The Kick Six and Me: An Oral History

I have seen several oral histories of the Kick 6, so I thought I would quickly jot down my memories of that night.  Add your own as comments, if you’d like.

I was at the top of Section 44 with a friend, Christie, who was at her first Auburn football game ever.  We had seen Sammie Coates catch the pop-pass and run it in, and we had booed with indignation when the officials restored one second to the clock.

I watched the attempted field goal, and from the North end zone stands, I had no idea that Chris Davis was back there.  Then I realized that he had caught the ball and started running it out.

My first thought was, “How quaint.  This player thinks he actually can do something fielding the field goal, and he is running fast too.”  I honestly thought he would be tackled and we would head to overtime.

Davis cut to the sideline, along with everyone else on the field, and when Cody Mandell and Dee Ford crossed in front of Davis, it was like a curtain opening and revealing Davis running toward the end zone with only Auburn players close.

As that curtain opened, it unleashed a roar as a huge wave cascading from all over Jordan-Hare, as I had never heard before, and suddenly we were all going crazy — cheering, hugging, screaming.

Two weeks before, after the “Prayer at Jordan-Hare,” I had tweeted, “I cannot believe what I have just seen.”  So I tweeted, “Again, I cannot believe what I have just seen.”

Our side of the stadium was not allowed on the field, so we got gridlocked in the stands for a while.  Like Mike Szvetitz quoted in the Opelika-Auburn News, I could not believe that they played “Celebration.”  A 1980 song?  Really?

For the next couple of days, I heard from relatives who did not even care about football (or so I thought) telling me they had seen the kick and they thought it was great.  My favorite was a phone message from my Uncle Mario, age 93, who would pass away the following summer.

I realized this was a moment shared not only with the college football world, but also sports fans across the country, a once-in-a-lifetime play.  Those of us who were there became fortunate witnesses to history, and were privileged to share in it.

I still get choked up seeing Auburn fans who were watching at home or in a restaurant or bar, realizing that the moment was theirs as much as ours in the stadium.

The next couple of weeks, Auburn was like Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth.  I remember seeing a campus tour pass in front of Tichenor Hall that next week, and everyone was gazing around them in wonder.  All that was needed was cartoon birds carrying “Welcome to Auburn!” banners and tour guides dressed as Snow White.

I realize we are mocked, often from another side of the state, for continuing to celebrate this moment.  But that’s what sport is about: the opportunity to share in such moments, and know that we were there, and that it really did happen.




Face WHOSE Music?

Disclosure: Auburn journalism faculty member and season ticket holder here. You can judge from this and other writing if I live up to my claim of promoting responsible journalism over fandom.

Coach Gus Malzahn’s decision to remove quarterback Nick Marshall from Auburn’s SEC Media Days roster for today met with much disappointment.

The decision came after Marshall was cited on Friday in Georgia for marijuana possession. (“Cited, not arrested” became something of a mantra.)

Those who criticized claimed that it would be more appropriate for Marshall to “face the music” from the media in attendance today and that his appearance would “clear the air.”  Now, they say, the story will not go away.

This concept of the media as some kind of required ordeal for a college athlete to endure troubles me.  No doubt it derives from the media’s traditional role as a watchdog.

A public official might need to “face the music” of a press conference after investigative reporting or government inquiry reveals misdeeds that demand response.  A watchdog press is representing the citizenry in asking tough questions that need to be asked.

In other cases, however, the demand for someone to “face the music” also presumes a lot.  Here, most of that presumption comes from the media members who demand it who are demanding a go at Marshall.

With this story, there is no dogged investigative reporting.  The information might be entertaining to the audience, and First Amendment-protected.  But for many (but not all, I stress) of those who will be in attendance, this is an easy story that dropped in their laps and will give them the opportunity to hound a young athlete.  A textbook Media Days circus.

That circus dominates at a situation like this.  The serious questions of a young man who allowed what could be a storybook season to devolve into preseason drama?

Too weighty for an unethical credentialed amateur wishing to make a name for himself/herself with a condescending question sure to get meme’d, GIF’ed, and Vined.

The preseason drama beast demands fresh meat, and if Auburn will not feed Marshall to the beast, it’s more convenient to blame the school than to turn and address that annoying beast.

Some have compared this to the Jameis Winston story (the sexual assault accusations, NOT the crab legs caper).  The two don’t match up.

First, the Winston story has grown beyond FSU, though crucial questions still remain, to address a nationwide culture in which colleges mishandle sexual assault allegations, particularly where athletes are involved.

Second, Winston has not been charged in the incident, so any questions of his own involvement would be futile, given the competent legal advice he and anyone in a similar situation would receive.  If the story had broken three days of head of ACC’s media days, a similar decision would have been wise.

(Though I would add here that I supported Heather Cox’s questioning of Winston on ESPN after the ACC championship game.  Her questions were relevant, and he was handling them well until whisked away.)

Would an appearance by Marshall have defused the story?  Will the story continue from here, as many claim?  That question will be answered by the sports media members from here.

In the absence of new information, the story survives only if the media continue to serve it up under the pretense of new angles.

Nick Marshall will speak to these accusations, and he certainly should.  But at a venue like Media Days (too much) a mere three days after (too soon), not a wise decision.

And if it deprives some in the media of an easy target for a quick take — that’s not a problem worth solving.

If Petrino Had Been Named Auburn Coach …



First published in The War Eagle Reader.  find it here.

This is not one of those wild parallel reality articles; I’m not that talented. It’s my take as a faculty member on the just-concluded search for a head coach.

For those nine days, I lived in fear that somehow, Auburn would name Bobby Petrino as head football coach.

Yes, I know that most Auburn fans are glad the process is over and want to move on. I’m glad too. And it might be that for us academics, the desire to beat a dead horse comes with the cap and gown. But I think some reflection is in order.

In my opinion, hiring Petrino would have sent the wrong message to our student-athletes and to all of our students.  The message would have been this: Doing the wrong thing is OK, as long as you win.  Consequences are for losers.

Had the hire been made, I was ready to resign my position on the University Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics,  and I had expressed that willingness to friends who would hold me to it. It might not seem like a big deal; I am finishing a three-year term.

But I could not have continued as a faculty member on the committee if that were the philosophy of the athletics department. Thank God it’s not.

For me, the issue was not so much Petrino’s oft-ridiculed affair with an Arkansas athletics staff member.  He must bear the weight of that privately, and it looks like he will, for a long time.

It was that he created an ethical nightmare for his school, and might have violated the law, by hiring that staff member to a better-paid position on the staff of a state university.  As I posted in an early tweet, any athletics director would be crazy to hire Petrino, knowing that he had done that.

And let’s not forget that within the Jetgate scandal, Petrino made his own missteps by not informing his athletics director that he was seeking the Auburn job.  Obviously, that would have threatened the process’s secrecy, but once again, Petrino subverted ethical principle to his own interest.

At the NFL level, that’s another debate. I won’t talk about what happened in Atlanta.  But on a college campus (and as I frequently state, this is college football) this is serious stuff.

Despite appearances, a college campus is not an FBS football factory.  It is a setting where thousands of mostly young men and women, some of them athletes, learn at a variety of levels — academic, social, and yes, ethical.

We enforce an academic honor code, and when a student crosses that line, he or she should be prosecuted.  And not just to be punished for trying to succeed by breaking the rules. The idea is for students to recognize that there are consequences for academic dishonesty. We don’t publicly announce individual student verdicts, but they know the process is there. If there were no consequences, cheating would be even more of a problem than it is now.

But it’s hard to expect students to accept that, when they know that a football coach catches a break because of his winning percentage.

In so many ways, critics complain that college football is out of control.  At Auburn, $11 million in buyouts to a fired coach and his staff supports the argument.  An eagerness to hire a disgraced coach because of his winning percentage would have added to that perception.

For all of the heat Jay Jacobs has been catching, his record in promoting the academic welfare of student-athletes has not been mentioned. Under his leadership, our students have shined. Football player Ashton Richardson was a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship. Soccer player Katy Frierson and diver Dan Mazziaferro were finalists for the prestigious Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship.

But his search committee did not hire Bobby Petrino. And for that I am grateful.