Mark Story

Franklin: Auburn ouster less painful than UK ending

After his abrupt dismissal as Auburn offensive coordinator, Tony Franklin says he might write another book.

Unlike the even-the-score tome that the former Kentucky assistant wrote after Hal Mumme's UK coaching regime descended into feuding and chaos, Franklin says any new book would have a different tone.

As disappointing as being fired by Tommy Tuberville after only six games was, Franklin says it was nowhere nearly as hurtful as his falling out with Mumme and Co. at UK in 2000.

"This was just football and personalities, just normal, everyday coaching stuff," Franklin says of his Auburn removal. "This doesn't have the ugly, bad feeling in my mouth like what happened with Hal at Kentucky."

Franklin, 51, has now had six full weeks to mull over his dismissal from one of college football's most visible programs.

"It was a bad marriage from the beginning," Franklin says. "When I went and interviewed with them, I knew it wasn't right. I told myself 1,000 times not to do it. But I just couldn't help myself. I guess my ego got in the way."

Which was understandable.

After he violated the speak-no-evil code that governs college football coaching with the tell-all (Fourth Down And Life To Go) he wrote about Mumme's rise and fall at Kentucky, Franklin spent six years in the college coaching wilderness.

That did not change until Troy University Coach Larry Blakeney brought Franklin to Alabama to implement the pass-happy offensive attack Mumme had utilized at UK.

After two successful years, Franklin was hired by Tuberville amidst massive fanfare to install a spread passing attack at a school where "punishing ground game" had long been central to the ethos.

As culture shocks go, this was bringing punk rock to the Ryman Auditorium.

Tuberville's rationale was sound. Playing the way it always had, Auburn had shown it was likely to win between seven and nine games a year (which it has done six times in the 2000s).

But to get to the peak of the top-heavy Southeastern Conference, Tuberville needed a new-age offense that could attract the kind of skill players that tend to fill the rosters at Florida, Georgia and LSU.

In reality, the transition was about as smooth as a dirt road. Auburn averaged a pedestrian 18.7 points a game with Franklin calling the plays.

After the Tigers scored only 13 in a loss at Vanderbilt, the school's fan base was in full revolt against the "Tony Franklin system."

A secure head coach might have pointed out that Texas Tech (and its potent spread offense) was not built in a day.

With Alabama seemingly headed back to college football's elite under Saban-ic influence, probably no Auburn head coach could feel secure.

Tuberville clearly didn't. He axed Franklin the Wednesday (Oct. 8) following the Vandy defeat. Auburn is honoring Franklin's two-year, $280,000-a-season contract.

"There's two people to blame for why this didn't work: Me and Tommy," Franklin says. "I'm not going to say I'm not upset. I am, or I was. But mostly I'm just upset it didn't work."

Without Franklin, Auburn has gone 1-4 and averaged 19.2 points (14.8 against major college foes).

From a distance, it appears the problem on the plains — with Franklin or without — is a glaring lack of talent on offense.

Instead of getting ready to coach in the annual Auburn-Alabama bloodletting, Franklin is passing his days in the house in Auburn he bought from Tuberville.

In his wilderness years after UK, Franklin supported himself by launching a football consulting business in which he taught other coaches the spread passing attack.

"One thing I preached, I preached," Franklin says, "is that if you're going somewhere where you have to change the culture, make sure you get to bring some coaches with you. Guys that believe in you, that will stay with you if things start rough.

"Well, I didn't get to bring one person with me. Things started rough and I wound up all alone on an island. I didn't practice what I preached and, boy, I paid for it."

The former longtime Kentucky high school coach says he's had "a couple" of feelers about joining coaching staffs at other colleges.

"We're talking about schools at the level of Troy," Franklin says.

He and wife Laura hope to relocate sometime after the first of the year.

If he does not land another offensive coordinator job, Franklin would like to return to his passing-game consulting business as a part owner (due to SEC rules, he had to give up ownership of his company to go to Auburn).

If no coaching job comes through, the plan is to settle in either Birmingham, Nashville or Lexington.

"My wife still has really good friends there," Franklin says of his old Kentucky home.

In the meantime, Franklin says he has been approached by a publisher about penning another book.

"I don't know whether anything will come of it. What I see is sort of an insider's look at college football in the South," he says. "It wouldn't be an Auburn version of the UK book."


"I'd like to think," Tony Franklin says, "I have learned some things from my past."