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A separation of class and culture
Posted by shane sez on Monday March 21 2011 @ 12:08PM CDT
[ Shane Sez ]
The University of Alabama’s 2009 BCS national championship run was truly a thing of beauty. After struggling for many years through NCAA penalties and lousy coaches, the Crimson Tide – guided by Nick Saban – was finally able to hoist college football’s “holy grail”, the crystal football. Honestly, the 2009 season seemed bound by good fortune. The Tide was a team of destiny. They dominated most opponents and “lady luck” was on their side when needed. Alabama eventually dismantled the Texas Longhorns to claim its 13th national title. To the delight of the Crimson Empire (Alabama’s fan base), the entire process was flawless. In the end there were no major scandals, no NCAA cloud hanging over the program, and the phrase “Bama’s back” finally carried substantial credibility once again.

On the other side of the state things couldn’t be more heterogeneous (dissimilar). After over fifty years watching “big brother” win national championships (Alabama had won 7-8 since Auburn’s last), Bobby Lowder, Pat Dye, Jimmy Rane, Milton McGregor, and the rest of the family finally stole some thunder from their enemy in T-town. They rode Cam Newton like a mule, conquered all foes, and took the 2010 national crown. However, the atmosphere and environment surrounding the Tiger’s title chase have been tainted from the outset by the shenanigans of Cam and his dad Cecil. Nevertheless, Newton brought Auburn great rewards. However, he might end up costing them even more in the end. Actually, Auburn’s post–championship journey has been the complete antithesis of the Crimson Tide’s 2009 campaign. It seems that head coach Gene Chizik must be preaching his positive message only to himself, because his players are definitely marching to the beat of a different drummer. As it stands, while the NCAA is currently investigating Auburn’s program, Chizik’s had to kick five violent players off the team, and a massive dark cloud looms on the horizon.

Before you Auburn family members start claiming that my bias is blinding my objectivity, think about what is being said about your program and by whom. Your fanatical fans claim that Paul Finebaum believes the Auburn coaching staff cut corners to achieve success. In fact, many of the nation's top media-giants remain convinced that the Cam Newton deal alone was “dirty”.

Internet sensation Brooks (SBB) has been like a dagger in Auburn’s heart for some time now. He’s covered every potential NCAA trouble-spot the Tiger’s have stepped in, including the Louisiana/ Sean Nelson (street agent), the Arkansas/ Walt Williams (street), and the recent home-invasion robbery. Brooks currently has four more Auburn players – some very prominent starters – NOT involved with the “felony four” – flashing “gang” signs while on camera.
Incidentally, there have been rumors of a group called “the Swag Crew” floating around for a couple of years. Now another name has surfaced. Brooks refers to some group called “30 deep” and even has a link to their video on his web site.

Meanwhile, until senior safety Mark Barron’s recent arrest for a petty crime (he refused to tell a police officer that his cousin wrecked his car), Alabama served as a prime example of how a football program should conduct itself while serving as the BCS national champion.

It is a major credit to Nick Saban and his coaching staff that the University of Alabama made SEC commissioner Mike Slive and the NCAA smile by conducting themselves with class and staying focused on the task at hand. It has been more than evident since Nick’s arrival that Alabama players are instructed to conduct themselves in the proper manner when representing the "crimson jersey".

Conversely, Auburn not only has a public relations nightmare brewing, it evidently has a very difficult cultural issue raising its ugly head that must be addressed before it gets out of control (maybe it already has). And, I’m quite sure that long-time Tiger faithful detest the images that are being flashed across every Internet and television screen in America.

The mere thought that a “gang” could exist within the ranks of a college football team should embarrass the “hardcore” Auburn family members and I’m sure they would want any and all of the “cancers” removed in order to restore order and push the perception meter back toward the positive side.

I think athletes reflect almost everything about their head coach. If you want to see three guys that have become mirror images of their mentor, just observe Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, and Marcel Dareus in action. Throughout the season and during the ensuing pro-related public appearances all three men chose to use a few wise words but, for the most part, did their talking on the field. They’ve exuded class and impressed everybody they’ve encountered, including several NFL franchises. It’s easy to see that Nick Saban has a heavy influence with every player because these three are chips off the old “Saban” block.

In direct contrast to Nick Saban, I’ve never really been able to get a handle on Auburn coach Gene Chizik’s real message. He says all the right words about Auburn to the media and makes a very good motivational pitch to the fan base, but I’m starting to wonder if his team believes his message, or if he’s the one they follow. At times, assistant head coach Trooper Taylor appears to have a greater influence over the team than Chizik. At the very least, Taylor serves as a role model for most of the players.

For a direct contrast in systematic approach, let’s look at the product Trooper put on the field. Cam Newton was a “showboat” who knew he could "back it up". Unlike 2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram, Cam chose to add drama to every play and constantly mugged for the cameras – running his mouth and gesturing like his mentor with the white towel. His teammate, defensive star Nick Fairley, billed himself like a pro wrestler, quickly gaining a “bad” reputation for deliberately body-slamming quarterbacks. Apparently Gene Chizik and Trooper Taylor must’ve approved because Fairley continued to practice his “slam” maneuver throughout the 2010 season. I’ve already written that players usually are a direct reflection of their primary coach. Quite frankly, Cam Newton and Nick Fairley are nothing like the ultra- conservative Chizik or the message he preaches. I guess they were Trooper-trained.

Like I pointed out in the title, Alabama and Auburn did win back-to-back national titles, but the cultural differences are separated by a huge gulf of class.

Alabama is a football program lead by one of the finest coaches to ever teach the game. Nick Saban will provide the Crimson Tide with the unique opportunity to enjoy sustained success for years to come.

On the other hand, Auburn is a school with an identity crisis. The head coach needs to re-establish his authority and tighten the reigns on the Plains. It’s long been rumored that Auburn secretly wants to be Alabama. Right now they aren’t even close.


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