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January 19, 2004

Auburn President Vacates Office

FROM THE TARMAC OF AN AIRPORT NEAR LOUISVILLE COMES WORD THAT a change in leadership at Auburn has occurred.  Embattled Auburn University President William Walker resigned on Feb. 16.

Things began to unravel  when Walker and AD David Housel surreptitiously traveled to Louisville two days before the Alabama-Auburn game to talk with Louisville coach Bobby Petrino about taking the Auburn job.   This was despite the fact that the current Auburn coach, Tommy Tuberville, was very popular throughout the state and had led Auburn to several winning campaigns over the past few years.  To make matters worse, Walker and Housel failed to ask the permission of the Louisville administration, which is the usual modus operandi in coach searches, as well as being the courteous thing to do.

The press learned about the clandestine meeting and questioned Walker about it.  Initially he denied that the meeting took place, but he later fessed up.  The net effect of the embarrassing reversal was a major blow to his credibility.

In the ensuing damage control, Walker affected a pro forma apology to Tuberville and attempted to accept blame. He was apparently attempting to shield Housel from blame, who was also facing a chorus of calls for his resignation.

Tuberville said it has been a “tough last couple of months for everyone. Dr. Walker did a lot of positive things for athletics. Now, we just need to move on.”   It was quite charitable of Tuberville to omit any mention of the negative things Walker has done.  Throughout it all, Tuberville remained the epitome of a class act.

As if things weren’t bad enough, a month after the football coach debacle, the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges put Auburn on probation.   Thus Walker had suffered a damaging one-two punch, and many thought that his departure was close at hand.  They were right.

In office for only 19 months, Walker was named by Auburn trustees as president with the understanding he would serve three years. However, just six months ago things were so rosey that there was talk of Walker staying on far beyond the originally proposed three year term. 

Things change.


(Birmingham News 1-17-04)