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Does Auburn know it’s not a scrappy, also-ran SEC program?

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Because they’re sure not acting like it as they try to replace Gus Malzahn!

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports. Banner Society Illustration.

I have, over the course of the last six days, come to the conclusion that Auburn is a Florida that thinks it’s a Mississippi, acts like an Arkansas and is in danger of becoming a Tennessee.

Let’s review:

1. Auburn is capable of winning its division, conference and the national title. The Tigers have won a BCS title and lost another one in the last decade. Hell, they won the SEC West recently enough to earn their now former coach a buyout. Accordingly, they can attract the best talent in the sport. They are on par with SEC programs like Florida, LSU, Georgia, and yes, Alabama.

2. Despite the above fact, Auburn boosters and rank-and-file fans operate (read: BITCH AND MOAN) as if they’re shackled by the chains of a dim fate or scratching against the invisible walls of some unseen curse against them (Alabama, the league office, a God that doesn’t actually favor Baptists, I don’t know.).

That flavor or whining is usually reserved for the Actually Doomed, i.e., the two Mississippi schools to their west. I fundamentally do not understand this mentality, as Auburn (see No. 1) HAS WON NATIONAL TITLES THIS DECADE, but their fans sound the fans I went to college (Ole Miss) with. To 90 percent of college football fan bases, you assholes look like a royal family complaining about their stipend (I am really enjoying Gillian Anderson on “The Crown” rn).

You can’t promote narratives of helplessness when you very clearly are helped. Auburn, you have agency! You’ve won national titles! It’s offensive to every other hapless crag across the summit of this horrific trickle-down economy when you win it all, hoard resources, enjoy the luxuries of the elite and then act as if you’re put upon. Sirs, I know Mississippi, and you are no crab in that particular bucket.

3. Auburn watched Alabama become Alabama again and, based on the fact Tiger boosters’ present behavior still mirrors their past, must still be convinced it was the result of magic beans or some such other mystical bullshit. Here’s how it happened! Take notes! Nick Saban walked into Tuscaloosa 13 odd years ago and declared that, no matter what else happened from that moment on, he was the tip of the spear. What spear? Every spear. Fuck you, that’s what spear.

Do you remember modern era Alabama before Nick Saban? I do. They were, as a brand, the particular swirl of feckless and grandiose usually reserved for tech CEOs or Louisiana governors. Y’all: If a mother makes a home, a dictator makes a police state. And if you want either, cede your power, idiots.

Auburn still hasn’t figured out that warring factions of boosters, no matter how batshit or craven, cannot produce a functional national title contender. The anecdotes I’ve received this past week absolutely reek of Arkansas’ warring money tribes in the 2000s — a bunch of monied, insecure meddlers horrified that history won’t smile on them as the “real architect” of some imagined dynasty yet to be and willing to burn down the house with everyone in it. Thus is the methodology in a dick measuring contest among men who pay amauteur athletes and put their name on buildings: If no one else is standing, yours is the biggest. Even if it’s still real small.

4. I’ve been told by more than one agent and twice as many coaches that, inexplicably and inexcusably, the phone lines were dead for days on The Plains. Meaning that coaches of a caliber that a job like Auburn should demand, at least on paper, were not contacted when Gus Malzahn was fired.

Far, far worse is that some of those candidates are now incredibly wary of the Tigers. They’re asking questions none of us can answer:

Who’s in charge?

No, really: Who’s actually running the search?

Why is Auburn’s search committee loaded down with Pat Dye-era players who clearly represent one highly vocal faction of money?

Why fire Malzahn on Saturday and implode a recruiting class on a Wednesday? Auburn’s averaged a Top 20 class every year from 2010-’19. This year they’re No. 40 per 247 Sports.

Am I, an outsider candidate (like, say, Alabama OC Steve Sarkisian or Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Billy Napier or Clemson OC Tony Elliott), fighting against Kevin Steele, the incumbent defensive coordinator considered a darling to those meddling individuals I’d be tasked with courting after I beat him out?

If Steele’s strong candidacy is even remotely a reality, is this search simply an exercise in formality and compliance to shove him through?

If so, why would I put my name next to this mess publicly, only to have to justify to my current employer and boosters why I was associated?

Aren’t these the same people who just agreed to eat over $20 million because they’re dissatisfied with a coach who handed them everything but the resumes of Clemson and Alabama?

Congrats, Auburn, you’re driving straight into a granite slab of Rocky Top. It’s one thing to behave in a manner that keeps your fans roiled or the Internet laughing. What you’ve accomplished this week is something most of us considered impossible: You, a Top 10 job, have alienated and/or alarmed any current candidate worthy enough of the salary and expectations of a Top 10 job. How long this stigma lasts is unknown, but if you’re curious how hard it is to wash off, ask the Vols. Or just hire Jeremy Pruitt.