Saturday he isn't worried about the volatile situation he's taking over.
"These last few months haven't been fun, something these players never should have gone through," Tuberville said. "But they learned from it, they grew up from it, and I promise you, they're ready to move on from it."
Tuberville made about $400,000 a year at Ole Miss, with an annuity that could have been worth another $150,000. Auburn is expected to pay Ole Miss a $100,000 contract buyout.
Ole Miss said saturday it already had begun a search for Tuberville's replacement.
"We are disappointed that Coach Tuberville has made the decision to leave Ole Miss," athletic director John Shafer said. "Our main concern is to find a replacement who is a good coach, a good recruiter, a person of character and integrity, and, most importantly, a person who will make a long-term commitment to Ole Miss."
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved