News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

New hoops arena at Auburn could open for 2010-11 season

By Bradley Handwerger 340-2462

AUBURN — Auburn has moved one step closer to a new basketball arena, the Tigers haven't completed their football schedule, and Alabama did what it thought it had to do in hiring Nick Saban, athletics director Jay Jacobs said Wednesday.

And yet, none of that is close to being set in stone. Well, other than Saban, of course.

All of those topics came up in a meeting Jacobs had with reporters before Auburn took on No. 22 Tennessee at home.

Jacobs confirmed that the Auburn Board of Trustees, during its properties and facilities meeting earlier in the day, settled on 360 Architecture, a firm with offices in Kansas City, Mo., San Francisco, and Columbus, Ohio. The firm now has the task of completing focus groups with students, coaches and administrators to come up with the best design for the new arena.

If approved at the June trustees meeting, Jacobs said building the arena would be a two-year project, with construction beginning in June 2008 and finishing in time for the 2010-11 season. He said it will take a year to come up with the arena's design.

"The first thing is we don't know what it's going to cost," Jacobs said. "We won't know that until we get 360 on board."

Jacobs said some of the arena's cost could be offset if the school gets a corporate sponsor.

The school has made no decision on where to put the arena, Jacobs said.

Auburn has South Florida scheduled for Sept. 15 and New Mexico State for Sept. 22. However, the Tigers don't know who they will face in the season opener or Nov. 3.

Jacobs said the school is working on that, and already has contacted many of the Bowl Championship Series-affiliated schools. He's looking to add another prime home game. For now, Auburn hosts Mississippi State on Sept. 8, Vanderbilt on Oct. 6, Ole Miss on Oct. 27, and Alabama on Nov. 24.

"We will not schedule an opening game (for 2007) until we know 100 percent that we can't get a BCS-conference team for that game," Jacobs said.

He said a home-and-home game is possible, but the home game won't be until at least the 2010 season, as Auburn already has games set against West Virginia in 2008 and '09.

Jacobs also didn't rule out a game against a Division I-AA opponent. But, he added, that the other game definitely would be against a I-A school.

Also, the September games will be kicking off at 6 p.m. unless a TV network picks up the games, Jacobs said.

Alabama athletics director Mal Moore did what he was thought was best for The University of Alabama in handing Nick Saban a $4 million contract, Jacobs said.

He added, "I know that Mal Moore is a good businessman."

But Jacobs said he wasn't sure what the large amount would do in the future in regard to coaches' contracts.

He said that won't be known until the next hire is made at a school in the SEC, Big 10, Big 12, ACC or Pac-10.

Jacobs also said that officials will put forth a plan to renovate the athletics complex, which hasn't been touched in its entirety since it was built in 1989. Officials will take a plan to the board of trustees in February that will outline how they would like to go about renovating the complex.

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