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July 24, 2004

Picking Up The Pieces At Auburn

FROM THE SPIRALING EFFECT OF COLLEGE FISCAL PRESSURES comes word from Alabama that the Auburn athletics program is—to borrow phraseology from corporatespeak--undergoing efforts “to streamline operations and improve efficiency.”

Call it a re-org, call it rightsizing, call it tightening the belt, whatever; but the fact of the matter is that Auburn is out to save money.

Changes already announced:

• A shift of internal auditing away from the CFO to the president’s office to eliminate "potential conflict of interest."

• A plan to improve use of campus space.

• Convert the athletic department's 30 divisions into six "section leaders" to improve communication and decision-making.

Job reductions are expected to be part of the process.

Since taking office in January, Interim President Ed Richardson has fired the VP for Alumni Affairs, the men's basketball coach, the chief lobbyist, the chief spokesman and the baseball coach. Richardson also announced the impending retirement of athletics director David Housel.

The previous Auburn University President, William Walker, was forced to resign in February after he and AD Housel surreptitiously traveled to Louisville two days before the Alabama-Auburn game to talk with Louisville football 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.

Things need some fixin’ at Auburn.

(this 298 word excerpt—with accompanying commentary—was extracted from a 452 word article in the Columbus (AL) Ledger-Enquirer of 7-21-04 and an 805-word article from the Birmingham News of 1-17-04)