Tuberville makes final campaign stop

Originally Published: January 4, 2005
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

MIAMI -- Tommy Tuberville pulled the equivalent of George Bush and John Kerry hitting Ohio on election eve, making an 11th-hour campaign stop Tuesday night at the Orange Bowl.

Twenty-four hours after ending the season with a Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, the Auburn coach made a flyby grip-and-grin visit to the press box at Pro Player Stadium before the USC-Oklahoma game. He was here to offer a subtle "War Eagle" reminder to the AP voters and other writers in the house, and also was scheduled to appear at halftime on ABC.

Auburn sports information director Meredith Jenkins -- "my campaign manager," Tuberville called her with a smile -- said they were here as guests of ABC. But the Auburn contingent paid for its own way down here on a visit that will double as a Florida recruiting trip.

The 13-0 Tigers are desperately hoping that a substantial number of AP voters change their minds after the Orange Bowl and elevate Auburn from No. 3 to No. 1, earning a share of the national championship.

Tuberville figured he'd need a victory by No. 2 Oklahoma over the No. 1 Trojans for that to happen, since the Tigers were close behind the Sooners in the final poll.

"Oklahoma needs to win," Tuberville said. "It probably needs to be a close game. ... Lots of turnovers. I was hoping for a monsoon."

No luck. The night was dry and perfect for football.

Tuberville said he's not in favor of a lengthy playoff, but would have loved a "plus-one" setup for this season, which would have given Auburn a shot at the Orange Bowl winner. To the university presidents who oppose such an idea, Tuberville said, "Let 'em be standing in my shoes watching this game and they might understand the coaching perspective of a plus-one."

Even if Tuberville and Auburn cannot persuade the AP voters to make it champs, the coach believes he'll get some love from somewhere.

"Somebody's going to pick us national champion," Tuberville said. "Might be Golf Digest, but someone will."

Pat Forde is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.

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