T. Kyle King is the founder of Dawg Sports, SB Nation's Georgia blog, which he ran from February 22, 2006, until February 22, 2013. In that time, he earned his reputation as The Mayor of the college football blogosphere with long, thorough, well-researched posts. He has since written a book, Fighting Like Cats and Dogs, which is the definitive resource for the Georgia-Clemson rivalry. I am not from Georgia, or South Carolina, have never attended either the University of Georgia, Clemson University, have never attended in person a single game played by either institution, and I'm reading his book, if that gives you some idea how much I respect his writing.
In addition to all that, Kyle is also an Auburn-hater extraordinaire, a topic he has revisited with some frequency over at Dawg Sports. So he was the natural choice for this post. Thanks, Kyle. Auburn delenda est!
For those of us outside the SEC, the most likely answer to the question "Why should I hate Auburn?" is "$Cam Newton." But your hatred of Auburn is much deeper and more nuanced than that. Explain to K-State fans why they, too, should hate Auburn.
How much time do you have? Auburn is Georgia's oldest and most frequently played rival, so we have a long heritage of hating one another. The Bulldogs and the Tigers first met in 1892, in the second football game in Georgia history and the first football game in Auburn history. Since the mid-1890s, the series has been interrupted only by world wars and by the death of a player from injuries sustained on the field of play. Here's the short course on why you should despise the Plainsmen:
The Tigers were put on probation for illegal recruiting inducements in 1957. They were put on probation for illegal recruiting inducements again in 1958. In 1979, Auburn's football and men's basketball programs were placed on probation for extra benefits and inducements including automobile use, cash payments, clothing, entertainment, lodging, and travel.
Eighteen months later, the existing probation (including TV and bowl bans) was extended through the 1981 football season when it was determined that an Auburn booster had paid cash to a recruit in order to obtain his signature on a letter of intent.
On November 18, 1991, the Tiger basketball and tennis programs were sanctioned for providing extra benefits and improper recruiting inducements. Cash loans, lodging, meals, transportation, and the use of automobiles all were provided, resulting in a public reprimand, increased reporting requirements, and forfeiture of victories. The NCAA determined that Auburn had committed unethical conduct by certifying that the school was in compliance when the athletic department knew it was not.
52 days earlier, on September 27, the Montgomery Advertiser had given front page coverage to Eric Ramsey's allegation that he had been paid $300 per month by Auburn athletics representatives and had received an unsecured $9,200 loan from Pat Dye, the Plainsmen's head coach and athletic director. Ramsey's allegations were substantiated by tapes he had made and were further bolstered by the similar claims of fellow former Tiger players Vincent Harris and Alex Strong, the latter of whom said an Orange and Blue assistant coach had paid him "a couple of thousand a year." In October 1992, Coach Dye admitted that he knew about the improper payments to Ramsey.
The NCAA sent a formal letter of inquiry in November 1992, the same month that Coach Dye resigned. The resulting investigation determined that the athletic director and head coach knew Ramsey had received extra benefits but failed to report them. Specific allegations concerning identifiable cash payments were substantiated in the investigation, and, in August 1993, the Tigers were hit with a one-year television ban, a two-year bowl ban, and a delay of the start date for the probationary period until the previous probation levied upon the basketball and tennis teams was completed. Unethical conduct and a lack of institutional control were found, resulting in a public reprimand and a requirement of annual reports.
That latest probation ran through November 1995, during the coaching tenure of Terry Bowden. Although he certified to the NCAA throughout his time in the so-called Loveliest Village that he was unaware of any unreported violations occurring at Auburn, Coach Bowden stated on tape that Tiger boosters were giving players cash payments in the thousands of dollars while the program was on probation.
In 2003, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed Auburn University's accreditation on probation, citing the institution's lack of administrative oversight of the athletics department as one of five reasons for the severe sanction. In 2004, although the institution avoided being convicted of major rules violations, the Plainsmen saw their basketball program given two years of probation because an AAU coach acting as a representative of the school wired over $3,000 to one recruit and arranged to get an automobile for another.
In 2006, it was reported that 18 players from Auburn's undefeated 2004 football team had taken a combined 97 hours of one-on-one directed-reading courses with the interim director of the school's sociology department, Thomas Petee. This led the university to investigate claims that the independent study classes were used to maintain the eligibility of such athletes as Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, the star running back who said the only two courses he took during the spring semester of his senior year were individual sessions with Petee.
In a 2010 interview with Dan Patrick, former Tiger basketball great Charles Barkley admitted, "I got money from agents when I was in college" at Auburn between 1981 and 1984. In a 2011 HBO special, four former Plainsmen alleged that they had received improper benefits from Auburn in 2007, while the institution remained on NCAA probation. That HBO special came in the wake of NCAA investigations into the recruitments of Cameron Newton, Trovon Reed, and Greg Robinson.
There is, in short, ample available evidence in support of the proposition that Auburn is the cheatingest program in SEC history, and that is saying something.
The Plainsmen are traveling to Manhattan for this contest, but I have no idea how well Auburn travels. Will the purple faithful be overrun by the partisans in navy-and-orange?
Probably not, because most of the Auburn fans intending to attend the game will go to New York City by mistake.
All kidding aside, it is almost a 1,000-mile drive from one campus to the other, and Auburn hasn't played a regular-season road game outside the South since a 34-17 loss to West Virginia in Morgantown in a weekday game played in 2008. If you define the South liberally enough to include West Virginia, well, we need to have a talk about American history, but, accepting that position for the sake of argument, the Tigers haven't scheduled a game in another region since traveling to Los Angeles to take a 24-17 loss in a weekday game at Southern California in 2002. (Say . . . this whole playing-regular-season-road-games-outside-the-South-on-a-weekday thing hasn't worked out well for the Plainsmen, has it? Hopefully, that's a good omen!)
At the end of the day, I guess what I'm saying is this: Auburn fans put a lot of time, money, and gas into driving to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game last December, and they put a lot more time, money, and SkyMiles into flying to Pasadena for the BCS National Championship Game last January, so I'd be surprised if the Plainsmen faithful flooded the Kansas State campus so thoroughly that it might fairly be said that the Tigers took Manhattan.
If you go to the grocery store on Wednesday night and find the toilet paper aisle has been emptied, though, get ready, because they're coming in force.
K-State was the worst program in college football when Bill Snyder came to Manhattan in 1989, so K-State fans understandably regard him with reverence. Within the Big 12, Snyder is the dean of conference coaches, and has been labeled "The Wizard" by many on SB Nation. What is your perception of Bill Snyder?
I think everyone familiar with the sport, from whatever region and of whatever conference affiliation, respects what he has accomplished over the course of his career, particularly after he came back to the sideline for a second stint as head coach. To take your program from being named the nation's worst in 1988 to being ranked No. 1 in 1998 undeniably is a Hall of Fame-worthy achievement.
If there's a knock on Coach Snyder, it would be that he helped pioneer the regrettable trend toward fattening up won-lost records by feasting on cupcakes. Playing patsy-laden non-conference schedules may have made sense when the Kansas State program was at the bottom of the barrel, but did the preseason No. 6 Wildcats really need to devote most of September 1998 to beating Indiana State, Northern Illinois, and Northeast Louisiana by an average margin of 67-5?
Games like the upcoming tilt against Auburn are more appropriate for a program at K-State's level, and it should be noted, in all fairness, that there was a distinct shift in the direction of more worthy competition near the end of Coach Snyder's first stint on the Kansas State sideline. This bulking up was demonstrated by the scheduling of games against Iowa in 2000, against Southern California in 2001 and 2002, and against California in 2003 . . . only one of which was played in Manhattan, and all of which K-State won. A move toward more non-conference opponents in the Wildcats' weight class should have happened sooner, but, ultimately, it happened, so that is a fairly minor fault to find with an otherwise exemplary coaching career.
You're a Georgia alum and fan. Any interest in seeing the red-and-black take on the purple-and-white in a non-conference contest somewhere down the road?
Why not? It's always a possibility, seeing as how Georgia recently has done home-and-home series with such Big 12 teams as Colorado (in 2006 and 2010, before the Buffaloes bolted to the Pac-12), Oklahoma State (in 2007 and 2009), and Missouri (in 2012 and 2013). Wait a minute . . . what do you mean Mizzou is in the SEC now? Unbelievable!
Such a series could happen, now that the SEC has insisted that its member schools play at least one "Big Five" opponent on the non-conference schedule, but an exchange of games between Athens and Manhattan would seem unlikely. After former Georgia athletic director Damon Evans worked to restore the Bulldogs' long-dormant tradition of national scheduling, his successor, Greg McGarity, generally has moved the Red and Black back in the direction of sticking closer to home (e.g., he cancelled a home-and-away with Louisville, arranged a one-off game in the Georgia Dome against Boise State, and kept a scheduled two-game set with longtime nearby rival Clemson). Ultimately, I guess it depends on how much Georgia head football coach Mark Richt's scheduling preferences are influenced by Georgia head basketball coach Mark Fox, a Sunflower State native and former K-State assistant.
What do you project from Auburn this year? And do you think they will earn a victory in The Little Apple this Thursday?
There are two competing considerations concerning the Plainsmen. First of all, there is the fact that Gus Malzahn is an outstanding football coach, so it should be expected that this year's Auburn team will be better than last year's on a week-in, week-out basis. Secondly, though, there is the reality that last year's Auburn squad benefited from a staggering amount of good fortune along the way to the SEC championship.
Early in the 2013 season, the Tigers survived scares at home from such mediocre competition as Washington State (31-24), Mississippi State (24-20), and Ole Miss (30-22). A fourth-quarter shoulder injury to Johnny Manziel and an unflagged horse-collar tackle enabled Auburn to escape College Station with a 45-41 win in a game in which the Plainsmen took the lead with a minute and change remaining and Texas A&M's final drive ended just outside the Auburn red zone. Then, of course, came Auburn's back-to-back miracle finishes against the Bulldogs (in which a Georgia defensive back deflected a pass that would not otherwise have been catchable) and the Crimson Tide (in which Alabama missed two field goal attempts, had a third attempt blocked, and had a fourth attempt returned for a touchdown after an extra second had been added back onto the clock, any one of which, if made, would have been a game-winner). A lifetime's worth of blind dumb random luck fell right into Auburn's lap last season.
Consequently, we should expect the Tigers to be a better team in 2014, but to finish with a lesser record than they did in 2013. That said, as much as I hope the Wildcats win on Thursday, I don't see a team that escaped Ames with a 32-28 win over the program Gene Chizik led to a 5-19 record emerging victorious against the program Gene Chizik led to a 33-19 record.
Of course, I didn't expect Kansas State to upset Oklahoma in the 2003 Big 12 Championship Game, either, so stranger things have happened, I suppose. Here's hoping K-State pulls another 35-7 surprise against Auburn! Go Wildcats! Auburna delenda est!