A football program that surprisingly cratered. A head coach that had to be fired. A basketball program that took zero steps forward and continued to lose players via transfer. Fans angered. An outside panel reviewing and commenting on your job performance. Toss in the unceasing rumors of NCAA investigations and the past year has been a rough one for Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs:
“It was tough. But my toughest year since I’ve been here was when I walked on (to the football team) in 1981. That was the toughest year and I learned from that. Perseverance and hard work and going what’s right pays off…
It was tough for everybody, but I was able to draw back on what Auburn taught me as a walk-on football player here 30 years ago. Tough times don’t last, tough people do. If you do what’s right and you stay focused on what’s important, and that’s those student-athletes and doing what’s right for Auburn, you persevere and you keep fighting through it.”
Asked by Al.com why he’s been opening up more to the press (and therefore the fans) more in recent months, Jacobs said that he is still a “work-in-progress” as an AD: “I would guess any time a leader stops learning, they’ve probably hit the ceiling. I’ve learned a lot over the last nine years as athletics director. Number One, I’m tired of playing defense. When those articles (alleging improprieties in the AU’s football program) came out, enough was enough. I just had to stand up and play offense. I’m an offensive tackle. It’s a lot easier to play offense.”
If Gus Malzahn’s troops find it easy to play in his offense this fall, it should help to take some of the fan- and booster-generated heat off Jacobs.