AUBURN, Ala. — As the afternoon drew to a close, Auburn coach Gene Chizik raced into Scott Fountain’s office, busy from a hectic day of meetings judging by his wardrobe, politely interrupting because he needed to schedule a flight, ASAP.
As Auburn’s coordinator of football operations, this is Fountain’s new role, a departure from more than two decades as an on-the-field coach from the high school ranks through all levels of college.
“Football is in my blood,” said the 42-year-old Fountain, who joined Chizik’s staff in an administrative role after coaching with him for two years at Iowa State. “I’ve always coached. … But coming here and doing this job that I’m doing is giving me an opportunity to see kind of what a head coach sees from the other side of the fence.”
Fountain’s duties are wide-ranging but mostly deal with organizing Auburn’s recruiting efforts from behind the scenes. From big projects like Auburn’s stretch Hummer limo tour of the state and “Big Cat” weekend to less-publicized ones like the Tigers’ “Summer Bridge” program, which helps signees ease into college life academically and socially, Fountain plays a big role.
“The main thing I try to organize is recruiting in terms of what we’re trying to do from top to bottom,” he said, “It’s just kind of all-encompassing.”
It’s nothing quite like he has done before. Since he left the Alabama high school coaching ranks to take a graduate assistant position on Bobby Bowden’s staff at Florida State in 1994, Fountain has always had some sort of on-field coaching role in addition to his recruiting obligations.
But two months after Chizik left Ames for Auburn, Fountain had a choice. He could continue coaching tight ends on Paul Rhoads’ staff at Iowa State or the East Brewton, Ala., native could return to his home state after a 16-year absence. The catch was that he would have to give up his duties as one of the nine on-the-field coaches allowed under NCAA rules.
“It’s tough,” Fountain said. “Had it not been Auburn and the SEC and being close to home, I probably would have stayed at Iowa State.”
From O-line to sideline
Fountain always knew he wanted to pursue a career in football. He was a four-year letterman on the offensive line at Samford, finishing his career in 1987, Terry Bowden’s first year as head coach.
He plunged into the high school ranks as an assistant coach for two years before getting a head job at Frisco City High. After three years he moved to Monroe County, with an eye on getting a college gig. He thought about an assistant job at Division-II West Alabama, but Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, who recruited Monroe County, informed him of the opening on Bobby Bowden’s staff. Fountain got the job, working under offensive coordinator and future Georgia coach Mark Richt.
After three years, he landed at Central Florida as a full-time assistant and recruiting coordinator on Gene McDowell’s staff at the height of the Daunte Culpepper era. It was there that he first met Chizik, who was the Knights’ defensive coordinator from 1998-2001.
Chizik left for Auburn as a defensive coordinator in 2002, and Fountain, after seven years with Central Florida, went to Middle Tennessee for two years and Georgia Southern for another before the two reunited at Iowa State in 2007, eager to build a foundation for the program.
“Here, it’s kind of been the same,” Fountain said. “You’re kind of trying to get everything headed in the right direction and at some point you hope to get a smooth process going.
“There’s so much going on. From unofficial visits to official visits to reserving flights to reserving our team planes to coordinating it so you don’t have too many guys on the road or off the road, just a lot goes into it. But once you go through it a year and get a smooth process going, it tends to run pretty efficiently.”