Allen Greene has been the Auburn University director of athletics for only 18 months. But it’s pretty clear even in that short period of time, he’s become an Auburn Tiger.
As an athletic director, he’s not supposed to be a fan. But when an attendee at the Lake Martin Auburn Club kickoff event Thursday night at Willow Point asked Greene about his favorite moments at Auburn, one of them was clearly a moment where he crossed from it just being a job to being a fan.
“One of the first things I thought of was when I video bombed (men’s basketball coach) Bruce Pearl after we won a game — I don’t even remember which game it was now,” Greene said. “My job is not to be a fan. I can’t be a fan. I can’t get all wrapped up in it. My job is to be a very disciplined and thoughtful leader, but in that moment of weakness, I became a fan.”
Two other moments Greene, a former baseball player, mentioned were sitting in the baseball dugout during a batting practice and speaking at the student-athlete graduation. One thing that was clear throughout his message to the Lake Martin Auburn Club was his love for the student-athlete and trying to do right by them.
“When I spoke to that group, I got emotional and I wasn’t expecting to get emotional,” Greene said. “As I was talking, I realized this is the first group I’ve had a full year with to get to know. As you develop relationships with our student-athletes, you want them grow.”
Greene then opened things up for questions from the crowd, and things went from emotional to serious as members of the Lake Martin Auburn Club drilled Greene with questions about everything from finances and facilities to expectations for the football program and recruiting to his thoughts on paying players.
A big question on fans’ minds seemed to be what Auburn’s plans to keep up its facilities was. Greene said he thought it was a challenge to be transparent about financial obligations when it came to facilities because things are so often changing. But throughout his question-and-answer session, he reiterated Auburn can do only as much as it can afford.
“I will say something very directly and you need to hear it directly,” Greene said. “People need to put their money where their mouth is. A lot of our resources are already allocated to particular areas, so when people what to do this or do that, we have to have financial backing behind it. Sometimes that’s a challenge because although people may talk about something being their priority, when it comes time to put their resources into it, it may be a little different story.”
Recruiting and transferring was also a big topic of conversation Thursday night. Greene said he doesn’t like to get involved in recruiting strategy but wants each program to play to its strengths.
“For some programs, facilities are a strength,” he said. “For some, it’s culture or building something or sustaining something, so each one is a little bit different. But that’s definitely the lifeblood of all we do is recruiting.”
It’s obviously a good time to be an Auburn fan with men’s basketball’s run to the Final Four and the baseball team advancing to the College World Series. Other smaller sports also found a lot of success this year like equestrian, gymnastics and golf. But with those great successes come added pressure, especially to the Tiger football team.
Greene said ultimately the expectation is for Auburn to be a top-five football program, but that starts from the top and works itself all the way down.
“In order for any organization to be successful, it has to be aligned,” Greene said. “Part of my responsibility is to make sure there’s alignment and it doesn’t happen overnight. If you don’t have alignment from the top of your program down to the athletic trainer, then there’s opportunity to get off base. When you think of all the people it takes to get in an alignment, it takes a lot of hard work. You have to find the right people.
“From a fan perspective and an external perspective, wins and losses are very important. Internal perspective, there’s a lot of things you have to understand to how we got to those wins and losses and how we played.”
Ultimately, Greene has a lot on his plate especially with a fanbase that is so passionate about its athletic programs. But as much as Tigers fans are passionate about their teams, it’s obvious Greene has equal passion for the student-athletes at Auburn. When asked about if players should be paid, Greene basically said no, but he also asked fans to consider what the university gives to those players in return.
“The benefits of getting an education, developing leadership skills, understanding how to deal with adversity, learning to work together, learning how to fail, those are all qualities that I would argue are more important,” Greene said. “When we start turning the model around, they already get something. They get a lot of something.
“I don’t particularly believe that we should pay student-athletes. I do believe we should provide them every resource we can to make them be successful in life.”