Video: Former Auburn baseball coach Sunny Golloway hits back at athletic department
Former Auburn baseball coach Sunny Golloway’s rocky two-year tenure came to an abrupt end at the university’s athletic complex on Sept. 27.
Athletic director Jay Jacobs asked for a meeting with Golloway that Sunday at 1 p.m.
After arriving in the receptionist’s area, Jacobs escorted Golloway to his office, where Jacobs didn’t even invite the coach to sit down to deliver the news that he was being relieved of his duties effective immediately.
“I was shocked, absolutely shocked,” Golloway said.
Golloway tried to ask about how Jacobs planned addressing the remaining four years on his contract, but didn’t even get a chance to finish his thought.
“I don’t plan on giving you a dime, brother,” Jacobs said.
Golloway held a 75-minute press conference Monday afternoon at the Birmingham offices of his lawyer John Saxon to detail and refute the list of allegations Auburn cited as the reasons behind his termination “with cause.”
Auburn Athletics declined a chance to respond to Golloway’s press conference.
“Coach Golloway was dismissed for violating rules and the terms of his contract. Auburn Baseball has moved on."
Saxon, an experienced employment lawyer, previously released a strongly worded statement on Golloway’s behalf in September.
“If a serious offer of severance are not soon forthcoming, we will be fighting this matter in some forum, quite visibly, as long it takes to redeem Coach Golloway’s good name and to provide just compensation for him and his family,” the statement read.
On Monday, Golloway reiterated his desire to clear his name — “I don’t want Auburn to be the last place I coach” — while his attorney didn’t back down from the harsh rhetoric used in his original statement.
"I think the Auburn athletic department is rotten and it needs the cleansing disinfectant of sunshine,” Saxon said, in a short introduction of his client.
Mickey Mouse stuff
Auburn’s attorneys deposed Golloway on Sept. 24 about concerns over potential violations of school and NCAA rules.
According to Galloway, it was the culmination of a two-month investigation by the compliance office into the baseball program.
He found out about the university’s concerns when a recruit told him Mississippi State was telling potential players that the Tigers were on the verge of receiving NCAA sanctions.
The allegations from Auburn against Golloway include:
- Allowing improperly permitted players to participate in work outs
- Allowing improperly permitted players not medically cleared to throw bullpen sessions
- Deleting video of improperly permitted players throwing bullpen sessions
- Improperly allowing an “all-star” game to take place during a summer baseball camp
- During the camp, failing to remove players from the field in a timely fashion when informed of a lightning in the area
- Allowing a non-coaching staff volunteer to participate in team activities
- Failure to keep details about the investigation confidential
- Mislead senior administrations about conduct, NCAA violations; and failing to report them
Golloway spent time at the press conference refuting the allegations point-by-point, repeating much of what he told Auburn’s lawyers during his deposition.
Signed affidavits were also given to media members from Trent Mummey, a student assistant coach, and Ryan Jenkins, a former player and student assistant, denying the allegations.
“We basically have a response to every one of those, that’s why I was really baffled,” Golloway said.
Golloway was most animated when discussing Auburn’s claim that he lied to school officials about potential NCAA violations. Golloway is adamant that the university has yet to provide details of a single instance where there was a violation during his two years at the school.
“I do not know of any NCAA violations,” Golloway said. “When I went in to be deposed I had Gene Marsh with me. Gene Marsh is an expert NCAA attorney. His words were to Auburn’s attorney, “Henry, I don’t see anything on here that would even be a secondary (violation).”
During Golloway’s 19-year coaching career, he had one secondary NCAA rules violation occur at Oklahoma.
Saxon called the list “Mickey Mouse stuff,” one Auburn is using to avoid paying his client a severance package.
Auburn firing Golloway “for cause” gets the school out of paying the coach a $1.25 million dollar buyout that was part of the contract he signed in June 2013. Golloway’s annual salary in the five-year deal was $625,000.
The deal was automatically extended through June 30, 2019, thanks to the Tigers’ winning season in 2015.
In Saxon’s original statement, he stated Auburn officials “conspired” against his Golloway to get his client fired.
Golloway was hesitant to use the word conspiracy at Monday’s press conference, but he does believe a group of individuals in Auburn’s athletic department — senior associate athletics director Rich McGlynn, director of baseball operations Scott Duval, associate athletic director Jeremy Roberts and chief operating officer David Benedict — worked together to instigate an unwarranted investigation into the university’s baseball program.
“At the end of the day, you can connect the dots,” Golloway said.
Golloway alleges that his attempt to remove Duval from his position as director of baseball operations is the reason university officials sought to have him relieved of his duties.
According to the coach, he approached Jacobs about making a change in July.
“He’s been here for 17 or 18 years, he’s not about change, we have to need to continue to move forward,” Golloway said of Duval. “We had a very good year, we’ve got a great recruiting class coming in that should be ranked, but we have to change our daily operation. Our camps aren’t functioning, we aren’t going in the right direction.”
Duval was the only holdover from Auburn’s baseball previous coaching staff, and Golloway claims his desire to replace Duval was met with resistance.
“Give us two weeks, let us move him across the street, he only has nine years until retirement,” Golloway said, was the response.
It was the second time in as many years Golloway struggled to make a change to his staff. Golloway wanted to replace pitching coach Scott Foxhall when he arrived to Auburn, but ultimately waited a season to go in a different direction, a move that proved unpopular with athletic officials and players.
“I think it was a carryover from that time,” Golloway said. “I really think that it was I wanted Scott Duval to step down, the whole group are Auburn graduates, and they’ve been there for a long time. I was asked to come in and asked to win. There’s a lot of conflict of interest in my mind.”
Saxon backed up his client by calling the process a “complete setup.”
No deal on horizon
Neither Saxon nor Golloway outlined a next step Monday.
While the threat of ligation lingers, Golloway’s camp hasn’t made a decision about their next step. Saxon confirmed that no settlement talks have taken place, and there hasn’t been any contact between the sides in weeks.
Golloway’s desire to clear his reputation is one of his paramount concerns, and he remains “baffled” about how his relationship with Auburn deteriorated so quickly considering how upbeat he was about the 2016 season.
“We really grew to love each other,” Golloway said of his players. “It’s a far cry from the first year and the team I inherited.”
Despite his frustration with Auburn’s athletic department, he offered heartfelt words of encouragement to his former team.
“I want to wish those 35 young men, and the new coaching staff at Auburn the best, I think they are going to have an outstanding season,” Golloway said.