Richard Hyatt: Auburn basketball needs a come back

February 4, 2014 

While college basketball was celebrating a game to remember on Saturday, we were on our way home from a game to ignore.

Top-ranked Syracuse was pushed into overtime in a victory over perennial contender Duke on the same afternoon that Auburn defeated Georgia in a showcase of Southeastern Conference mediocrity.

It had been several years since I had watched a game in the comfortable confines of Auburn's new arena. It saddened me to see that while football flirts with national championships, the basketball program has sank so low that it took a rally at the end to hold off a Bulldog team that is going nowhere.

Sir Charles Barkley supported Tiger football in its miracle season but the man formerly known as the Round Mound of Rebound didn't show up for this one. It's just as well, for the lack of promise on the basketball court would have embarrassed him.

The game was played in an $86 million arena that offers spectators a wonderful view. There is a mini museum that evokes memories of the past and a souvenir shop that helps fans dress in the latest Auburn fashion. There are concession stands that -- for a price -- offer menus that go beyond your typical stadium fare.

Taking a cue from minor league baseball, there was lots of action going on when the clock was stopped. Aubie, the award-winning mascot, put on a pre-game shooting exhibition. Two people from the stands shot hoops in a silly game played on tricycles. There was a 90-foot putt that could have won a golfer a new car. When the Tiger team was introduced, there was smoke and fire.

Then the game began.

College basketball has always been my game of choice and I don't need a museum to remember Auburn's past. I remember Joel Eaves' runts. I remember my old friend Lee DeFore and his graceful jump shot. I remember John Mengelt crashing into anyone who got in his way. I remember the death of Paul Lambert before he ever coached a game, and I smile when I think of Sonny Smith's twang. I remember Chuck Person's scoring and Barkley's dominant personality. I even recall the troubled career of Chris Porter.

Once there were moments that made old-school fans proud, but for too long the Auburn program has been floundering and faceless. And Georgia basketball is no better.

Hugh Durham and Tubby Smith took the Bulldogs to great heights but Jim Harrick destroyed all of that. Dominique Wilkins is in the Hall of Fame, but name other Bulldog greats?

Auburn athletic direc

tor Jay Jacobs and Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity haven't been shy about making other unhappy changes and it's time for them to turn their attention to basketball.

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at

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