Give credit where credit is due, I always say.
So as I look back over the course of the last few years of SEC football, one dominant theme sticks out:
Auburn University Innovates.
Auburn sets new standards both on and off the field, and while many might be hesitant to say so, I prefer to point out their novel approach to college athletics and celebrate it.
First you’ve got offensive wunderkind Gus Malzahn calling the plays in a new and novel way– [cough] single wing [cough] Lou Holtz [cough]. Then you’ve got the Head Chin secretly suspending a star player on a Tuesday, reinstating him the next day, and announcing the whole contrived fiasco after it was all over. That’s certainly a new approach to collegiate discipline.
But Auburn innovates in other way as well. Take the concept of College Football Free Agency. Never heard of it, you say? Well they are innovating it down on The Plains. They blazed the trail with one Cameron Newton, who went to
the highest bidder the Tigers after a high-profile recruiting battle from the Junior College National Champions at Blinn College. This offseason, the trend has continued, as Auburn openly flirted with former N.C. State QB Russell Wilson and lured prized running back recruit Mike Blakely away from the University of Florida despite the fact young Blakely signed with the Gators just three months ago. Seems like this sort of thing is occurring more and more over time, doesn’t it?
This approach can lead to questions, of course, and questions at Auburn are always answered in a slightly defensive, lawyered up, sort of way. We, the fans of college football are left to guess and speculate as to what is really going on.
Along those speculative lines, I would like to suggest that strong evidence exists that Auburn is intentionally working a College Football Free Agency approach. The limiting factor to such an approach (well, besides ethics, but this is Auburn, after all) is scholarship numbers. Everyone gets only 85 schollys, and while natural attrition will occur, schools generally are maxed out on available free rides for prospective athletes.
Auburn’s innovative solution? Just stop trying to graduate anyone. Let them flunk out or quit or whatever, and it opens up scholarships for Free Agents.
Want some evidence that this is an increasing tactic by the Tigs?
Let’s look at SEC APR Scores for the last six years. First, we will look at all the conference’s schools:
Let me apologize for not formatting school colors on this graph, but it ends up being a bunch of slightly different shades or red and is hard to read. But regardless, you get the idea. The SEC as a whole shows a pretty strong improvement from the 04-05 academic year until now. All of the schools are either holding their own, or are making marked improvement in the graduation of their players.
Except for one school, which is strongly bucking the trend in the other direction. Can you pick it out? No? Well let me limit the data to include only those schools that have been in the SEC Championship game in recent years:
Sorry, Bizarro Dawgs of MSU, I left you off this list on purpose, btw. And while Arkansas seems perfectly happy to suck at this metric, at least they consistently suck and are not getting dramatically worse.
But anyway, can you pick out the outlier? The school that defies the general approach of the SEC as a whole, an approach that focuses on improving the graduation rate of its athletes?
Here, I’ll help you some more:
Kudos, Auburn. You’ve figured out a new and innovative way to do it.