The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

3 days ago

Auburn extends winning streak versus Tennessee to six with Cooper still out

(Twitter/AuburnMBB)

Auburn’s basketball team has had the most up-and-down seasons in recent memory — starting with freshman phenom point guard Sharife Cooper waiting nearly half the season for his eligibility to go along with Auburn self-imposing a postseason ban.

With a 12-13 overall record, 6-10 in conference play, the Tigers needed something to make this season positive. The Auburn players, coaches and fans got a chance to host ranked rival Tennessee inside of Auburn Arena.

In the only meeting this season between the two teams, Auburn defeated the Volunteers 77-72. Auburn led the game the entire second half, but Tennessee kept things interesting in the final minutes.

Bruce Pearl spoke to Andy Burcham on the “Auburn Basketball Review” show the day before the matchup with Tennessee and explained how he felt about the matchup.

On how good Tennessee has been this year, Pearl said, “The league has been much more competitive than most people realized. … Tennessee is still one of the best teams in the league, but probably isn’t going to win it this year.”

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It is worth noting that Auburn has not lost to Tennessee since January 2017, meaning it has been over four years since the Tigers have lost a game to the Vols. Saturday’s win actually extends the win streak to six games for Bruce Pearl and the Tigers.

Pearl described Tennessee as a “really good defensive ball club that is physical and tough.”

He added, “They are probably not too happy about the fact that they have lost five straight to Auburn. They will come in here with their hair on fire.”

With Cooper still being out with an ankle injury suffered last week in practice, the Tigers knew they would have to rely on their sophomores to step up. That is just what happened Saturday, with Allen Flanigan and Devan Cambridge leading the team in points.

Flanigan was the point leader, as well as the team leader, shooting two for five from beyond the arc; he put in most of his work in the paint to get to 23 points in the win.

Guard Jamal Johnson also had a great game shooting two for three from downtown and adding 14 total points to the Tiger’s score.

All five of Auburn’s starters were in the double-digit scoring. Jaylin Williams also had one of his best performances this season with 13 points and two rebounds.

While the Tiger defense played exceptionally well, they still couldn’t stop Tennessee star guard Keon Johnson from hitting nine three-point shots as part of his total of 23 points. Auburn was able to return the favor on offense almost every time Johnson and the Vols started trying to claw back into the lead.

It was positive to see Auburn play one of their best games without arguably their best two players on the court. When Bruce Pearl called on his players to step up in Cooper’s absence, they showed out.

Saturday’s game was an AUTLIVE Cancer game for Auburn where the school raises awareness and money for cancer prevention and detection. It is worth noting that this great cause has been great for Auburn as they are 6-0 in AUTLIVE Cancer games.

Auburn will travel to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. to take on the Crimson Tide, who sit at the top of the league and will be playing for at least a share of the SEC regular-season championship Saturday night against the Mississippi Bulldogs.

If Bama falls to Mississippi State, that game on Tuesday will be a chance for Auburn to help ruin Bama’s championship season.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

3 weeks ago

Auburn basketball can’t hold on to lead, Ole Miss gets big overtime win

(Auburn Basketball/Twitter)

The Auburn Tigers held the lead for most of the game but couldn’t hold onto the lead as Ole Miss ultimately landed the 86-84 victory on Devontae Shuler’s game winning shot on Saturday.

Auburn managed to hold the lead for most of the game, including all of the second half until the final minute of regulation. In the last minute, Romello White gave the Rebels/Bears/Sharks the tie.

Ole Miss then got the chance to win the game from Shuler, who missed his jump shot.

The Tigers then got the first score from an Allen Flanigan layup to put them up two in overtime. After that, Ole Miss wouldn’t be passed by again. Sharife Cooper hit a three-point shot to tie the game up with 13 seconds left in overtime, however Auburn could not pull the game out.

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Before facing off against Ole Miss, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said, “Shuler and (Jarkel) Joiner are playing really, really well right now. They’ve got a lot of depth too.”

Pearl was correct, as Shuler was ready to go in this game, and the Reb’s depth also showed tonight in a big way against the younger Tigers.

Shuler would get a second chance to win the game, and this time he made it count. Shuler took it upon himself to pull up for a jumper again for the win, and this time he hit it to give Ole Miss the win at the end of overtime.

A fall to 4-7 in conference play was the result of this overtime loss for the Tigers. Auburn also got their overall record evened to 10-10, which isn’t what the Auburn faithful have been used to over the last few years with Pearl leading the program.

With Auburn self-imposing a post-season ban on their team this year, it isn’t the worst time to drop some games. Plus, the Tigers are one of the youngest teams in the nation.

However, with Cooper at point guard the Tigers were supposed to be much more dominant this year. With that, the question has to be asked: how much can Auburn grow this offseason? If the answer is ‘a lot,’ the Tigers will be in good shape.

If the answer is ‘not much,’ Auburn is going to have a long season again next year.

On Saturday, they had three players tied for leading scorer. Flanigan, Jaylin Williams and Devan Cambridge each had 16 points against Ole Miss, but that wasn’t enough to win the game.

White really showed out for Ole Miss with 30 points and 10 rebounds.

Shuler had a 26-point showing facing the Tigers, while adding six rebounds of his own.

Auburn gets the chance Tuesday to either rise above an even record or fall into a losing record on the season when they face off against the Commodores of Vanderbilt. Vandy is at 1-6 in conference play, but they do get Auburn in Nashville.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

4 weeks ago

Auburn AD Allen Greene named ‘Champion of Diversity and Inclusion’ by NCAA

(Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

The NCAA has announced that its Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee (MOIC), in conjunction with the NCAA office of inclusion, is recognizing Auburn University Director of Athletics Allen Greene and four other individuals as “Champions of Diversity and Inclusion for their work in supporting ethnic minorities and other underrepresented groups and individuals.”

According to a release, this distinction was created in 2015 “to recognize those who have a commitment to advocating for and advancing others in inclusive efforts around athletics.”

“Generally, one individual is honored quarterly, but with the social injustice and inequities seen throughout 2020, the MOIC and office of inclusion chose to honor multiple people,” the NCAA wrote.

Along with leading Auburn Athletics, Greene is co-chair of the Black AD Alliance, which was formed last summer to create more opportunities for ethnic minorities at administrative levels in Division I collegiate athletics.

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“What a tremendous honor to be recognized by the NCAA via the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee,” Greene said in a statement. “The acknowledgment of an individual’s impact is the result of the impact of many, whereby the desire for change is stronger than the desire for one’s personal gain.”

The honorees were reportedly selected after individuals “were nominated based on how they are influencers in promoting diversity and inclusion; how they are assisting in diversifying pipeline opportunities in their senior or influential position; how they are providing support to underrepresented populations; and their consistency in supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives.”

The NCAA’s release also noted, “Greene met with his Auburn coaches last year following social injustice protests and opened discussions about current issues. He also addressed the turmoil publicly with video messaging focusing on continued efforts to educate, develop and support student-athletes during the unrest and as the country moves into the future.”

“As we move through this challenging time in our country’s history, the committee wanted to recognize five people who lead from different seats within and around college athletics,” commented Dena Freeman-Patton, chair of the NCAA’s MOIC. “They have been champions for diversity and inclusion throughout their careers and continue to do what is right in 2021. They have been inspirations to our student-athletes and administrators in athletics, and they play a big part in molding our industry and our country. MOIC applauds them for their intentions and bravery in such unprecedented times. Leading with conviction and courage moves us all to a better place in athletics and certainly as we look to the future.”

The five latest Champions of Diversity and Inclusion will be formally recognized at the “2021 Inclusion Forum,” which will be held virtually June 2-4.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 month ago

Auburn announces 2021 college football schedule

(Auburn Football/Twitter)

The Bryan Harsin era will kick off on September 4 when the Auburn Tigers host Akron to begin the 2021 football season, the SEC announced Wednesday.

Auburn will play seven home games this fall, including visits from traditional rivals Georgia on October 9 and Alabama to conclude the regular season November 27, the traditional slot for the Iron Bowl.

The Tigers’ non-conference schedule includes three games: Alabama State at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 11, a road game at Penn State on September 18 and then a home game on September 25 vs. Georgia State.

Auburn’s 2021 football schedule as follows:

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Sept. 4 – AKRON
Sept. 11 – ALABAMA STATE
Sept. 18 – at Penn State
Sept. 25 – GEORGIA STATE
Oct. 2 – at LSU
Oct. 9 – GEORGIA
Oct. 16 – at Arkansas
Oct. 23 – Open Date
Oct. 30 – OLE MISS
Nov. 6 – at Texas A&M
Nov. 13 – MISSISSIPPI STATE
Nov. 20 – at South Carolina
Nov. 27 – ALABAMA

The 2021 SEC Championship Game is slated for December 4 at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

RELATED: Defending national champion Alabama releases 2021 football schedule

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 month ago

Auburn University researchers examine impact of feral swine in Alabama to decrease devastation

(Auburn University/Contributed)

A new project co-led by Auburn University researchers addresses previously unexplored questions about the increasing number and distribution in Alabama of feral swine – animals that cause more than $50 million a year in damage to agriculture in the state. The research focuses on measuring the reduction in damage caused by the animals during the implementation of the Alabama Feral Swine Control Pilot Program (FSCP).

Through a $450,000 grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, professors Mark Smith, Graeme Lockaby and Stephen Ditchkoff of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences are heading the monitoring and evaluation component of the FSCP, a cooperative effort led by the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee.

Project partners in this coordinated effort include the USDA Wildlife ServicesAlabama Association of Conservation Districts, Alabama Agriculture and Conservation Development Commission, Alabama Farmers FederationAlabama Wildlife FederationAlabama Cattlemen’s Association, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University and the University of West Alabama.

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The program emanated from the National Feral Swine Control Pilot Program established by the 2018 Farm Bill. Smith said the research and extension objectives of the grant from the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee are twofold.

“First, the principal investigators and several graduate students will focus on measuring the reduction in damage caused by wild pigs on agricultural land during removal operations on select watersheds in the Alabama counties of Baldwin, Escambia, Henry, Houston and Sumter,” Smith said.

The Alabama state office of the USDA Wildlife Services will lead on-the-ground support to conduct wild pig removal. In addition, qualifying landowners will have access to substantial cost-shares on high-tech trapping equipment through the Conservation Incentives Program administered by the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee to further reduce feral swine numbers.

To meet this objective, Elizabeth Bradley, a doctoral student under the direction of Lockaby in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, will draw comparisons in water quality in several watersheds within the project area before and after wild pigs have been removed.

Working with Smith, graduate student Arielle Fay will use a drone to measure changes in damage throughout the growing season to determine how wild pigs ravage crops.

Another Auburn grad student, William Green, will interview landowners within the project areas to develop whole-farm estimates of damage caused by wild pigs and estimate reductions in crop damage throughout the project area, relative to removal efforts.

Smith said the second objective is to support the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee by providing science-based technical training to landowners and producers who are participants in the Conservation Incentives Program portion of the project.

In addition, online technical training courses, equipment expos, seminars and a full slate of how-to videos are being developed to address project educational and awareness needs.

Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, said the project will have a significant impact on the state’s ability to confront the challenge these animals have long posed.

“This research will yield previously unknown data regarding the state’s feral pig population, which will lead to crucial new strategies to control their numbers and reduce the substantial damage they have created for landowners,” Alavalapati said.

Interested landowners can visit alconservationdistricts.gov and follow the link to the Feral Swine Program, where they can enter contact information to request details about the program, or contact their county Soil and Water Conservation District office for more information.

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Auburn basketball begins to find its stride in a 109-86 beat down of South Carolina

AU MBB v Alabama on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020 in Auburn, Ala. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

The Auburn Tigers have had a rough going in the beginning of SEC play, losing five of their last seven SEC games coming into Saturday’s matchup with South Carolina. However, recent wins against Kentucky and Georgia have put the Tigers on a much brighter path with endless possibilities.

One big factor for the turnaround is point guard Sharife Cooper, who had to work out eligibility issues with the NCAA early in the season.

In the game Saturday, Cooper picked up a double-double by scoring 16 points and recording 12 assists to propel Auburn to a 109-86 victory over the Gamecocks. The 6’1” point guard also managed to snag six rebounds for the Tigers.

Guard Allen Flanigan scored the most points of anyone in this contest, which has become normal for the sophomore this season. Flanigan went 4-6 from the three-point line to help get him to his team-high 24 points.

Defeating the Gamecocks was a big win for this young Tiger team, considering that even the most experienced Bruce Pearl-coached teams have had trouble facing Frank Martin’s squads.

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However, the Tigers were able to get it done in Columbia. The key to the win was getting the entire team involved. Pearl’s group had no problem there with five players scoring in double figures.

This Auburn team made history with 109 points being the most ever against an SEC team on the road in program history. On the record-breaking performance, Flanigan said, “Everybody who comes to Auburn, we come here to make history. We made history tonight.”

Forwards J.T. Thor and Jaylin Williams tied for the most rebounds on Saturday at seven a piece. Auburn’s big men are starting to attack the boards, which is something the Tigers have been missing even from their great teams in recent years. Williams added 18 points to his stat line, which was second on the team.

Williams has been a key player in the Tiger’s offense this season so far, but he seemed to start growing towards a more pivotal role this week. That could pay off for Auburn in the long run, considering he is very athletic with a big frame and a confident perimeter shot.

If Pearl can get Williams more comfortable on offense and give him a larger role, the Tigers will have multiple star players to lean on in crucial situations, which is great for a young team.

The Auburn Tigers improve to 3-5 in conference play. They will have a quick turnaround this week, hosting the 19th-ranked Missouri Tigers on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. CT on ESPN 2. If Auburn wants to climb up the SEC ladder, what better opportunity is there than a team in the top five of the conference?

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

1 month ago

Auburn trustee, Mobile native Lloyd Austin granted congressional waiver, paving way for confirmation as defense secretary

(Auburn University, Joe Biden/Facebook)

U.S. Army General Lloyd J. Austin (Ret.) on Thursday was granted a waiver through votes by both chambers of Congress, allowing him to be confirmed as the next secretary of the Department of Defense.

The waiver for Austin, who retired from active duty in 2016, was required because federal law mandates that the Secretary of Defense either be a civilian or someone who has been retired from the military for seven or more years.

The House of Representatives bipartisanly voted 326-78 to grant the waiver; the Senate shortly thereafter voted 69-27 to do the same. All members of Alabama’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the waiver for Austin, who is a native of Mobile.

He also currently serves on the Auburn University board of trustees.

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U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) on Thursday morning had led a letter joined by fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus urging her colleagues to support the waiver.

“I proudly support granting a waiver for Mobile, Alabama native and retired Four-Star General Lloyd Austin to serve as first Black Secretary of Defense,” Sewell said in a statement. “General Austin has an exemplary 41-year career of service and his battle-proven leadership and independence demonstrate he is the right choice to lead the Pentagon during these difficult times. We face many challenges as a nation, not least among them a historic pandemic that has disproportionately impacted communities of color and an unprecedented rise of white supremacist and far right-wing domestic terrorist groups. I’m confident in General Austin’s commitment and ability to course-correct and secure our nation from threats at home and abroad.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (AL-03), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, also voiced his support for Austin, while raising process concerns. Rogers made his thoughts clear in remarks on the floor.

“I believe General Austin understands the threats we face,” the East Alabama congressman said, in part. “I believe he respects the principle of civilian control. I believe he will stand up to the efforts of many in the Democrat majority who seek to slash defense funding and rewrite our defense strategy.”

After a nearly 41-year decorated military career, Austin retired as a four-star general. Some of his former posts include service as the commander of U.S. Central Command, commander of the Combined Forces in Iraq and Syria, and as the 33rd vice chief of staff of the Army.

Austin is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds master’s degrees from Auburn and Webster University. He has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Auburn, and his wife, Charlene, is also an Auburn graduate.

Additionally, the retired general currently serves on the board of directors for Raytheon Technologies and Nucor, both of which have significant Alabama presences.

He would be the first Black DoD secretary in American history. The Senate is expected to confirm him on Friday morning.

This comes after President Joe Biden last month announced his intent to nominate Austin to the important post.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl (AL-01), who represents Austin’s hometown, released a statement in support of the nominee on Thursday.

“Today I voted yes on the waiver for the Secretary of Defense Appointment of General Austin, even though I am frustrated with the House Democrats’ deeply flawed process. I believe General Austin is well-qualified to serve as our nation’s Secretary of Defense, and I am optimistic that he will push back against far-left attempts to cut military funding and weaken our nation’s defenses,” said Carl.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 month ago

Allen Flanigan leads the way for Auburn as the Tigers defeat Kentucky at home

(Auburn Basketball/Twitter)

Auburn Arena wasn’t as crazy as it usually is when Kentucky comes to town. Yet, the game was just as exciting as ever.

The Tigers defeated Kentucky 66-59 on Saturday in a back and forth game in which neither team had a lead larger than seven points. Sharife Cooper becoming eligible has changed the way Auburn plays, and the ball is being spread around more in the last three games than it has all season.

Cooper had 11 points and seven assists against the Wildcats, but it was Allen Flanigan that led the way in scoring. Flanigan finished the game with 21 points along with nine rebounds, which were both the highest numbers on the court today.

After the game, Bruce Pearl praised Flanigan’s style of play saying, “Allen Flanigan is a man out there, he is a full-grown man.”

So far this season, Auburn hasn’t looked like the same team of the past couple of years. Shooting on the perimeter has been a struggle for the Tigers, only hitting 4-23 in this game, and Auburn has only shot 33% from deep this season. However, Bruce Pearl is letting his team play to their strengths.

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On the inside Auburn has a big man, TJ Thor, who is built for the NBA. Thor only had six points against the Wildcats but was able to create havoc down low in the paint to create space for other players to get clean shots at the rim. Stretch Akingbola is another big man who had zero points today, but his presence was felt down low opening up the floor for his teammates.

Pearl would be the first one to admit that his team was struggling earlier this season without Cooper being eligible to play. For that beginning stretch of the season, Auburn didn’t even have a true point guard on the court, but now the Tigers are starting to trend upwards.

Before the game, Pearl explained what it meant to play Kentucky. On what it takes to beat the Wildcats team, he said, “We’ll have to play our best game of the year to beat Kentucky… They’re the benchmark of our league.” He continued, “People will be measured on how you play against Kentucky, and that’s how you should be measured.”

At the end of the day, Pearl’s team was able to measure themselves against Kentucky to see where they stand in the league.

On his team’s win over the Cats, Pearl commented, “Give Kentucky credit, but we managed to to score 42 points in the second half to get the victory.”

Kentucky isn’t the same juggernaut that college basketball fans are used to seeing, but a win over the Wildcats is always a big deal for any team. After the loss today, they fall to 4-8 on the season and are 3-2 in conference play after starting off 3-0.

The two SEC teams to beat the Cats this season were the two teams from the state of Alabama. While Auburn has recently become the “basketball school” of the state, Alabama is the top team in the SEC at this point of the season with five straight conference wins.

The Tide look a lot like the last few Auburn teams who lived or died by the three-point shot.

These two Yellowhammer State teams will meet again later in the year, but for now Auburn have their sights set on Arkansas. Auburn will travel to Fayetteville to take on the 10-4 (2-3 in conference) Razorbacks on Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. CT.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

2 months ago

Auburn begins new semester as move to oppose in-person classes sputters out

(Auburn University/YouTube)

Auburn University’s decision to continue in-person learning for the spring semester received affirmation on Tuesday when the school’s faculty failed to take action on a no-confidence vote on Provost Bill Hardgrave.

Faculty member Michael Stern, a professor of economics, had moved for the vote to express his own displeasure at the university’s decision to return to in-person classes.

As provost, Hardgrave serves as the chief academic officer for the institution.

Auburn’s return-to-school plan had been praised by medical professionals, including by White House health official Dr. Deborah Birx during her September visit to the campus.

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Understanding the importance of on-campus learning, Auburn University President Jay Gogue stated during a December interview with the Opelika-Auburn News that his administration will continue consulting with the medical community as part of its academic process.

“Going into the spring term, I think the hope would be that we could do more face-to-face and in-person than we did in the fall,” he explained. “I have said throughout that totally depends on the virus, totally depends on where we are. We are not going to put people in harm’s way to do that. I think Bill [Hardgrave] felt an obligation to get it back to as normal as possible as students and families thought about the spring term.”

Earlier this week, 40 university professors signed onto a statement denouncing the vote. They stated their belief that “a no-confidence vote is inappropriate and will be damaging to our students, our faculty, and our university.”

As many as 1,300 people took part in the virtual meeting, according to participants.

Rules of order took precedent, and the issue died when more than 67% of the participants objected to consideration of Stern’s motion.

Classes for Auburn students began on Monday.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Auburn professors denounce move against administration in battle over in-person classes

(Auburn University, YHN)

At least 40 Auburn University professors have now stated their opposition to a no-confidence vote directed at Provost Bill Hardgrave. The vote had been called by one of the school’s faculty members to express his personal discontent with Auburn’s decision to continue offering in-person classes this year.

While the university’s COVID-19 safety protocols for on-campus activities have been lauded by national health officials, and have mirrored those of other institutions in the state, faculty member Michael Stern chose to voice his disapproval of in-person learning by calling for a no-confidence vote on Hardgrave by the University Senate. As provost, Hardgrave acts as the university’s chief academic officer.

In response to Stern’s move, dozens of university professors have signed onto a statement against the vote.

In a document provided to Yellowhammer News, faculty members from various academic departments stated their belief that “a no-confidence vote is inappropriate and will be damaging to our students, our faculty, and our university.”

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Joining other colleges and universities around the state, Auburn opened up its campus for in-person learning last fall and continued that opportunity for students with the start of classes on Monday.

The school’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus are a product of the guidance the school has received from a wide array of health officials, according to Auburn University President Jay Gogue.

In a December video interview with the Opelika-Auburn News, Gogue outlined that the COVID-19 protocols established by the university resulted from consultations with those health officials, including the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control.

White House health official Dr. Deborah Birx commended the Auburn administration for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis during a September visit to the campus.

As for the health and safety measures implemented by Auburn, Gogue cited Birx’s endorsement of Auburn’s work as something which would allow students, faculty and parents to have increased confidence.

He recalled Birx telling members of the administration, “’Auburn you planned well, you had contingency plans, and you had contingency plans for your contingency plans.’”

This is not the first time that Stern, a professor in the Department of Economics, has positioned himself as an adversary of Auburn. He sued the university in September 2018 alleging unfair treatment. In November of that year, he amended his lawsuit to include individual members of the Auburn administration, including Hardgrave.

That case is scheduled to go to trial next month.

Understanding the importance of on-campus learning, Gogue stated that his administration will continue consulting with the medical community as part of its academic process.

“Going into the spring term, I think the hope would be that we could do more face-to-face and in-person than we did in the fall,” he explained. “I have said throughout that totally depends on the virus, totally depends on where we are. We are not going to put people in harm’s way to do that. I think Bill [Hardgrave] felt an obligation to get it back to as normal as possible as students and families thought about the spring term.”

“The health and safety will drive whether or not any of that occurs,” he concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Auburn professor opposes in-person classes despite university’s renowned health protocols

(Auburn University/Flickr)

Auburn University has drawn praise in recent months from national health officials for its COVID-19 safety protocols for on-campus activities. But that has not stopped one faculty member from calling for a vote among his colleagues to express opposition to in-person classes.

Last summer, Auburn joined the University of Alabama System (UA System), Troy University and other colleges and universities around Alabama in successfully launching fall semesters with in-person learning.

White House health official Dr. Deborah Birx commended the Auburn administration for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis during a September visit to the campus.

The school’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, while offering in-person learning for its students, are a product of the guidance the school has received from a wide array of health officials, according to Auburn University President Jay Gogue.

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In a December video interview with the Opelika-Auburn News, Gogue outlined that the COVID-19 protocols established by the university resulted from consultations with those health officials, including the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control.

However, the health and safety measures taken by the school have fallen below the standards of faculty member Michael Stern.

The Opelika-Auburn News reported that Stern, a professor in the Department of Economics, has voiced his opposition to Auburn’s return to in-person learning by calling for a no-confidence vote by the University Senate on Provost Bill Hardgrave. As provost, Hardgrave acts as the university’s chief academic officer.

This is not the first time Stern has been an adversary of the school for which he works. He sued the university in 2018 alleging unfair treatment by Auburn’s administration. That case is scheduled to go to trial next month.

As for the health and safety measures implemented by Auburn, Gogue cited Birx’s endorsement of Auburn’s work as something which would allow students, faculty and parents to have increased confidence.

He recalled Birx telling members of the administration, “’Auburn you planned well, you had contingency plans, and you had contingency plans for your contingency plans.’”

Bringing students back to class on campus was a challenge shared by other institutions of higher learning in the Yellowhammer State.

Under the guidance of Dr. Selwyn Vickers, dean of the UAB School of Medicine, the UA System successfully executed a return-to-school plan at each of its three institutions.

UA System officials view Auburn’s protocols as being consistent with their own.

Understanding the importance of on-campus learning, Gogue stated that his administration will continue consulting with the medical community as part of its academic process.

“Going into the spring term, I think the hope would be that we could do more face-to-face and in-person than we did in the fall,” he explained. “I have said throughout that totally depends on the virus, totally depends on where we are. We are not going to put people in harm’s way to do that. I think Bill [Hardgrave] felt an obligation to get it back to as normal as possible as students and families thought about the spring term.”

“The health and safety will drive whether or not any of that occurs,” he concluded.

Auburn begins classes Monday.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia.

2 months ago

Auburn Nursing book featuring alumni stories from the front lines of pandemic available for preorder

(Auburn University/Contributed)

The Auburn University School of Nursing has created a commemorative book featuring stories from some of its alumni who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The free book, “Auburn Nursing — Living the Creed During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” can be ordered online at the Auburn University Bookstore. Limited quantities are available. A shipping fee will be applied at checkout. Orders will be mailed after the university reopens on Jan. 4.

The initial idea for the book came about as the school was marking its 40th anniversary during the 2019-20 school year. As nurses around the country were thrust onto the front lines of the COVID-19 response, the school began to hear stories of its alumni facing the unimaginable. They reached out for more, and the book was born.

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Dean Gregg Newschwander writes in the book foreword how “a far-off disease arrived and changed everything for everyone overnight” and Auburn nurses—veteran nurses, new graduates and current students—rose to the challenge, putting themselves in harm’s way to do their jobs.

They “answered the call to serve on the front lines, at the epicenters and in rural communities. They worked in their hometowns, they deployed to where they were needed most. They cared for every patient population—newborns, homeless people, the elderly and inmates. They ensured supply chains. They researched potential vaccines. They were terrified and exhausted; determined and resilient. They became patients themselves. They lost family, friends and coworkers.”

Whitney Burford Bisland, a 2004 alumna, wasn’t one of the health care workers who flew to New York City to help; she already lived there.

“I will always remember …,” she wrote, “the two babies I delivered in front of the hospital because their moms were too scared of COVID to come earlier.”

Cortney Black, a 2016 Auburn alumna, got permission from her emergency room in Anniston, Alabama, to spend 21 days in New York. “I felt a lot of heartache and a lot of sadness, but I also felt more compassion, more unity, more kindness than ever before.”

Ross Nickoley, a 1994 alumnus, doesn’t work or live in New York or anywhere close to a big city. For those people served by the small critical access hospital in rural Winamac, Indiana, “we are the front line. I am the sole CRNA for this community, and my world changed the second week of March,” he said.

Lauren Agee, a 2020 alumna, works as an oncology nurse at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, one of the major sites treating COVID-19 in Atlanta. She recalled the day she was talking on the phone with the mother of a 20-year-old who had to be emergently intubated, while holding the hand of “a dying elderly woman because you promised her husband of 60-plus years you wouldn’t let her die alone. You secretly are praying she holds out for a few more days until the morgue has more space.”

Newschwander said the stories illustrate the difficulty and harsh reality of an overwhelming situation.

“At Auburn, we often say, we make leaders,” he said. “In this book, you will see how true that is.

“The individual reflections tell the universal story of Auburn nurses living the Auburn Creed during this historic time.”

(Courtesy of Auburn University)

2 months ago

Auburn confirms hire of head football coach Bryan Harsin — ‘Search was diligent and thoughtful’

(Auburn Athletics)

Auburn Director of Athletics Allen Greene on Tuesday evening announced the hire of new head football coach Bryan Harsin, confirming media reports.

“We are thrilled to welcome Coach Harsin to the Auburn family. He’s a proven winner whose record speaks for itself,” Greene said in a statement.

The announcement comes after a search process that involved an advisory committee and Parker Executive Search Firm of Atlanta, GA.

“Coach Harsin impressed me with his detailed plan to lead Auburn to consistently compete for championships in the Southeastern Conference,” Greene remarked. “I’m grateful to Gen. Burgess, Quentin Riggins and each member of our advisory committee for their commitment to Auburn during this process. We look forward to welcoming Bryan, Kes and their children to the Plains to introduce them to the Auburn family.”

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In a statement released by Auburn, Harsin stressed, “I’m incredibly excited and humbled for the opportunity to be at a place like Auburn University.”

“I knew it would take a special opportunity to get me out of Boise and Auburn is exactly that, the chance to compete at the highest level for one of the greatest programs in college football,” he continued. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the coaches and players in the Southeastern Conference, but am ready to help build a foundation at Auburn where we can consistently compete for championships. I want our program to make Auburn proud both on and off the field with consistent excellence. I’m very grateful to Allen Greene and Dr. Gogue for this opportunity. Kes, our kids and I can’t wait to meet the Auburn family and get to work! War Eagle!”

Dr. Jay Gogue, president of Auburn University, advised in a statement, “We started the search with two goals. We want a coach who will lead our team to consistently compete at the highest levels and to make Auburn proud on and off the field. We found both in Coach Harsin.”

“Our search was diligent and thoughtful, and it is unfortunate that so much misinformation was spread in recent days about the process. I appreciate the leadership of Athletics Director Allen Greene and the hard work of members of our search advisory group. Welcome, Coach Harsin, to the Auburn family,” he concluded.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 months ago

Reports: Auburn to hire Boise State’s Bryan Harsin as head football coach

(KTVB/YouTube)

Auburn has selected Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin to lead the Tigers football program, according to multiple reports.

Yahoo Sports broke the news on Tuesday afternoon.

Coincidentally, it was Harsin who succeeded Gus Malzahn as the head coach at Arkansas State in 2012. Now, Harsin will apparently repeat the feat on The Plains.

Harsin, 44, has been the head coach at Boise State since 2013, amassing a 69-19 record during that time.

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From 2011-2012, he was co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Texas.

An Idaho native, Harsin was a quarterback at Boise State from 1995-1999.

After graduating, he was the running backs and wide receivers coach at Eastern Oregon in 2000, followed by a litany of staffing roles — culminating in offensive coordinator under then-head coach Chris Petersen — at Boise State from the 2001-2010 seasons.

Outlets have reported that ULL head coach Billy Napier, UAB head coach Bill Clark, Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables were approached about the Auburn job before the university’s search process landed on Harsin.

The common obstacle to all of the other coaching candidates taking the job was reportedly a lack of say when it comes to the Auburn defensive coaching staff, led by coordinator (and interim head coach) Kevin Steele.

Harsin’s imminent hire could be a sign that he acquiesced to Steele remaining on board with his team of defensive assistants.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 months ago

Ivey visits Auburn factory making vials for coronavirus vaccine doses

(Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Monday appeared at a ribbon-cutting for a factory in Auburn that will make glass vials in which COVID-19 vaccine doses will be stored and shipped.

SiO2 Materials Science, the company that built the plant, received a $143 million grant from the federal government in June to help make possible the facility Ivey toured on Monday. The new center will employ 220 workers, nearly doubling the size of SiO2’s workforce that is dominated by Auburn graduates choosing to stay in state.

“This day marks an important moment for Alabama and for SiO2, whose high-tech vials will be used in the delivery of a vaccine that will help end the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ivey remarked in a statement.

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The SiO2 vials are not made of the traditional, highly fragile glass that pharmaceutical companies have relied on in the past; instead, they are made of a proprietary blend of materials that can handle the stress of travel. The company’s Twitter handle is “RethinkGlass.”

Robert Abrams, founder and CEO of SiO2, noted in a release that his company’s vials and the process used to produce them took 10 years to develop and they are “protected by 300 worldwide patents and 6,000 patent claims.”

“The container that this vaccine is in has to be so pure and perfect that it doesn’t have a negative effect on the vaccine,” Abrams explained.

Ivey’s tour comes as federal regulators have cleared the way for members of the public to begin receiving doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine. Ivey’s office says SiO2 vials “will play an integral role” in the ramping up of production for Moderna’s vaccine product.

“The company’s production of cutting-edge vials, which are being used to store and distribute Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, showcases the ingenuity and skilled workforce in Alabama,” noted U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) in a Twitter post. Shelby, via his powerful post atop the Senate Appropriations Committee, helped shepherd the federal funding for SiO2’s expansion.

SiO2’s new plant has 10 production lines that the company says can each produce 15 million units in a year.

The $143 million grant that helped bring the expansion facility into existence was part of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed which has the goal of developing and distributing safe coronavirus vaccines as speedily as possible. Per the governor’s office, the Alabama Department of Commerce and the City of Auburn also gave support to the expansion.

“We are proud to be the home of such an innovative company that is contributing to the fight against COVID-19,” Auburn Mayor Ron Anders stated on Monday. “On top of SiO2’s global impact, the company’s expansion has led to significant local investments, including the addition of hundreds of well-paying jobs to our community.”

“The technical accomplishments of SiO2 demonstrate to the world the kind of highly innovative and groundbreaking work that is being done in Alabama. We’re very grateful for this achievement and this company,” Ivey concluded.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 months ago

Auburn to play Northwestern in Citrus Bowl

(@AuburnFootball/Twitter)

It was announced on Sunday that the Auburn Tigers will play No. 14 Northwestern in the 75th Citrus Bowl on January 1.

The bowl game, presented by Vrbo, is scheduled to be played at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL. ABC will broadcast the matchup nationally.

The Wildcats finished their regular season 6-2 after losing the Big Ten Championship Game to Ohio State on Saturday.

Auburn went 6-4 over their season, before firing head coach Gus Malzahn. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is currently the interim head coach.

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RELATED: Did Auburn really pay a $21.45M buyout just to hire Kevin Steele?

This will mark Auburn’s sixth appearance in the Citrus Bowl throughout history, tied for the most all-time. Auburn is 3-2 in its five previous trips, with the most recent coming in 2006.

Northwestern ranks fifth nationally in scoring defense, allowing only 15.5 points per game.

A limited number of Citrus Bowl tickets are available online here. Seats are reportedly available in clusters of two, four, six or eight, with physical distancing implemented between pods.

More information about related COVID-19 protocols is available here.

RELATED: Alabama seeded No. 1 in College Football Playoff, will play Notre Dame

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 months ago

Kiffin: College football players ‘should’ be able to be paid, ‘deserve it’

(Ole Miss Football/Facebook)

Ole Miss head football coach Lane Kiffin this week joined 105.5 WERC’s “Alabama Morning News with JT” for a quick but memorable segment.

The interview came after Auburn fired head coach Gus Malzahn this past Sunday. A permanent replacement has yet to be named, but Kiffin’s name has popped up in the rumor mill as a potential candidate.

“Are you speaking to me from a hotel in Auburn, Alabama this morning?” host JT Nysewander jokingly asked to begin the interview.

“I am not. I am [calling in] from Jordan-Hare Stadium, actually,” Kiffin quipped back.

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The former University of Alabama offensive coordinator quickly reinforced, “That’s a joke.”

Asked more seriously if he would be the next head coach on The Plains, Kiffin responded, “No, I’m going to go beat LSU [this Saturday].”

Former Crimson Tide tight end Michael Nysewander, JT’s son, is currently on Kiffin’s staff in Oxford, MS.

Kiffin during the interview also discussed the strength of Ole Miss’ current recruiting class, which is ranked in the top-20 by various national outlets after the early signing day on Wednesday. He explained how recruiting has been a unique challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The host towards the end of the segment asked Kiffin about his thoughts on whether college football players should be allowed to be payed under NCAA rules.

“Well, I think they should,” Kiffin said. “The only issue with it is — well, not the only — but the major issue is, ‘How are you going to manage recruiting?’ If you can start paying players, how do you have boosters not telling players, ‘When you get here, we’ll pay you this amount of money?’ So basically, you’ve just legalized cheating. That’s the concern with it — not that the players don’t deserve it.”

RELATED: Did Auburn really pay a $21.45M buyout just to hire Kevin Steele?

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 months ago

Did Auburn really pay a $21.45M buyout just to hire Kevin Steele?

(Auburn Athletics/Contributed, @LibertyFootball/Twitter, YHN)

When Auburn announced the firing of head football coach Gus Malzahn on Sunday, the Tigers fanbase was filled with renewed expectations.

Expectations that — having pulled the trigger on a $21.45 million buyout — Auburn already had Malzahn’s permanent replacement lined up. Expectations that — having made that investment — Auburn was going all-in on a home-run hire. Expectations that there was a plan.

Instead, Monday came and went without any update, bringing Tuesday’s news that Auburn had formed an advisory committee and hired a search firm based in Atlanta.

However, the biggest head-scratcher in the entire situation came when concerted leaks began popping up suggesting that defensive coordinator and interim head coach Kevin Steele is supposedly emerging as the frontrunner for the permanent gig.

That proposition raises several serious questions, chief among them: “Really?”

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However, the absurdity of buying out Malzahn just to make a lateral-at-best hire in Steele aside, SI’s Pat Forde noted, “that also would be the Auburn-est hire imaginable.”

“Would a school pay more than $21 million to buy out a coach only to hire his assistant? A guy who had a 9-36 record as a head coach at Baylor—including a 1-31 conference record? One school might,” Forde continued.

Another key point to note in the pro-Steele leaks is the equally anti-Hugh Freeze bent of the same reports.

Freeze’s Liberty squad impressively went 9-1 this season, putting the former Ole Miss coach back near the top of head coaching searches nationwide.

However, Yellowhammer News has learned that there is a reluctance among at least some key Auburn decision makers to even consider Freeze, despite the likelihood that he would give the program a better chance of winning than ho-hum choices like Steele. And, potentially making matters more complicated, there does not appear to be anyone willing to stick their neck out and strongly advocate for Freeze.

Kirk Herbstreit this week probably said it best when it comes to Freeze:

To me, I think you have to look at Hugh Freeze. I think you have to look at what he went through at Ole Miss, how he’s owned that, how he’s talked about that. You have to come to grips with that. You have to see if you can come to grips with that. And if you can, then you hire him — because he’s got an offense. He’s got a system. I think he is very different than Gus offensively even though they get labeled that they’re from the same coaching tree or coaching branch, as far as offensive style. I think he’s different in the pass game. I think he’s got a way about him. He competes. He’s done very well against (Alabama Crimson Tide head coach) Nick Saban in recruiting and competing against him. I don’t know, man. That’s who I would look at.

Under these circumstances, Auburn has to decide if they can deal with what Hugh has publicly talked about his past — he’s a man that’s, like all of us, flawed. And he’s talked about that. He’s moved on in life. If they can move on with him,  then that’s the direction I would go, personally.

On the opposite end of the equation, sources with direct knowledge of Freeze’s thinking tell Yellowhammer News that he is very much interested in the Auburn position, should the university decision makers be willing to consider him. Freeze has expressed an openness to speaking directly to trustees, boosters and administrators regarding his past and interest in the job.

One source framed it this way: “Hugh could care less about money. He wants to win a national championship. Full stop.”

“Who else on Auburn’s list of candidates has beaten Nick Saban, Kirby Smart and Dan Mullen?” asked another.

Other candidates under consideration reportedly include Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal, ULL head coach Billy Napier, UAB head coach Bill Clark and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 months ago

Auburn announces search firm, advisory group for finding next head football coach

(Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

Auburn University Director of Athletics Allen Greene on Tuesday announced a search firm and advisory group that will assist with the search for the program’s next permanent head football coach.

Parker Executive Search Firm, based in Atlanta, Georgia, will assist an eight-member advisory group.

This group includes administrators from the university and its athletics department, along with prominent Auburn alumni and football letterwinners.

Members of the advisory group are as follows:

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Allen Greene; Director of Athletics
Lieutenant General Ron Burgess; Executive Vice President, Auburn University
Dr. Beverly Marshall, Auburn Faculty Athletic Representative
Tim Jackson; Executive Associate AD, Auburn Athletics
Bo Jackson; Auburn Football Letterman, 1985 Heisman Trophy Winner
Quentin Riggins; Auburn Football Letterman, Auburn Board of Trustees
Randy Campbell; Auburn Football Letterman
Michelle McKenna; Chief Information Officer, National Football League

This comes after Auburn on Sunday announced that Gus Malzahn’s contract had been terminated. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is serving as interim head coach.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 months ago

Bruce Pearl: Gus Malzahn has ‘awful lot to be proud of’ — ‘Tough day here on campus’

(Auburn Football/Facebook, Auburn Basketball/Twitter)

At a remote press conference on Monday, Auburn University head men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl reacted to the news from the previous day that head football coach Gus Malzahn’s contract was terminated by the university.

Malzahn had led the Tigers football program since 2013, and Pearl joined him on The Plains in 2014.

“Yesterday was a tough day here on campus,” Pearl acknowledged. “Being an old ball coach, you hate to see another old ball coach leave the program.”

He then gave a nod to Malzahn’s wife, Kristi, whose Facebook post on Sunday graciously reacting to the day’s news went viral.

“I have so much respect for Gus and Kristi, that coaching staff and that family,” Pearl said. “I’ve learned so much from them. I’ve absolutely taken their lead.”

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“Gus has been the leader of our coaches. People don’t give him near enough credit for how he did lead our coaching staff in so many ways. He is a dear friend. I feel fortunate to be his friend,” the basketball coach continued.

Pearl advised that coach Malzahn “understands the job as well as anybody.”

“Nobody had a higher expectation for Auburn football than Gus Malzahn,” he noted. “Nobody. Even our most passionate fans. Gus expected to win championships, compete for national championships, and he held himself to that standard. … He had an understanding that he would’ve liked to have been able to win a little bit more.”

Pearl stressed some positives of the Malzahn-era, which finished with a 68-35 record over eight seasons.

“I think he’s got an awful lot to be proud of for what they accomplished. I always admired how he always had his locker room. Those kids loved him. They played for him,” Pearl explained. “They always had great coaches, great chemistry and culture.”

“I want to wish him the very, very best,” he added. “One of the greatest things about being here at Auburn is being around the amazing people that I’m around. I get to be around coaches like Butch Thompson, have been around Coach Pat Dye and had a chance to earn his respect, Coach Malzahn – we have the greatest soccer coaches, the greatest baseball coaches, the greatest golf coaches, etc. We’re so fortunate, and I’m so fortunate to be a member of this coaching staff.”

He was then asked about his favorite memory of Malzahn’s overlapping tenure at Auburn.

“The timely text messages,” Pearl responded. “The text messages when only another coach would know when you needed to hear that.”

He also shared, “Gus came in and talked to my team my first year. My first year was like varsity and JV. I’m sending my guys out there and they are just outnumbered. He came into my locker room before we went to the SEC Tournament, and he told our guys how much he enjoyed watching them play and compete knowing they were outnumbered. After that talk, we went to Nashville, and we won three games. I think his talk had a lot to do with it — just to have earned his respect.”

“Now, we had some trash-talking events on the golf course that were a lot of fun. More than anything, just to have earned his respect and become a friend,” Pearl concluded.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 months ago

Auburn fires Gus Malzahn, names Kevin Steele interim head coach

(Bruce Nix/Alabama NewsCenter)

Auburn Director of Athletics Allen Greene on Sunday announced that Gus Malzahn is no longer the head football coach on The Plains.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has been named interim head coach, and a national search for Malzahn’s permanent replacement will begin immediately.

A release said that Greene recommended the change in the football team’s leadership to Auburn University President Jay Gogue after a “thorough analysis” of the program. Gogue accepted Greene’s recommendation.

Malzahn was terminated and will be paid the remainder of his contract, which was set to run through 2024. The buyout was reportedly $21.45 million.

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In eight years, Malzahn compiled a 68-35 record including a 39-27 mark in SEC play. He led the program to an SEC Championship and BCS National Championship appearance in his first season and an SEC West title in 2017.

This year, Auburn compiled a 6-4 record in an all-conference regular season schedule, although some of the “wins” — including this weekend’s — were also ugly.

Greene said in a statement, “After evaluating the state of the Auburn football program, we’ve decided that it was time to make a change in leadership. We appreciate everything that Gus did for the program over the last eight seasons. We will begin a search immediately for a coach that can help the Auburn program consistently compete at the highest level.”

Gogue added, “Coach Malzahn led the Auburn football program with honor and integrity. We appreciate his service to Auburn Athletics, Auburn University and, in particular, our student-athletes. We wish him and Kristi all the best.”

This is breaking news and may be updated.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 months ago

Auburn outlasts Mississippi State, wins 24-10

Auburn Football/Twitter

This game put the idea that “any win is a good win” to the test. The first half of the contest between Auburn and Mississippi State surely gave many fans flashbacks to the 2008 game between the teams that finished in a 3-2 Tigers victory. Neither team was able to put any semblance of consistent offense together early in the game, and it did not improve much by the time the clock hit all zeros on Saturday night.

Surely the respective defenses deserve credit for frustrating the opposing offenses, but it definitely seemed like much of the struggle to score points was offensive self-sabotage for both the Tigers and the Bulldogs. Between Mississippi State’s freshman quarterback forcing two ill-advised interceptions and Auburn’s insistence on passing the ball even though it was almost completely ineffective (when tailback Tank Bigsby averaged over seven yards per carry), points were few and far between.

Eventually the Auburn offense was able to put together two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to pull away from Mississippi State and secure a 24-10 win on the road.

Take a look below at the three things that sealed a much needed win for the Auburn Tigers:

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Anders Carlson splits the uprights
Auburn kicker Anders Carlson has been one of the team’s most consistent and called upon players this season. The junior kicker delivered for the Tigers once again in Starkville, Mississippi. Auburn was unable to score touchdowns on multiple possessions that reached deep into Mississippi State territory in the first half.

Thankfully for the Tigers, Mississippi State was unable to score as well, and Carlson was able to successfully convert each of his three field goal attempts in the game (27, 37 and 45 yards). If Carlson had missed even one of the kicks, especially early in the game, that would have made a rough start for Auburn a potentially disastrous one.

Tank Bigsby shines again
Auburn’s offense has struggled for most of the season, and tonight was no exception. However, just like what we have seen previously, Auburn’s freshman phenom running back Tank Bigsby stole the show again.

Bigsby was the only offensive player able to provide any kind of spark until late in the fourth quarter when quarterback Bo Nix was able to connect with receiver Seth Williams a couple of times for big plays. Had Bigsby not been on the field, it is likely that those big pass plays from Nix to Williams would not have been enough to win the game.

Bigsby has been nursing a hip injury in recent weeks but looked to be close to 100% tonight for the first time in a while, running over, around and through defenders on his way to 192 yards on the ground. The stability that the star tailback provided for the offense through the first three quarters when quite literally nothing else was working is what allowed the team to stay afloat until Nix found Williams for a 32-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Tank Bigsby on The Plains, but I shudder to think what the offense would have looked like this season had he not been in the backfield.

The defense answered the call
Auburn’s defensive performance in the last two games against Alabama and Texas A&M were extremely disappointing. Fair or not, that side of the ball has carried Auburn’s team for the last few years. So, when Alabama hung 42 on the Tigers’ defense (and it easily could have been more), only to be followed up with Texas A&M rushing for more than 300 yards, it was time to see if Auburn’s defense had any fight left.

They answered that question with a resounding “yes.” Mississippi State is not a particularly good offensive football team, and the Tigers’ defense made them look like it. Auburn’s defensive front got more pass rush and pressure tonight on the Bulldogs than in any conference game in recent memory. The defense was able to sack Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers six times and hit him several times more.

Auburn’s ability to make the freshman quarterback uncomfortable also directly led to the two interceptions he threw because of being pressured into bad decisions. The defense arrived in Starkville with the intent to deliver the message that they had not quit on this year and planned on doling out punishment on Bulldog backs and receivers. The Tigers’ defense did just that in a great performance that led to a sixth Auburn win on the year.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

3 months ago

What to watch: Auburn vs. Mississippi State edition

(Pixabay, YHN)

The Auburn Tigers travel to Mississippi State (2-6) to face the Bulldogs for the final game of their 2020 regular season schedule. The Tigers are searching for answers following back to back double-digit losses against Alabama and Texas A&M, respectively. Every conference game is a must-win, but there are lots of murmurs that an Auburn loss today could bring about the end of the Gus Malzahn era on The Plains.

Mississippi State did not have a game last week due to COVID-19 protocols, so the Bulldogs will be back in action for the first time in a couple of weeks. After a shocking (at the time) opening week win over LSU, Mississippi State has managed only one other win in new head coach Mike Leach’s first season.

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The Bulldogs have been set back by COVID-19 more than any other program in the SEC this year, have installed a brand new offense, and have also made a change of starting quarterbacks midway through the campaign. All of those factors have led to a rocky season for the Bulldogs.

Today, we look at three things that will decide which team will break a two-game losing streak and which squad will drop its third straight SEC matchup.

Air Raid
Mississippi State hired coach Mike Leach this offseason to come to Starkville and revamp the Bulldogs’ program. Leach is one of the most well-known practitioners of the Air Raid offense that was popularized by Hal Mumme at Kentucky in the mid to late 1990s. In the years since, many Mumme proteges have taken the plan elsewhere to varying degrees of success (Auburn fans will likely remember the brief Tony Franklin experience).

Leach’s gameplan against Auburn will be the same as it is against every other opponent — throw the football … a lot. The Bulldogs do not even pretend to be interested in running the ball in the Air Raid system, averaging only 16 carries per game. Instead, Mississippi State attempts an average of 55 passes each game, many of which are very short, quick throws that take the place of a traditional rushing attack.

Auburn’s defense must be prepared to make one-on-one tackles in space consistently and to be disciplined in coverage all night to limit big plays. If the Tigers can keep the ball in front of them and rally to tackle the ball carriers, making the Bulldogs repeat long drives, they will have a great opportunity to shut down Mississippi State’s offense.

Will Rogers
Mississippi State’s starting quarterback is a freshman named Will Rogers. Rogers did not play at all in the Bulldogs’ first two contests, began getting snaps over games three through five, and has been the starter in their last three matchups. Rogers got off to a slow start upon seeing the field early in the year, which is expected for a freshman quarterback.

However, in his last three games (all starts), Rogers is completing 76% of his passes on 53 attempts per game. Over that same stretch, he has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions. The freshman quarterback has certainly settled into a nice rhythm recently, and Mike Leach is tailoring his approach to Rogers’ strengths. It will be important for Auburn to disrupt the Bulldogs’ timing and make Rogers uncomfortable to snuff out the Mississippi State passing attack.

Auburn on the road
It is no secret that the Tigers have struggled away from the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium under coach Gus Malzahn. Almost every metric points to much worse production and results on the road as compared to home games.

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix gets specifically drawn into this narrative, whether fair or not. It seems that a good strategy to settle Nix and the entire team into this road game would be to get the rushing offense rolling, with Nix as a key component of the attack. Channeling Nix’s desire to run as opposed to fleeing pass rushers could be a big factor in Auburn’s offense scoring enough points to win in Starkville.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @z_m_shaw

3 months ago

Gus Malzahn dismisses hot seat talk: ‘I’m excited about next year’

Auburn football Gus Malzahn presser on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 in Auburn, Ala. (Todd Van Emst/AU Athletics)

At his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn was asked about frequently being on the coaching “hot seat.”

Malzahn is one of the most successful head coaches in Auburn history, however his Tigers are 5-4 in this SEC-only season.

“I’ve got a job that I’ve said before expects to win championships, and I do, too,” Malzahn said in his presser.

“The years that you’re not in the mix, that’s just part of it. I’m blessed to be here and excited not only about this game, but I’m excited about next year,” he continued.

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Auburn is scheduled to play Mississippi State in Starkville on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. This will be the final game of Auburn’s 2020 regular season.

Malzahn, on the importance of finishing the season strong, advised, “I think it’s very important. We actually talked about that with our team Sunday after the game. We weren’t fortunate enough to get these seniors out on a victory [at home], so this is a big game for us, and we want to do everything in our power to try and get a victory. It’s not going to be easy, on the road in our league with a team that’s playing good football right now. It’ll be a challenge, but I think it’ll be very important if we can get the victory.”

He also talked about preparing to face the Mike Leach-led Bulldogs, who are 2-6 on the year.

“Last SEC road game, last SEC game for us. This is our 10th game, and if you think back to over the summer and somebody told us we would have made it through 10 SEC games, that would’ve been a big accomplishment,” Malzahn remarked. “I’m real proud of our team and the way they handled themselves with the COVID etiquette and everything that goes with it. We’re playing a Mississippi State team that you see is probably playing their best ball of the season. They played Georgia and Ole Miss on the road very close and had a chance to win those games. If you look at their defense, they’re very good against the run. They’re very disruptive with the different things they do. Offensively, I’m really impressed with the quarterback; since he’s taken over the starting job he’s protected the ball very well considering how many times he’s thrown the ball. I’m looking forward to playing our last SEC game on the road against a very solid Mississippi State team.”

Speaking more to how well he thinks Mississippi State is playing at the moment, Auburn’s coach added, “I think their defense has been disruptive all year. When you watch them on film against some really good offenses, they’ve done a really good job against the run. I think the big thing is that they’re protecting the football better than they did in the first half of the season. I think it’s really a combination of those two things.”

“They’ve had an off-week to prepare for us,” Malzahn stated. “That’s two weeks to prepare. Earlier in the year, when we were going to play them, we had an off-week leading up to that and we had a few practices to at least get a foundation of what they do and kind of how to play against that. Hopefully, that’ll help us and it’ll be a good recall from that week that we can run with.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn