If there’s one thing that continues to follow Tommy Tuberville, long after his coaching career in the SEC came to an end, it’s his infamous “pine box” comments dating back to his days in Oxford.
While serving as Ole Miss coach back in 1998, speculation regarding Auburn’s interest in hiring Tuberville reached a point where the coach felt obligated to address the situation during his weekly radio show. That’s when he made his infamous statement.
“They’ll have to carry me out of here in a pine box,” Tuberville stated during one of his shows.
Despite his bold statement, he was off and gone to Auburn two days later.
During his Wednesday appearance on “The Opening Kickoff” on WNSP-FM 105.5 FM, Tuberville did his best to recall the events that led to his statement, which turned out to be nothing more than words.
“We wanted to stay at Ole Miss,” Tuberville said according to Mark Heim of AL.com. “We were getting close to the end of the season, my fourth year, and people are calling my agent, Jimmy Sexton. I had three real good offers. The athletic director comes to me on a Tuesday night. We’re playing Jackie Sherrill and Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl on Thursday. I had my radio show the night before. We’re planning on staying. Finally, I just got tired (of answering questions about leaving), and I said, ‘Listen, they’re going to have to carry me out of here in a pine box. I love this place.’
“And, of course, (the media) played that stuff forever.”
The way Tuberville remembers it, he was committed to Ole Miss at the time he made those comments but a meeting with the school’s chancellor, Robert Khayat, quickly changed all that, which led to his eventual departure to SEC West rival Auburn.
“(Khayat) said, ‘Tub, I see they are courting you at different schools.’ I said, ‘Chancellor, I’ll be honest with you, our coaches don’t want to go. They want to work here,” Tuberville said. “But, I’m here on behalf of them. We can’t keep doing it with smoke and mirrors. We need some help.
“You have a billion-dollar fund-raiser going for academics. If you give us $50 million of that one billion for athletics, I’ll go out and help you raise that billion, not just the $50 million to give us some help.’”
They could not reach an agreement and that left Tuberville and his staff to reevaluate their options, according to the coach. It wasn’t long before they were off to The Plains.
Tuberville would go on to coach for a decade at Auburn, suffering only two losing seasons during that span — his first and his last season with the Tigers. Tuberville also led Auburn to six consecutive wins in the Iron Bowl, which is the school’s longest streak in the rivalry.