Tommy Tuberville resigned as Auburn’s coach Wednesday afternoon, but will still receive most of his $6 million buyout.
Per Tuberville’s contract, he was only supposed to receive the payment if he were fired. He would have owed the university that money if he were to leave for another job.
The buyout will not be fulfilled from any state or university funds, according to a university release. The contract states that Tuberville must receive half within 30 days and the other half by the one-year anniversary date of the contract’s termination.
According to the contract, “pro rata payments shall be made for partial years,” so Tuberville will receive somewhere between $5 and $6 million.
“Tommy and I have had the opportunity to discuss the direction of the program,” AU athletic director Jay Jacobs said through the release. “Through those discussions, Tommy felt it would be in his and the program’s best interest to step aside as Auburn’s head football coach.
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A press conference with Jacobs will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Auburn Athletic Complex Auditorium. Tuberville will not be at the press conference, a university spokesperson said.
“The last 10 years have been a great time in my life, both professionally and personally,” Tuberville said. “It’s been a great place to coach and live, and we’ve had a lot of success along the way. I’m going to remain in Auburn and help the Auburn family however I can. I’m very appreciative of the coaches, players, staff and Auburn fans over the last decade.“
All of Tuberville’s assistants and contractual staff will be paid according to their respective contracts, according to the release.
“We appreciate everything Tommy has done for this program, this university and the Auburn community over the last 10 years,” Jacobs said. “He has established a strong foundation to build upon and we thank him for the standard he set. We wish Tommy and his family — wife Suzanne, and sons Tucker and Troy — nothing but the best.“
Auburn’s players gathered for a 6 p.m. team meeting at the Athletic Complex where Tuberville said his final goodbye. It lasted roughly four minutes.
Players were instructed by members of Auburn media relations to not talk to the gathered reporters. A number of players hung around in groups across the complex’s parking lot for 10-15 minutes before departing.
Running backs/special teams coach Eddie Gran was the only other assistant coach in attendance for Tuberville’s final farewell, as the rest were on the road recruiting. Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads left the facility at 2:20 p.m. with a backpack and said he was “hitting the road.” He was scheduled to meet a recruit in south Florida, according to AuburnSports.com.
Tuberville’s 5-7, 2008 season was his worst at Auburn since 1999 — his first year with the program. He was 85-40 overall with the Tigers and led the team to eight bowl games in 10 years, including an undefeated 2004 season, when Auburn was left out of the National Championship game.
Amid speculation at the end of the 2007 season that Tuberville was interested in the open coaching job at Arkansas, Tuberville and Jacobs renegotiated the coach’s contract, agreeing to a two-year extension, which included a $200,000 annual raise. The extension elongated his contract through 2013 and included a buyout that stood at $6 million in 2008. It would have dropped to $5 million in 2009 and $4 million after that if Tuberville left for another job or was fired.
Multiple reports cited that Tuberville would be brought back for the 2009 season, but Jacobs and president Dr. Jay Gogue remained ambiguous throughout the entire season.
With four games to play, Jacobs released a prepared statement Oct. 29 that Tuberville would be judged for his entire 10-year “body of work.“
“As I do with every coach, I evaluate their job performance based on the body of work, Jacobs said Oct. 29. “That being the case, we will continue to support coach Tuberville and the program as we always have, and are looking forward to the next four games.“
The uncertainty continued Monday — two days after Auburn’s 36-0 Iron Bowl loss — when Tuberville, Jacobs and Gogue met for Tuberville’s end-of-season review.
Meetings between Tuberville and Jacobs continued Tuesday and into Wednesday. Tuberville and Jacobs met briefly in the morning Tuesday before meeting again this morning. Jacobs entered Tuberville’s office at 2:30 p.m. before leaving the Auburn Athletic Complex. They returned through the back entrance toward Tuberville’s office together around 3:30 p.m.
The beginnings of Tuberville’s 2008 demise started after the 2007 season, when spread offense guru Tony Franklin was brought on to replace Al Borges as offensive coordinator just weeks before the Chick-fil-A Bowl last December. Franklin was signed to a two-year contract worth $280,000 a year.
Franklin was brought in to install his “Tony Franklin System,” a pass-happy, spread offense, in the hopes of not only making Auburn’s offense more potent, but also making the school more attractive to high school recruits.
The latter seemed to work, as Auburn already has 26 verbal commitments for the 2009 season.
But the product it was selling never came to fruition.
With a scrapped down version of “The System” in place, the Tigers racked up 423 yards of offense in a 23-20 Chick-fil-A Bowl victory over Clemson on Dec. 31, 2007. But, after nine months of preparation and the installation of many more plays, Auburn sputtered from the start of the 2008 season.
The Tigers beat Louisiana Monroe, 34-0, to kick off the year, but only racked up 85 yards of passing offense in doing so. After the Tigers’ 3-2 victory over Mississippi State three weeks into the season, Franklin opted to conduct business from the coaches’ box instead of his usual place on the sidelines.
It didn’t help.
The Tigers’ offense looked better in a 26-21 loss to LSU, but regressed in a 14-12 victory over Tennessee and had its woes culminate in an Oct. 4, 14-13 loss at Vanderbilt.
Franklin was fired four days later. Tight ends coach Steve Ensminger took over the play-calling duties, but Auburn’s season continued its downward spiral.
The Tigers went 1-5 over the second half of the season, culminating with the 36-0 loss at Alabama. It was the most lopsided Iron Bowl loss since 1962 and snapped Auburn’s six-game winning streak over the Tide.
Auburn’s only win over the last two months of the season came against UT-Martin, a Football Championship Subdivision school, on Homecoming.
Tuberville repeatedly said that the Franklin experiment was entirely his fault, saying he put both the players and his longtime assistants in a bind.
In an Oct. 20 press conference, three days before the Tigers took on West Virginia, Tuberville lashed out against a myriad of rumors swirling on the radio and Internet message boards about his commitment to Auburn, his contract and his health.
“I’ve been here 10 years. I plan on being here 10 more,” Tuberville said. “I’m looking forward to it . I’m 10 years an Auburn man and I’m 10 years more of an Auburn man than most because I put my heart and soul in this thing and we ain’t going to stop now.“
In his postgame Iron Bowl press conference and on a teleconference Sunday, Tuberville continued to stump for his job. He said Auburn was just a new offensive coordinator, a few playmakers and a fresh start away from returning to relevance.
“There’s no doubt that we can get this thing turned back around. I didn’t turn into a bad coach overnight,” Tuberville said Sunday. “I know this program better than anybody. I know what it takes. I know the type of people that you can get to come in. I know their strengths, I know their weaknesses and I’m fully committed to doing it.“