In the most respectful, reverential way possible, Tommy Tuberville compares this week to 9/11.
The confusion. The distraction. The uncertainty. Three years ago, there was a national tragedy and massive loss of life. With Hurricane Ivan bearing down on the South, the potential for tragedy is there again.
|Tommy Tuberville needs a big win, and might not get the chance to get one this week.(Getty Images)|
"It's totally different circumstances, but on 9/11 we were preparing for LSU," said Auburn's coach who faces No. 5 LSU again this year in what is the weekend's top game. "We had the tragedy on Tuesday. We prepared all the way to Thursday. It's kind of the same scenario, time-wise.
"But obviously, it's not as crucial."
Tuberville was been accused of not being able to win the big one. This week, he'd settle for just playing the big one. Hundreds of thousands have evacuated from the region. Already two major-college games have been called off this week because of Ivan. LSU-Auburn is in jeopardy. Five I-A games in all have had games postponed since the season started because of the bum rush of tropical storms.
"We're facing our fourth hurricane," said Bobby Bowden, whose season opener in South Florida was delayed four days last week by Hurricane Frances. "That includes the University of Miami."
No matter how this season plays out, it has been permanently scarred by the vagaries of Mother Nature. Bye weeks have been wiped out. At least four teams will be playing rescheduled games in December. Hundreds of players are distracted by the elements themselves or concerned with loved ones lying in the path of a Category 4 hurricane.
Auburn canceled classes for the remainder of the week Tuesday. Thursday's practice was canceled and players were put up in hotels. If the game is played, LSU fans basically will be driving across the middle of the storm to get to Auburn, Ala.
"I learned a lot about this through 9/11," LSU coach Nick Saban said. "You learn that different things affect people differently. If somebody's mother is in New Orleans, and they've got to evacuate, you've got your head in the sand if you don't think it creates a distraction."
It can be argued Tuberville has faced much worse than hurricanes lately. In the past year, his program and professional life have been ripped apart. His Tigers were the darlings of the 2003 preseason until an 0-2 start made them one of the season's biggest disappointments.
Acting on that sub-par showing, Auburn president William Walker, accompanied by athletic director David Housel, clandestinely flew to Louisville to court Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino. To make it worse, they did it during Alabama week.