Every once in a while, college football gets slimed by an event that is beyond understanding.
What happened at Auburn last week was the latest example. Coach Terry Bowden, who began his tenure on the Plains with a 20-game winning streak and whose 5 1/2-year record was 47-17-1, announced his resigination. Effective immediately.
Excuse me? What caused this? Why would a coach who had just been given a contract extension for seven years, a coach who took Auburn from the depths of probation back to national prominence, just quit in the middle of a season, even with a dreadful 1-5 mark against what the NCAA said was the toughest schedule in the country?
If you listen to the Auburn backers, there was no good reason. Sure, things were tough at Auburn, just as they would be anyplace college football is regarded almost as a religion and the parishioners are uneasy over a 1-5 start. But to just quit in midseason? That made no sense.
There had to be some reason, some explanation. Sure there was. Terry Bowden was cheating on his wife, said the rumor-mongers. Not only that, but he was having an affair with the daughter of the member of the Board of Trustees who had hired him.
The rumors were so rampant that Bowden and his wife, Sheryl, issued a statement denying it.
Then came the counterattack. Bowden said he left because he had been told by a member of the Board of Trustees there was virtually nothing he could do to save his job at the end of the season.
More counterattacks. The trustee in the news, Montgomery, Ala., businessman Bobby Lowder, said he was as surprised as anyone that Bowden had quit.
And there came still another salvo after it was revealed that Bowden received a buyout of more than $600,000, prompting another member of the board to publicly wonder why Auburn was paying anything since he simply quit.
Want more? Former War Eagles quarterback Pat Sullivan said, "Auburn needs someone to rally the Auburn people, to recruit and coach. I feel I'm good at those things."
Sullivan, a former Heisman Trophy winner coming off six years as coach at Texas Christian, was obviously offering his services.
Former coach Pat Dye, who also offered his services - only half-kiddingyly - said, "I don't think the truth will ever come out because it will hurt both sides."
Hurt both sides? They've already been hurt.
The bottom line is that Terry Bowden, who until one six-game stretch this season seemed to have been doing a pretty good job of coaching and representing the university, walked away from his team in the middle of a bad season.
Why? Was he forced? The Board of Trustees says that is not the case. It doesn't operate that way.
Is there a Bill Clinton type of sexual scandal brewing down around Toomers Corner, where gossip is as much a part of the lifestyle as fried chicken?
Who knows? You can argue all you want that this is the climate we live in, that this stuff happens all the time, whether it's in the Oval Office or in a football coach's office.
Well, it still stinks. If you are in the middle of a manure field, you still can smell it, even though you are used to the aroma.
College football, which has enough problems as it is, has been slimed, and some good people have been slimed as well, and no one connected with the program should be happy about it.
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