Guerry Clegg commentary: Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs scores big with baseball, softball hires

sports@ledger-enquirer.comJune 15, 2013 

It may be unprecedented that a college fanbase consumed with football would be excited about hiring coaches for baseball and softball. Especially considering that most of those fans probably have not actually heard of those coaches.

But the coup that Jay Jacobs, Auburn's embattled athletic director, pulled off Friday is completely unprecedented. Early in the afternoon, Auburn announced that Clint Myers, one of the most respected coaches on any level in softball, had been hired to replace Tina Deese. With that move alone, Jacobs won the day.

Turns out, though, that Jacobs wasn't finished. Hours later, news broke that Auburn had hired Sunny Golloway from Oklahoma as head baseball coach.

Not a bad day's work.

Said Jacobs, "We went after the best."

Of course, winning a dozen national championships in baseball and softball at Auburn will not make up for losing one Iron Bowl, let alone going winless in the SEC for the first time in 60 years. Jacobs understands his job approval rating hinges on what happens in the fall -- and we're not talking about cross country and volleyball.

Even so, Jacobs gained a significant measure of credibility Friday with these two marquee hires.

To the average college football fan, the name Clint Myers would hardly raise an eyebrow. To softball fans, Myers is something along the lines of, well, that guy who coaches football in Tuscaloosa. His record in eight seasons

at Arizona State was 427-102, a winning percentage of .807. the Sun Devils went to the Women's College World Series seven of those eight seasons. They won it all in 2008 and again in 2011.

Winning two national championships is impressive enough. Myers accomplished something even more unimaginable. He made Arizona State more prominent in softball than Arizona. That's impressive considering that Arizona won 38 consecutive games over ASU from 1991 through 2000, before Myers' arrival.

Before going to ASU, Myers won six junior college national championships in eight seasons at Central Arizona College and compiled a record of 481-43. Impressive? Well, get this. At the same time, he was also the head baseball coach at Central Arizona and was 406-192. So he's won more than 400 games on his last three coaching jobs, two of which he held at the same time.

It might seem as though Myers fell into the Tigers' lap. Both of his sons coach. One was coaching in Birmingham. He wanted to unite the family, and Auburn was a convenient place. Actually, though, it was Jacobs and Meredith Jenkins, senior women's athletic director, who sold Myer on the idea of coming to Auburn.

Golloway's resume doesn't include a national championship. But it does include 681 wins and 14 trips to the NCAA tournament in the last 15 seasons with Oral Roberts and Oklahoma. It also includes back to back trips to the NCAA Super Regionals with the Sooners.

Golloway comes to Auburn with no lack of confidence.

"I will tell you this: we're going to win, and we're going to win quickly," he said. "The resources are in place, so it's about moving forward."

One logical concern: How well can he recruit right away in unfamiliar territory.

"It's not going to be a problem," he said. "We're going to hit the ground running and we're going to go out and win those battles. I love that part of the job. I love the chase. I love the competition."

This has been, suffice to say, a very trying last year for Auburn athletics in general and for Jacobs in particular. Many fans felt that Jacobs should have been fired along with football coach Gene Chizik. Jacobs' support of men's basketball coach Tony Barbee after a 3-15 SEC record this year didn't garner much support.

But the hiring of Myers and Golloway put a smiley face on this athletic year. Now, if only Gus Malzahn can get the football team headed back in the right direction, it will be all smiles again on The Plains. The Gus Bus cranks up in 77 days against Washington State.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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