You’ve seen them.
Maybe they were sitting in the corner booth at Andy’s, near the window at McDonald’s, or camped out near the bathroom of some mom and pop roadside diner.
Grey-haired, huddled over cups of steaming coffee and the morning’s newspaper, these men speak in quiet tones for hours. Whatever the topic, they know it inside and out. They know the people who call the shots, and they know their grandchildren too.
When it comes to Alabama and Auburn athletics, these are the kind of circles I imagine Wimp Sanderson runs in. The former University of Alabama basketball coach has plenty of friends in powerful places – guys like Jimmy Rane, who’s on Auburn’s board of trustees, and Pat Dye, the former Auburn head football coach. Sanderson is a featured guest on four regional sports radio stations.
So I feel he’s qualified to speak on behalf of the speculation that next year Bobby Petrino will coach Auburn. Speculation that has only been fueled by current Arkansas coach John L. Smith and SEC blogger conspiracists.
“They’re not gonna make a change at Auburn,” Sanderson said in a phone interview. “I know what I’m talking about.” It might have been the worst September in the history of the Auburn football, but that 1-3 start isn’t enough to get Tigers’ head coach Gene Chizik canned.
For starters, “it would be very difficult to let somebody go who’s won the national championship in the last four years,” said Sanderson, a Birmingham resident. Moreover, a coaching change would jeopardize an extremely strong incoming recruiting class – ranked #7 in ESPN’s rankings. Finally, Chizik is receiving plenty public support from Dye and Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs, who played football under Dye.
With Alabama, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M still on its schedule, Auburn won’t have an easy time making a bowl game this year. When it comes to Chizik’s job security, though, his most dangerous game may be his next one.
If, on October 6th, Chizik loses to a sputtering, Bobby Petrino-less Arkansas, no amount of friends in high places may save him.