Tuberville’s Tumultuous Past Finally Catches Up
It wasn’t that he left, but more that he didn’t even bother to say goodbye.
Not to mention that he repeatedly denied he was even going anywhere.
That, essentially, is what draws the ire of Mississippi fans to this day when it comes to Tommy Tuberville. Saturday was payback time, although it didn’t quite work out the way the Rebel fans had hoped.
Tuberville is remembered more at Mississippi for the questionable way he departed than for building the strong team he left behind.
Fair or not, the Rebels’ former coach was greeted by a hostile crowd when he coached his first game at Oxford, Miss., since abruptly leaving for Auburn in 1998.
But it ended happily for Tuberville as Auburn held on for a 35-27 victory over No. 19 Mississippi.
“It’s big that it’s over with,” Tuberville said afterward. “I’m glad that it’s close to the first game of the year, so we can get the hype out of the way.”
Tuberville had anticipated what he was in for in his return.
“I’ve been called a lot of things, in lot of different stadiums, so it won’t be any different,” Tuberville said days before the game. “It’ll be noisy. I’m sure it will be an environment where people . . . some will have a bit of resentment.”
That’s an understatement.
Ole Miss fans had been counting down to the game between the teams ever since last year’s meeting at Auburn.
About 8,000 Ole Miss supporters ventured to Auburn last season to voice their displeasure with Tuberville, many wearing T-shirts with Tuberville’s face and the words ‘Liar, Liar’ printed on them.
During the 1998 season, Tuberville repeatedly denied publicly and to his players that he was leaving Ole Miss for Auburn to replace Terry Bowden.
Two days after Ole Miss completed its regular season, Tuberville was named Auburn’s coach. He never addressed the team, took almost his entire staff with him and left the Rebels in disarray with a bowl game still to play.
As the game ended Saturday, Auburn players raised Tuberville onto their shoulders as the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium record crowd of 52,368 loudly booed.
During Wisconsin’s Rose Bowl trips the past several years, Coach Barry Alvarez has been known to be one of the most affable personalities in the game today.
Wiping that perpetual smile off his face would seem a tall order, but, alas, the NCAA found another way.
Already dealing with suspensions for players who received unadvertised discounts at a shoe store, Alvarez was fuming at the NCAA for not hearing the appeal of cornerback Mike Echols in a timely manner, and he let officials have it after Wisconsin’s 27-23 victory over Oregon.
“I guess the NCAA must shut its doors at 5 o’clock on Friday,” Alvarez said. “They couldn’t make their decision and had to go to committee. And the committee’s not around until Monday.
“After dealing with them this week, I’m not confident in anything that they do. Anything. I have no confidence in them. I don’t have any confidence in them whatsoever because i don’t know that they understand kids or care about kids.”
Are we clear?
It was a tough day to be a political candidate in Nebraska--even for Tom Osborne.
As the former Nebraska coach tried to focus on handshakes and waves, the Cornhuskers were on their way to a 27-24 overtime victory at Notre Dame.
Before kickoff and the start of the annual Germanfest parade in Fairbury, Neb., 30 minutes later, Osborne walked into a restaurant where about 100 people had gathered around televisions to watch the game.
Osborne was greeted with applause, camera flashes and the outstretched pens of fans asking the coach who led the Huskers to three national titles in the 1990s to sign footballs, books, T-shirts, even napkins.
But when the game started, their interest immediately turned to the televisions.
Few people noticed when Osborne left minutes later.
“I hate to miss the game,” he said from the parade. “But people keep hollering the scores at me when I am not around a radio or TV.”
SIMMS? A MAJOR ISSUE
When you win a battle to become the starting quarterback and your competition for the job happened to be the 1999 Big 12 offensive player of the year, you’d better not waste any time performing.
Texas sophomore Chris Simms didn’t quite grasp this concept during No. 6 Texas’ 52-10 victory over Louisiana Lafayette and, like it or not, it has thrown the Longhorns into a quarterback controversy they didn’t want.
Major Applewhite had plenty to do with that because of his 315-yard, four-touchdown effort in a little more than two quarters. A 10-0 deficit under Simms--after a missed field goal and an interception that was returned for a touchdown--turned into a Texas rout behind Applewhite.
Applewhite tried to downplay the significance of his performance and whether he’ll start next Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter to me. Let’s put that question to rest, OK?” Applewhite said. “It was exciting to be back out there, to be able to show spark, passion and to be able to take care of business.”
Simms, who returned to throw a second-half touchdown to Hodges Mitchell, also said all the right things afterward.
“I just got off to a bad start,” Simms said. “I would love to have been in there, but I made a few mistakes early and [the coaches] made the right call. After the interception I didn’t feel that bad, I just made a bad throw. I thought he [Major] played great.”
Simms may get a front-row seat to watch how great Applewhite can be if he doesn’t change his fortunes soon.
THOMAS LEAVES NO DOUBT
OK, so we all know that USC hasn’t really looked back since Carson Palmer became quarterback after an illustrious career at Santa Margarita High.
But what became of his main competitor, Jason Thomas, who incidentally, had himself quite a high school career at Compton Dominguez?
If Trojan fans somehow caught a glimpse of the Nevada Las Vegas-Iowa State game in Ames, Iowa, they received an answer.
Former USC coach John Robinson, who recruited Thomas while with the Trojans and is now the Nevada Las Vegas coach, gave the 6-foot-4, 235-pound sophomore his first collegiate start.
Thomas, who transferred from USC in 1999, threw touchdown passes of 56 and 31 yards, scored on a 45-yard run and hurt Iowa State with his scrambling in a 37-22 loss. He looked rusty at first but got sharper as the game progressed. He finished with 190 yards passing and 107 on the ground.
“First half I didn’t have my feet set and I wasn’t comfortable,” Thomas said. “Second half I was more poised, I was a different player. It was my first college game and I did OK, but we didn’t win. It was a great experience.”
--Compiled by JIM BARRERO