Tommy Tuberville became a household name to college football fans at the turn of the century as head coach of the Auburn Tigers. For a decade, he coached Auburn and led the team to six straight wins over in-state rival Alabama, including a victory in the perfect 13-0 season in 2004.
After a pair of stints at other schools, Tuberville retired from coaching in 2016. Last year, he announced his candidacy for the 2020 U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. Now, on the eve of the election, Tuberville is in the lead and hoping to earn another victory. If he does win, he will have to do so without the support from some of his former players who are unhappy with who the coach has become since he turned to politics.
Tommy Tuberville’s coaching career
Tommy Tuberville played college football at Southern Arkansas. After his playing days were over, he transitioned into coaching and moved his way up the ranks. In 1980, he landed his first college job as a position coach at Arkansas State.
Fifteen years later, Tuberville secured his first head coaching job at Ole Miss. After three years in Oxford, he moved to Auburn. During his tenure there, he led the Tigers to four Western Division crowns in the SEC.
The pinnacle of his coaching career occurred in 2004 when Auburn finished with an undefeated 13-0 record, won the SEC title, and then defeated Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. Auburn finished the season ranked No. 2 in the nation.
Tommy Tuberville stayed with the Tigers four more seasons before leaving for Texas Tech. After three seasons in Lubbock, he joined the Cincinnati Bearcats. He retired from coaching after the 2016 season.
Tommy Tuberville runs for U.S. Senate
Tommy Tuberville had no experience in politics before he announced his run for the U.S. Senate seat in April 2019. Since that announcement, Tuberville has closely aligned with many of President Donald Trump’s policies.
Among them, he’s been a supporter of repealing the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, he supports building a wall on the southern border, and has said immigrants bring drugs and diseases into the nation.
Tommy Tuberville has also taken an interesting position on the education system.
“We have gotten away from our core beliefs in this country in education and our kids are being indoctrinated in socialism and communism,” Tuberville said during a radio interview in February. “That’s where the education system has taken us.”
Former players upset with Tuberville
Tommy Tuberville’s political positions might be popular in Alabama, but not necessarily with some of his former players. Several candidly spoke to Slate about their former coach and his decisions to align with Trump.
Defensive lineman Tommy Jackson, who was first-team All-SEC in 2004, and is now Director of Advising for University College at Kennesaw State University, said Tuberville is being “disingenuous.”
“He coached a team that had a majority of African American players. And President Trump has no interest in Black males. And so for Coach Tuberville to support someone like that—what does that say about somebody who has always thought this way to make millions of dollars off the same people the president is intending to overlook or mistreat? It’s shameful. It’s downright shameful.”
Adlai Trone, who played defensive back under Tuberville, said he’s disappointed and knows a lot of other players are as well.
“A lot of guys keep up with each other. There’s lot of different circles. It’s the majority that are disappointed. I think a lot of us would like to remain optimistic in saying that maybe if he gets in office, he’ll listen to what we have to say. I just hope he stands for something that represents the players that played hard for him.”
If Tommy Tuberville wins his election bid, he will have a lot of work ahead of him in Washington, D.C. Back home, he’ll have even more work to do convincing many of his former players that he has their best interests in mind like he did years ago when he coached them.