University’s next AD hire must be homerun, or Auburn will regret it
BY WIL CREWS
Auburn University announced its split with Athletics Director Allen Greene Friday, Aug. 26.
“Allen arrived on the Plains with vision, passion and experience to elevate Auburn Athletics to the next level,” said Auburn University President Chris Roberts in a press release Friday. “In the brief time that I have worked alongside Allen as president, he has proven to be an asset to Auburn, enhancing our athletics programs and facilities, and has been dedicated to our student-athletes, to integrity and to our university. We’re grateful for his commitment and contributions to Auburn over the past four and a half years and we wish Allen, Christy and their children all the best as they embark on a new chapter in their lives.”
The parting-of-ways has been coming since earlier this year, and Greene notified Roberts of his intentions to step away from his role last week.
“The decision to step away from Auburn Athletics is not an easy one, but it is the right time for me to begin the next step in my professional journey,” Greene said. “I am very proud of the work that we have done together to move our athletics program forward. Christy and I want to thank the Auburn Family for allowing us to be a part of something truly unique and I wish Auburn nothing but the best in the years ahead. I’m confident we leave Auburn Athletics stronger than when we arrived.”
In a report by Auburn Live’s Justin Hokanson back in April, the reporter claimed that Greene was seeking clarity on his situation with his contract set to expire January 2023. With no progress made on that note, Greene has interviewed at numerous other universities over the last year for AD positions.
Ever since Greene joined the university four-and-a-half years ago, he has helmed an athletics department that has seen much success. Athletic achievements included eight conference championships, one Men’s Final Four appearance, a No. 1 national ranking in men’s basketball for the first time in school history and two Men’s College World Series appearances. Additionally, the cumulative grade point average of student-athletes rose from 3.19 to 3.25, and record-breaking philanthropic support comprised of the four largest gifts in athletics’ history contributed to $175 million in capital projects. Auburn Athletics also has been recognized as a department at the forefront of Name, Image and Likeness.
But, apparently, that wasn’t enough to satiate the power-craving needs of the university and its boosters.
Greene and the bigwigs at Auburn have butted heads practically since his arrival. The 45-year-old brought an innovative and new-school approach to an athletics department that has been entrenched in an old-school model of decision making.
In the end, one could be forgiven for thinking the move away from Greene was the result of a sheepish group of influential university backers who didn’t like being told “no.”
Despite numerous controversies plaguing Greene’s tenure on the Plains, the AD himself was highly regarded in the public eye. When he was hired from his position as AD at Buffalo University, Greene was a highly sought-after up-and-comer in the industry, with additional experience in athletics at schools like Ole Miss and Notre Dame. It was his charisma, national perspective and well-rounded experiences that secured him the job. It was his vision, gall and ambition that seemingly got him fired (or forced him to step away).
The university may provide more concrete details for the split from Greene in the future, but as of now, it’s a move that forgoes logic and stability, and will puzzle the supporters of the orange-and-blue.
It’s no secret that football is the key to (perceived) athletics success in the Southeastern Conference, however. And Greene has overseen a rather tumultuous football program since his arrival. The firing of former head coach Gus Malzahn — and the hiring of new coach Bryan Harsin, Greene’s most prominent hire — split public opinion. This was all magnified when the Tigers lost their final five games of the 2021 season, and when Harsin was investigated over the spring/summer about accusations regarding his treatment of players and staff members.
Whatever the true reasons for the split between Greene and the university are, Auburn will be worse off in the short term for departing from a man who so well embodied what it means to be an Auburn Tiger — someone who had a spirit that is not afraid to go against the grain, believes in education and cultivated a culture of happiness and helpfulness for all.
The AD job at Auburn is often joked about as being one of the worst jobs in college athletics. The lack of directional freedom and trust, politics and pressure got to Greene. Auburn needs to reevaluate these things before hiring a replacement.
It’s true that sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. If Auburn does not make a homerun hire to replace Greene, this adage could ring out truer than ever around the Loveliest Village on the Plains.