AU athletic director talks to Rotary
Published 2:22 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Auburn University Athletic Director Jay Jacobs thought he was going to be a funeral director after high school.
After being told by his dad he was not living at home anymore, Jacobs went to junior college and then walked on at Auburn and the rest is history.
Jacobs, who is entering his seventh year as AD at his alma mater recently saw success at his school with the football team winning the 2010 national championship and shared tell stories of learning the physical, mental and spiritual side of football when they played Reggie White at the University of Tennessee to the Brewton Rotary Club Monday at the Country Club of Brewton.
“I did not get recruited by anyone out of high school,” Jacobs said. “I remember walking into my house one day as a 16-year-old and my dad told me, with as much love as you could possibly have for your son, that I was not going to live at home anymore. So I asked him what we were going to do about that and he got on the telephone and called the president of Southern Union Junior College in Wadley and within 24 hours, I had a place at Southern Union. In two weeks, I was living with my grandparents in a town in Alabama called LaFayette and living with them at their funeral home and I was going to Southern Union. I thought I was going to be a funeral director.”
After going to Southern Union, Jacobs then went to Auburn and joined a fraternity.
“I was laying in my apartment one day and I told myself I was not going to keep doing that,” Jacobs said. “So I got up and went to the coliseum and I walked in the front door and told them I was there to walk on. I was 205 pounds and the lady there told me to go walk down this hallway and talk to the guy in the office on the left. It was a guy named Wayne Hall. Coach Pat Dye brought him to Auburn and what he lacked in personality, he made up for in temper. It was a dark office and he was watching film and had a big dip of skoal in his mouth. I told him I was here to walk-on and he never turned the lights on or stopped watching film. He told me OK and asked what time I got out of class. I told him noon and he told me to come every day at 2 p.m. with my tennis shoes, T-shirt and shorts and that if I made it through his winter workouts for two straight weeks, he would give me a pair of tennis shoes, T-shirt and shorts and then two weeks after that a locker to put them in. So I was living life two weeks at a time. I ended up walking on and gained about 30 pounds.”
In the athletic department, Jacobs shared with the Rotary Club members and guest the five goals established in the athletic department that they use to conduct business. “Sometimes you lose focus of what is important, so we developed these five goals and they are winning, graduating, managing our fiscal affairs, compliance and gameday experience,” Jacobs said. We won two national championships last year in women’s equestrian and football. We also won three SEC championships. Also in the last seven years we have finished in the top 10 percent in the director’s cup. That is the way all athletic departments measure themselves as you take your 10 top men’s and women’s sports. So we are pleased with that. We have 235 of our student athletes with a 3.0 GPA or better. We are the only school to ever have two male and female top athletes of the year in the SEC. We are also the only school to have three Rhodes Scholar finalists with one winning.”
Jacobs said for the first time in three years, they are completely sold out of season tickets. “We have not been sold out since 2008 and we sold out this year in June,” Jacobs said. “Football is about 75 percent of our cash income. Recently in some national publications, our gameday experience has been rated as one of the top schools in the nation to watch an athletic event. From the eagle flying to the Tiger Walk, it is a neat thing to see people come to our campus and then send an email saying how well our fans treated them. We are making changes in our east upper deck and some sign changes to showcase our national championship and our third Heisman trophy winner. It is easier for fans to stay at home and watch us on television than come to Auburn so we want to continue to make our gameday experience better.”
2011 football preview:
Jacobs said the 2010 Auburn Tigers had a great season last year in football.
“We went 14-0 and had 23 seniors on the team last year and they are all gone and three juniors who went on to the NFL,” Jacobs said. “This year is a lot different. We only have nine guys from the 2007-2008 signing class this year on campus and only three have played before. When I interviewed Gene (Chizik) and he looked at the roster, he said 2011 would be our tough year. It will be challenging this fall, but fortunately we have had two top-5 signing classes recently and one of the few who have all signees on campus right now. As for the 2011 season, we will have some growing pains, but we will fight through them. This year will be challenging, but we will get after it. This fall we will have some young guys with tough road games at Clemson, South Carolina, LSU, Arkansas, and Georgia. The guys last year who won the national championship were ranked No. 23 as a signing class. So that is the great thing about Auburn athletics, that you can’t measure an Auburn man’s heart by the class he was signed up.”
In January, Auburn opened a new indoor practice facility.
“It is one of the best in the SEC if not the nation,” Jacobs said. “I used to think this was for when it rained or lightened. Well, when it is 100 degrees and you go outside and practice, you go inside and it drops to 75 degrees and the learning goes up and the injuries go down. I think about this as a former player, because in that second hour of practice, you are just trying to survive.”
Jacobs then talked about former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.
“Our running back coach was in Texas at the junior college Cam was at looking at a wide receiver. So he went there and saw Cam,” Jacobs said. “We already had three quarterbacks on scholarship and was looking at another. He told Chizik he had to look at Cam and he said he was not signing a junior college quarterback. That is not how we are going to build a program. So they kept on and then Gus Malzahn went out there and sees him and they both talked Gene into having Cam come to the school and they talked and he was candid. A couple games into the season, people did not think about him, but he just kept getting better. We didn’t name him starter until a few months after spring training. It worked out pretty well for us. I got to know him this fall and he is a class guy regardless of what you read.”
Jacobs talked about what he saw in current head coach Gene Chizik despite his 5-19 record at Iowa State.
“He was our defensive coordinator when we went 13-0 and then he went to Mack Brown at Texas and went 14-0 and wins the national championship,” Jacobs said. “I became the AD in January 2005 and that was when he was leaving for Texas and he came to see me before he left. Our kids played together. I knew then he was going to be a great coach, some day and some how. It was really more spiritual discernment than anything else. I was on a plane with Carlos Rogers one day going with him to get an award and I asked him about Chizik and he said he would not have won the award without him. He put me in the position to win. He disciplines us, but we respect him because he loves us. He talked to me more about values that day than football.”
Jacobs said he has taught me more about being a better husband and a better dad.
“He was 5-19 coming out of Iowa, but I told the guys on a Thursday night before I starting interviews that Sunday, I told the football players that I was not interested in winning a press conference,” Jacobs said. “I am interesting in winning the right guy who will develop ya’ll spiritually, mentally and physically. I don’t care about the rest of the world. It is not my job to be popular or do everything right. I learned there are two things about being a leader—you are going to be criticized and how is it going to change you? Criticism has changed me. It has helped me grow. People will say stuff, but I have learned to deal with that. At the end of the day, all I care about is honoring the man who worked on this earth over 2000 years ago. That is all I care about. Second, I care about walking in my house and seeing my three little girls knowing I did things right. We have a third child who is a foster child.”
Jacobs then mentioned about there are 6,000 foster children in Alabama and that is not right.
“Some of us have to do something about that,” Jacobs said. “I don’t have an answer, but it is frustrating. Every child we have had is because the mom can’t work and pay the light bill. We have a 21-month old boy that we have had since he was four months old. We have had other kids before that that have been back with their mom. When you help one child, you help a generation. When you break that cycle, it is special. The children we have had, all the way to their grandmother was in foster care. I didn’t mean to preach to you about that, but something has to be done.”
“Our directors have said that we are happy with 12 schools with six teams in two divisions and the SEC championship,” Jacobs said. “If they want to leave their conference and come to the SEC, we will take a look if it adds value to our league. That is about a dull as an answer I can give you. I thought we were done with this a few months ago, but I think its back again. We have the best commissioner in the nation in Mike Slive. He is a visionary and knows how to lead us. We have won the last five national championships in football.”
As he closed, he told the group the importance of making decisions that help them be who they need to be.
“That is why we have those five goals,” Jacobs said. “I try to improve myself. I have a key ring here with the verse Ephesians 6:10-18 and I try to go everyday and suit up with the whole armor of God. That does not always mean I fight a good battle. But I try to each day. I mention Ephesians 6:10-18 only that it might inspire someone and hold me accountable that suit up everyday with the full armor of God—the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, sword of the spirit. The shields back then were almost as big as doors. They were covered in leather and soaked in water with hooks on one end and rings on another so you could hook your shield to your brother in battle and hold the other guy up. They were soaked in water so when the fiery arrows hit it, it would quench them. So I tell you, as a brother in Christ, I hook my shield to this group. War Eagle and God bless.”
Jacobs earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in business administration from Auburn in 1985 and 1988, respectively. He is married to the former Angie Sapp of Dublin, Ga. The couple has three daughters, Haley, Meagan and Jayne.