Reid Mikuta

Freshman Reid Mikuta competes in the breaststroke at SEC Championships

Add the men’s and women’s swimming teams to the list of once strong Auburn programs that are having truly bad seasons. 

The university’s decision to fire coach Brett Hawke, a former Auburn swimming star and Olympian, and replace him with Gary Taylor is not working out.

The AU women’s basketball team just finished its regular season without an SEC victory for the first time and Auburn’s swimming teams are also at historic low points in program history. 

In both women’s hoops and swimming the situation is so bad that the children of former AU stars in both sports are not even seriously considering Auburn.

The Tigers finished ninth at the SEC Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. The previous worst result in program history was a seventh place showing in 1989. 

From 1997 to 2009 the Tigers finished either first or second at the SEC meet, but since Taylor was hired in April 2018 Auburn has become much less relevant in the collegiate swimming world.

The men’s team finished eighth at the 2021 SEC Championships, the same result from the previous two years. 

Considering the Tigers won the league title 16 consecutive times from 1997 to 2012, it is no surprise that a former Auburn All-American contacted me to describe the program as a “total disaster” under Taylor’s leadership and noted the swimming alumni are angry with what is happening.

If Auburn wants to get serious again about being a national power in swimming, a great hire would be to bring back former assistant coach Dave Durden, who has won four national championships as head coach of the Cal Bears. As an assistant coach for the Tigers from 2002-05, he helped Auburn win NCAA Championships for the men’s team in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and for the women in 2002, 2004 and 2004.

On the subject of coaching hires, it looks like Auburn High School deserves an A-plus with its decision to bring in Keith Etheredge to lead the football team. He arrives with an outstanding record from stops at Leeds High, Pell City, T.R. Miller and most recently, Oxford High, and has led teams to state championships five times.

He has a reputation for developing high school players and producing college prospects in the process. Etheredge is also known as one of the good men in the high school coaching business.

On the subject of Auburn High football, class of 2022 prospect Powell Gordon has committed to play for the new Auburn University coaching staff. 

A 6-3, 215 defensive end and linebacker, the cat-quick Gordon was outstanding as a junior, finishing with a dominating performance in the Class 7A state championship game.

With the potential to add size before he moves to the college level, it will be interesting to see what position he plays for Coach Bryan Harsin’s Tigers.

Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter

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