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Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville helped Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron land a job as a graduate assistant at the University of Miami in 1987.
Daily file photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville helped Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron land a job as a graduate assistant at the University of Miami in 1987.

Orgeron's call to Miami
Tuberville helped Ole Miss coach launch career

By Ross Dellenger
sports@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

AUBURN — Tommy Tuberville sat in his small office at the University of Miami doing things that young graduate assistants do, milling over paperwork or pouring over game film.

He heard the phone ring from down the hall, and a second later the call was transferred to him. On the other end was the assistant strength coach at Arkansas.

"I'm Ed Orgeron," Tuberville heard from across the line. "I want to get into coaching."

Tuberville grabbed a pen and scribbled Orgeron's name and number onto a piece of paper. He didn't think much of it. He would keep Orgeron's information handy in case a graduate assistant position came open at Miami.

A few minutes later, one did.

"We just happened to go into a staff meeting an hour later," said Tuberville, who was working under Hurricanes coach Jimmy Johnson at the time in 1987.

"Jimmy asked, 'Does anyone know of a defensive line type of guy to come in as a graduate assistant?' "

Tuberville remembered Orgeron's call and spoke up.

"I just had a guy call me," he said to Johnson.

"You know anything about him," Johnson asked the 33-year-old Tuberville.

"No," he said.

"Well, find out something about him. If it's good, tell him to get down here, and let's go to work," Johnson barked in his country slang.

In no time, Tuberville was back on the phone with his new friend, telling Orgeron to get to Miami immediately and offering a room in his apartment to a guy he just met on the telephone.

"He needed a place to stay, and I was single," said Tuberville, who would eventually be in Orgeron's wedding.

Two decades later, the former roommates and old friends will find themselves on opposite sidelines when Tuberville's 23rd-ranked Auburn Tigers (5-3, 3-2 SEC) host Orgeron's Ole Miss Rebels (2-6, 0-5) on Saturday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Although they began coaching down parallel paths, Orgeron and Tuberville have wandered apart during the years.

The days of being poorly paid single coaches living in that apartment in South Florida are just memories.

"We didn't have any funds, weren't making much money," said Orgeron, whose salary at Ole Miss is about $1 million compared to Tuberville's $2.6 million at Auburn. "We shared a lot of things together, spent a lot of time together."

As part-time assistants, Orgeron and Tuberville learned their now-used defensive philosophies from Miami defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt.

“I was like a sponge,” Orgeron said. “We learned the 4-3 Miami defense.”

In 1989, after Johnson left Miami to coach the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, new coach Dennis Erickson promoted Orgeron and Tuberville to full-time positions: Orgeron as the defensive line coach and
Tuberville as linebackers coach.

“It gave us a chance to prove we are able to coach on that level,” Orgeron said.

And they did.

During the next four years, Miami compiled a 44-4 record and won two national championships.

“We had some fantastic players,” Orgeron said. “Those were good times.”

But in 1992, Orgeron was arrested in a Baton Rouge, La., bar fight.

Although the charges were dropped, Orgeron was placed on probation by the Miami athletic department and did not return to the team the following year, opting to go home to southern Louisiana.

While Orgeron’s career took a fall, Tuberville’s skyrocketed. He became Miami’s defensive coordinator in 1993 and then moved to Texas A&M in the same role the next season.

He was hired in 1995 to coach Ole Miss, where he remained until going to Auburn following the 1998 season.

Under Tuberville, Auburn has gone to seven straight bowl games, winning or sharing the SEC West title five times.

“I think he’s a fantastic coach,” Orgeron said.

Orgeron was hired at Ole Miss in 2004 for his superlative recruiting as a defensive coach and recruiting coordinator at Southern Cal.

In his 21/2 seasons with the Rebels, the program has won nine times.

Orgeron’s squad has won three conference games and has no SEC road victories. It is the only team without a league win this season.

Earlier this year, sites such as “FireCoachO.com” and “FireCoachO.net” began to pop up.

“Ed and I have been friends for a long time, and we talk about situations in the off-season,” Tuberville said. “He knows it’s winning in this league.”

As a 171/2-point underdog heading into this Saturday’s game, Orgeron may find it difficult to beat the guy who jump-started his coaching career.

Without that timely phone call and Tuberville’s help in that staff meeting, Orgeron may not be in Oxford, Miss.

Orgeron called down to Miami on that day in 1987 to talk to an old friend that was also a graduate assistant there, Bill Johnson. But Johnson had left Miami for Louisiana Tech days earlier. When the office secretary heard Orgeron’s request for the departed coach, she picked a line.

“For some reason the secretary forwarded that call to me,” Tuberville said.

Five things you might not know about Ole Miss

1. Ole Miss has several notable alumni, including ESPN broadcaster Ron Franklin, FOX news
anchor Shepard Smith and novelist John Grisham. Ole Miss has produced three Miss America winners.

2. Tommy Tuberville’s connections to the Ole Miss coaching staff don’t stop at Ed Orgeron. Ole Miss’ offensive coordinator Dan Werner served as Tuberville’s “offensive consultant” in his first year at Auburn in 1999.

3. Rebels running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis ranks fourth in the conference and 36th in the nation averaging 98 yards per game.

4. Although he is known as a vigorous recruiter, Orgeron has just two players from Alabama.

5. Tuberville served as the Ole Miss coach from 1995 to 1998, leading the Rebels to back-to-back winning seasons before leaving for Auburn.

Ross Dellenger,
Daily Sports Writer

Ole Miss at Auburn

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