Regardless of your affiliation, you have to tip your cap Auburn’s athletic department.
The men’s basketball team made its first ever Final Four, the women’s team made the NCAA tournament, the baseball team is among the College World series participants, etc. It’s an impressive sports resume.
And just as all things Iron Bowl tend to be, the non-football-related successes at Auburn are sure to lead to mounting pressures to those same athletic endeavors at Alabama.
For more than a decade ’Bama football has lessened the blow of any misgivings of other sports at the school.
The basketball team has barely been mediocre during the span, the baseball team has been lucky to be .500 most years and the women’s hoops squad has been downright bad. The greatest run in college football history allowed Tide fans to brush off the lack of championship level play in those sports, though.
The problem now is Auburn’s latest achievements will ramp up demand for those sports in Tuscaloosa to get better — and get better quickly.
There’s certainly nothing wrong being motivated by a competitor’s success. It’s safe to say Nick Saban forced Auburn to do the same in football. Even though the Tigers haven’t been on Alabama’s level (who has besides Clemson?) over the last 12 years, AU has had some fantastic years relative to its history, especially when considering Alabama is Auburn’s conference, division and its in-state archrival.
My concern is coaches like Nate Oats in basketball and Brad Bohannon in baseball may not get the time they need to right their respective ships. Alabama fans can be incredibly impatient even in a world of understood sports impatience. They may not remember or acknowledge it took Bruce Pearl four years to get his program the way he wanted it. The Final Four didn’t come until his fifth year when he had several experienced and learned players who developed to his standards and style.
There is no doubt in my mind Oats and Bohannon are great coaches. There is no doubt in my mind both are capable of huge accomplishments in Tuscaloosa. There is also no doubt in my mind neither is a miracle worker.
Both will need support in the early lean years to build winning programs. The baseball team in particular has already had some tough times, but there are certain signs of improvement from previous regimes.
The quest to become nationally relevant in basketball or baseball will not be completed overnight. It will be a slow, arduous task with wide pitfalls along the way. The key is to have a coach who has a system, players who believe in the coach and fans who are patient with both.
If you are unsure if that strategy will work, look no farther than Auburn.