Longtime athletic director Jay Jacobs’ tenure at Auburn Athletics is coming to an end.
Jacobs, who has spent over a decade leading Auburn’s $100 million athletic
“Earlier this week, I informed President Leath that I will step down as Director of Athletics on June 1, 2018, or sooner if my successor is in place,” Jacobs wrote in the letter. “I have come to this decision after a lot of
Jacobs’ move, which will be effective by next summer, comes after a succession of scandals hit Auburn Athletics over the course of the year, including allegations against two winning softball coaches accused of inappropriate sexual conduct and the arrest of an Auburn basketball legend turned coach accused of bribery and corruption.
If a successor is chosen earlier, Jacobs said he will step down then.
“Until a new director of athletics is chosen, I will work hard every day, every way I can,” he wrote. “I still have work to do, but I know already that I will miss so much about this place.”
On top of recent scandals, his resignation comes after several years of athletic performance that has failed to live up to the expectations of deep-pocketed athletic boosters and scholarship donors — whose discontent fueled much of the decision calculus.
“The last several months have been a particularly difficult time,” Jacobs went on to say. “Across several sports, a series of controversies have arisen. They have begun to take their toll and have raised questions about why Auburn must endure such problems. As I have always done, I have worked my hardest and best to do what is right for Auburn.”
Between the scandals and Auburn football’s trouble competing with other SEC rivals under head coach Gus Malzahn, donors had begun to question the state of the athletic program that more often than not serves as the public face of the University, with many donors threatening to close their wallets if no changes were made.
Jacobs’ departure is weeks, if not months, in the making with Jacobs, President Steven Leath — in his first year as a president — and University trustees ironing out details over the last few weeks. Sources close to the decision have said the decision was there, but the timing has been in flux, continually evolving in recent weeks as small allegations and scandals came to light.
Leath, in a statement to The Plainsman, painted the resignation in a more positive light.
“Auburn and Auburn Athletics are both better because of Jay’s years of service to his alma mater,” Leath said. “Under his leadership, Auburn teams have won 11 national and 24 SEC championships, student-athlete academic achievement has risen to its highest level, revenue has grown dramatically, and Auburn consistently ranks among the nation’s best
There are lingering questions surrounding Jacobs’ depth and breadth of knowledge of any misconduct and improprieties in the two major scandals. He and Auburn Athletics have denied any mishandling of the department, pointing to the softball coaches’ resignations and federal prosecutors who have said University administrators weren’t involved in nor subjects of the nationwide basketball investigation.
Since August, the University has retained a high-powered Birmingham law firm — Lightfoot, Franklin & White — to serve as an independent third party to investigate the softball program and the basketball program, costing the University thousands in legal fees. The two scandals added to a bill of $2.3 million since 2010.
The details of Jacobs’ agreement to step down are still unknown. It isn’t clear if Jacobs, who has worked at Auburn for more than 10 years earning more than $1.1 million last year, will receive a buyout or other compensation for his resignation.
The University hasn’t responded to requests from The Plainsman to clarify what Jacobs’ role will be once he steps down as athletic director.
Jacobs told AL.com this week that he isn’t sure himself.
The search for his successor has reportedly already begun, with several top candidates being considered in a national search, the likes of which the University hasn’t undergone since. Some top candidates could include NFL senior vice president and Auburn alumna Michelle McKenna-Doyle and former head coach Tommy Tuberville.
The search will likely be kept quiet until a replacement is chosen.
Jay Jacobs’ time at Auburn
A former walk-on Auburn football player and two-time graduate who played under legendary head coach Pat Dye, Jacobs was selected as Auburn’s 14th athletics director in 2004 after serving in the Athletics Department for nearly 20 years as an assistant director, an associate
Having served now as athletic director for 13 years, Jacobs holds the trophy for being the
Earlier this year, he won the Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year Award — the only SEC coach this year to do that.
Jacobs’ time at Auburn began during an undefeated football season under Tuberville but has since been
In 2008, Tuberville stepped down after a 10-year stint at Auburn that included the 2004 undefeated season and several years during which his team competed for SEC championships.
Jacobs hired Iowa State University head coach Gene Chizik to replace Tuberville. Chizik finished his Iowa State tenure with a career 5–19 record. Auburn fans famously heckled Jacobs upon his arrival at the Auburn airport after the announcement of Chizik’s hiring.
Though Chizik would go on to coach Cam Newton and the Tigers to a national championship in 2010 and win the coach of the year award, he was fired in 2012 after finishing 0–8 in conference play that year.
Chizik and his assistant coaches’ contract buyouts cost the University over $11 million, driving a wedge between Jacobs and boosters and a few trustees who took issue with the mounting costs.
In September 2015, Jacobs fired Auburn baseball head coach Sunny Golloway with cause, allowing Auburn to avoid paying for Golloway’s contract buyout.
A federal judge dismissed Golloway’s claims against Jacobs and the board in September, but not the ones against the administrators, including executive associate athletic director Rich McGlynn.
That case will go to trial in June 2018.
The Montgomery Advertiser reported in October 2015 that for years certain boosters had been getting opportunities to buy more tickets to Auburn games than normally allowed for their priority level.
One of those boosters was Jim Cleveland, co-owner of the Moore’s Mill Club in Auburn, who had an extensive business past with Jacobs.
The final months
Despite his successes, memories of Jacobs’ 13-year tenure at Auburn will undoubtedly include the numerous controversies that slammed Auburn Athletics in the finals months of his tenure.
In August, an explosive report from ESPN highlighted an alleged pattern of abuse and sexual harassment by Auburn’s softball coaching staff including former head coach Clint Myers and his son, former associate head coach Corey Myers.
A Title IX complaint filed in July by former walk-on pitcher Alexa Nemeth alleged that Clint Myers looked the other way and allowed Corey Myers to pursue “relations with multiple members of the team.”
Nemeth had previously met with Jacobs and executive associate athletics director Meredith Jenkins about the allegations.
The news of the complaint came just days after Clint Myers abruptly retired. The complaint, written by Wisconsin sports attorney Martin Greenberg, was sent to the University in July, a month prior to Clint Myer’s retirement.
But the allegations against Corey Myers dated back to fall 2016. Corey Myers abruptly resigned in March ahead of a road series against Georgia. At the time, Jenkins allegedly “quarantined” the team and tried to force them to delete proof, in the form of cell phone text messages, the complaint and several players said.
The team was threatened with legal action and other retribution if they didn’t comply.
The letter, sent to school officials and Gov. Kay Ivey’s office after Nemeth filed the Title IX complaint, also lists concerns about a potential cover-up by administrative staff. Nemeth said she had also corresponded with then-President Jay Gogue, administrator Bernard
The Plainsman’s editorial board called for Jacobs to step down or be removed after the softball scandal was first reported.
Later, just weeks after the softball scandal broke, federal authorities arrested Chuck Person, a former star Auburn basketball player turned assistant head coach who also had a stint in the NBA.
The arrest and subsequent charges in federal court stemmed from a wide-ranging bribery scheme that sent shock
A federal grand jury indicted him on 6 felony charges on Tuesday.
Days after Person’s arrest, Leath, when asked whether he would give a vote of confidence to the athletic director, said he was focused on the serious misconduct charges against the basketball program — not Jacobs’ future.
“I don’t have the time or the bandwidth right now to speculate on what might happen in the future,” Leath said. “I’m running the university, making sure the students are successful and dealing with these serious misconduct charges.”
The hit to the basketball program just weeks after the softball allegations stunned those close to the athletic program. In the days following Person’s arrest, dozens of season ticket holders began requesting refunds, adding to their concern.
On top of the allegations in softball and basketball, Jacobs’ athletic department, in the last few months of his tenure, faced allegations that a tutor had taken an online test for a football player. And in October, a former track and field assistant coach filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the University, alleging that he had been physically assaulted by another coach and retaliated against by coaching staff and administrators for filing complaints.
Full letter from Jay Jacobs:
Dear Auburn Family,
I can remember everything about my first Auburn football game. I was a 12 year-old boy from nearby Lafayette, watching from the North end zone with my uncle and cousins as the Tigers defeated Georgia. It was the beginning of my lifelong love affair with Auburn University.
Auburn is special. It always will be.
Since I came here as a walk-on football player in 1981 and became a starter on an SEC Championship team, I have loved this school and I always will. I have given my heart and soul to our university, but the university has given me so much more in return.
Auburn is a wonderful place. Nothing makes me prouder than walking around the campus saying, "War Eagle", to students,
Expectations are high at
The last several months have been a particularly difficult time. Across several sports, a series of controversies have arisen. They have begun to take their toll and have raised questions about why Auburn must endure such problems. As I have always done, I have worked my hardest and best to do what is right for Auburn.
I believe in Auburn and will fight for Auburn. But as I consider the future and what is best for Auburn, I have prayerfully decided the time has come for me to step aside. Sometimes a new direction and new leadership are helpful in moving beyond current problems.
Earlier this week, I informed President Leath that I will step down as Director of Athletics on June 1, 2018, or sooner if my successor is in place. I have come to this decision after a lot of
Until a new Director of Athletics is chosen, I will work hard every day every way I can. I still have work to do, but I know already that I will miss so much about this place. I will miss my monthly lunches with team captains. I will miss hearing ideas from students about their Auburn experience and how to make it better. I will miss watching student-athletes get their degrees, which is what this is all about. And I’ll miss Ms. Sylvia’s smiling face every morning when I arrive.
While I am proud of all our accomplishments during my 13 years "in the chair", I am most proud of the young men and women who represented all of us with dignity,
There will be plenty of time to share my appreciation and to express my gratitude to so many, but for now, I will continue to work, as I am honored to forever be a member of the Auburn Family.
God Bless and War Eagle!
Correction: A previous version of this article said Jacobs is retiring. He is resigning.