College football and Politics, two of the three subjects every southern mama bans from the discussion at the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner table, is currently the life of former Auburn Head Football Coach and current Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Tommy Tuberville. Coach Tuberville jumped into the race in early 2019 because he felt that through his experience in education and coaching he could bring solutions to benefit the people of Alabama and the American people. BamaNewsNow has had the opportunity to spend some in-depth time with Coach Tuberville and his campaign staff through this election season so far and thought they would make an interesting subject for a in-depth profile feature.
New but Familiar
Even though Coach Tuberville is a political newcomer, never having run for political office before, he’s been training for this race his entire professional career. If you think the office politics in your profession is bad, try having to deal with the office politics of a collegiate athletic department, and the interference that it receives from influential boosters that have donated a lot of money to the program. As the head coach ar Auburn University, coach Tuberville had to successfully navigate the personalities of people like Bobby Lowder, former Auburn trustee and booster whose influence at the University can still be felt today, and Jimmy Rayne also known as the yella fella. On top of that, he had the task of replacing Mike Leach at Texas tech University after they let him go due to a scandal in which leech was accused of being physically abusive to his players. Coach Leach was very popular and beloved not only with his players, but fans and boosters of the university, which any coach at any level will tell you is difficult to follow.
As a football coach, He’s also had to navigate and deal with sensitive social issues that can trip up even the best of politicians. When the controversy surrounding the meaning and the symbolism of the Confederate battle flag first started to come to the social forefront in the United States, It first became an issue at the University of Mississippi, where the flag could routinely be seen being waved on campus and in the stadium on game days. Coach Tuberville was able to navigate this thorny issue for many people in the South on both sides of the issue successfully by rallying Ole Miss fans behind the notion that the displaying of the flag on campus distracts from and hurts recruiting of the best high school football recruits from around the country. While it took a directive from the Ole Miss administration to get students at the school to stop displaying the flag, this successful consensus building amongst the majority of the Ole Miss family will serve him well if elected to the United States Senate.
Quite possibly the most important skill Coach Tuberville learned and was able to perfect in his career as a college football coach was the art of campaigning, also known as recruiting.
Campaigning is Recruiting on a Bigger Scale
The first Time I met Coach Tuberville i asked him which was harder campaigning or recruiting. His answer was campaigning because you have to do it all the time and there’s no break. That’s accurate. With recruiting in college football, you’ve got staff you can delegate tasks to, coaches have specific regions of the country and specific positions on the team that they recruit for, and you as the head coach just come in and bat clean up to close the deal.
In campaigning, while you will have staff and volunteers that will be able to do a lot of tasks and a lot of campaigning, that doesn’t alleviate the responsibility of the candidate to do a lot of campaigning as well. The schedule of a statewide campaign can be grueling and packed with events, forums, meet and greets, fundraisers. All of that takes place while also trying to fit in staff meetings, cutting campaign commericals, strategy sessions and squeezing in family time into the campaign schedule.
The thing that stood out the most to this reporter when I tagged along and shadowed him at the tailgating venues before the Georgia versus Auburn game is that coach Tuberville has a natural ability to strike up or carry on a conversation with anyone he meets, regardless if he previously knew them or not. Regardless if this was a skill that was developed after of decades of being involved in college recruiting or it was a natural talent he had always had, that skill of conversation he has will and has served him well on the campaign trail. This is evidenced by how quickly he picked up the Alabama Farmer’s Federation Endorsement. This form of retail politics and connecting with people can’t be taught to politicians and all the money in the world can buy enough advertising to make up for a deficiency in this area
One skill that has definitely benefited from his years of recruiting is the ability to sell himself. Obviously, it is more natural for him to sell himself in the arena of football, but he has translated that skill nicely to the arena of politics. It took some practice, but by the time Pork and Politics in the Park happened at the Battleship Park in Mobile, Alabama, he had his ‘elevator pirch’ down to an art form. An elevator pitch is that 60 second timeframe to make your best case for something before someone tunes you out or moves their attention to something else, basically a voter gives you the time equivalent to an elevator ride to impress them. A more seasoned politician would normally have that pitch down pat right out of the gate, but new first time politicians usually struggle to develop that pitch, if they ever successfully do so. At the game, this reporter noticed that coach struggled at times to deliver that pitch effectively so as a Newcomer to the political arena, Coach does have the advantage of applying the skills and lessons learned of college football recruiting to politics.
Having the Right Organization
Any college football coach knows having the right organization in place, and the right people in the right places in that organization is crucial to success. Politics is no different. Up until the first of the new calendar year, 2020, Coach had kept his campaign staff small and efficient, only relying on a few key staffers to get the ball rolling and build up the.momentum of the campaign. The staff included the campaign manager, deputy manager, a fundraising director and consultant until the first of the year. Since then the staff has ramped up to reflect the need for people to handle press duties, digital communications including social media and staff to coordinate the development of Television and Radio aadvertisin, all things that are needed for a successful major campaign.
Knowing what staffing levels are needed and when , as well as knowing who are the best people to fill those positions shows the sign of an effective leader. That sense of staff development will definitely be needed if the Coach is elected to the U.S. Senate as he will need to staff a D.C. office, offices throughout the state as well as provide input into committee staffs for the committees he serves on. This skill of staff building is illustrated by his history as a head coach in college football. While staff turnover is common in college football, staying loyal to good staff and replacing staff that isn’t living up to expectations reflects the sign that the leader, either the head coach or the elected official, understands the staff dynamics and is willing to make adjustments as needed.
A Patient and Understanding Family
The families of both College Head Football Coaches and Politicians both have to be patient and understanding. More so than most families of successful individuals.
In this regard, Cosch Tuberville’s career has been preparing them for this new endeavor for all of their lives. Being a coach’s wife isn’t all that different than being a politician’s wife, and in that regard, Coach Tuberville’swife, Suzanne will have probably the easiest transition of the whole family, including Coach Tuberville himself. Remember in her time by his side, she has had to entertain the likes of boosters and their wives lol Ike Leanne Touhy, of the Blindside Movie fame and the wives of the Auburn boosters whom tried to hire a new coach without firing Coach Tuberville first in The Jetgate scandal.
Coach Tuberville’s two sons are both out of college now and are starting their adult lives now with friends of their own, so the transition to political kids will be easy for them as well because they will be focused on their own lives and careers and will not be completely focused on their father’s.
In all, watching the maturation process of Coach Tuberville as a poltician has been interesting. The communication skills and leadership qualities that he developed as a Coach will serve him well in politics and governance. It will be interesting to see how this race develops for him and Iif elected how his tenure in office will develop.