The office of new Auburn University athletics director Allen Greene overlooks the 87,451-seat Jordan-Hare Football Stadium. The facility does right by football. That’s important, as the Southeastern Conference is nothing if not football crazy.
“The success of football is very important to us,” Greene said, “because we utilize the success of football to help support all our other student-athletes.”
Greene is hoping his athletes get more than titles and trophies. He’s bringing a new focus to Auburn: "the student-athlete experience." Greene wants students to work hard on their academics and, after that, their athletics. Could that jeopardize on-field success?
“I think focusing on the student-athlete experience and winning work really well together," Green said. "Winning is the outcome.”
Greene is certain that his student-athlete emphasis will help Auburn reach a level of success that the university has never had. While football is critical to Auburn—and the Tigers went 7–1 in the SEC last season—Auburn has earned national championships across all sports. Auburn athletics seemed to be on the right track. Yet quickly after he was hired, Greene fired five administrators from his department. That’s big change for a winning department
“Sometimes you have to make changes that are in the best interests of the organization,” Greene said.
Full of surprises, Greene asserts what those best interests are with his three overarching principles. His first goal is to make sure students are as dedicated to their studies as they are to their athletic pursuits. Secondly, he wants to win championships. And finally, he wants to help young people develop into being productive members of society.
Kid Reporter Carlo Vellandi and Allen Greene
But how can students and coaches really achieve academic goals when aiming for athletic championships? Greene, who expects his coaches to stay in touch with athletes’ academic advisors, admits it's a challenge.
“It’s very hard for my coaches and our athletes to focus on academics and athletics,” Greene said. “But that’s what makes student-athletes and intercollegiate athletics unique.”
Just as Greene’s new idea of the student-athlete experience at Auburn may be unique, Greene’s hiring broke new ground. He is the third African-American AD in the SEC and the very first at Auburn.
“In 2018, I wish my skin color wasn’t an issue,” Greene said. "However, it is a tremendous honor to be in the role that I am, and at a place that the rest of the country traditionally sees as not-progressive.”
Whether or not Greene's ideas deliever championships, it will likely be good time to play sports at Auburn University. And if Greene’s "student-athlete experience" experiment is successful, it could spark a trend for college athletics everywhere.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Auburn Athletics (Greene at press conference); Courtesy of Carlo Vellandi (Carlo and Greene)