While Auburn University competes in 12 different sports that are sanctioned by the NCAA, the three major sports that make the most money and have the greatest following are football, basketball and baseball. I’m sure there are individuals who love track and field or tennis or even equestrian, but the majority of fans judge how well a year of Auburn sports has gone by the success or failure of the top three.
The football program has been up and down over the last 25 years with some mountaintop highs and bedrock lows. Despite a few blue moons, the basketball program had become a great source of embarrassment during the same time period until the arrival of Bruce Pearl. A once proud baseball program in the 1990s wandered aimlessly in the wilderness until the recent arrival of Butch Thompson.
Each program has had some exceptional moments over the years, but rarely has that success come together all at the same time.
For instance, Auburn baseball went to the College World Series in 1997 and the football team went to the SEC championship game, but the basketball team went 16-14. In 2003, Cliff Ellis and the basketball team made it to the Sweet 16 and Steve Renfroe had Auburn baseball hosting a regional with a record of 42-21, but the football team went 8-5 with quite possibly the most talented team ever assembled on the Plains.
In 2010, AU won the national championship with Cam Newton and the baseball team won the SEC West and hosted a regional, but the basketball team started off the year going 16-17.
It’s been extremely difficult to put together great success across the board for the three major sports. To be honest, even when things have gone well for two sports it hasn’t been that good. The football team lost that SEC title game to Tennessee in 1997. The baseball team lost both regionals they were hosting in 2003 and 2010.
However, something magical is happening in 2019.
Of course, it all started with Bruce Pearl and the basketball team’s improbable run to the Final Four back in March. Now, Butch Thompson has led the baseball team to the World Series for the first time since 1997. The Tigers scored an amazing 13 runs in the first inning and went on to defeat North Carolina 14-7 Monday punching their ticket.
Two major sports seasons to begin 2019 and two trips to the absolute pinnacle of each sport.
Not to be greedy, but dare I dream of a trifecta? I’m talking to you Gus. No pressure or anything, but your counterparts are setting the woods on fire right now.
A playoff appearance in 2019 (or technically 2020) would certainly be asking a lot, but now represents the final achievement of a masterpiece.
What’s funny is neither the baseball or basketball team was considered as good as the previous year’s team. You just never know when Auburn is going to rise up and do something special. Does 2013 ring a bell?
2019 has started off as the greatest year of Auburn sports (Big 3) in my lifetime. The baseball team isn’t done yet and who knows what to expect from the gridiron gang.
I don’t know what will happen this fall, but I’ll say it again. Something magical is happening at Auburn in 2019.