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  • Writer's pictureKevin Scarbinsky

Does Auburn take basketball more seriously than Alabama?

Add this true fact to the overwhelming body of evidence that the state of Alabama is not just for football anymore, if it ever was. For the second straight year, an SEC program in this state has rewarded its highly successful basketball coach with a lengthy, lucrative new contract - with the all-important month of March still four weeks away.

In late January of 2022, with Auburn unbeaten in the SEC, sitting at No. 1 in the nation, the school threw a lot more years and a lot more money at Bruce Pearl. This week, with Alabama unbeaten in the league, poised to move up from No. 4 in the country, it did the same for Nate Oats.

Starting next year, Oats is signed for six seasons and a total of $30 million, an average of $5 million a year. That's impressive - just not as impressive as Pearl's compensation.

Starting this year, the first of his new deal, Auburn has Pearl under contract for eight years and a total of $50.2 million, an average of $6.275 million a year. I'm no mathematician, but if you compare the two deals, the scale tilts toward Auburn.

Pearl will get an annual raise of $250,000. Oats' annual raise will be $200,000. Pearl's take this year is $5.4 million. Oats won't surpass that number until 2028-29, the last year of his new deal, when he pulls in $5.5 million.

While we're discussing things that make you go hmmm, let's compare home arenas. Auburn opened what's now known as Neville Arena in 2010, and it is as dangerous a snake pit as there is in college basketball. The Jungle will be rocking next Saturday when Alabama comes knocking and ESPN's College GameDay shows up to document the crazy.

Fun fact: Only two schools will have played host to GameDay for three straight seasons, not including the COVID year when Rece Davis and company did the show in the studio. Those two schools are Auburn and Duke. Anytime your basketball program is on a short list with the Dookies, you're doing something very, very well.

Alabama opened Coleman Coliseum in 1968 and has poured a lot of money into renovating it, but a year after the board of trustees gave initial approval for a new arena, shovels aren't hitting dirt anytime soon. Oats said this week that more money has to be raised because inflation has bumped up the cost estimate from $183 million to almost $250 million.

At this point, it's tempting to repurpose an old Paul Bryant insult and point it at his old school. Legend has it that he once called the Auburn football office at the crack of dawn, only to discover the Auburn coaches had not yet arrived at work. Bryant's response to the person who answered the phone and informed him of that fact: "Don't you people take your football seriously down there?" ...

Read Kevin's entire examination of the investments the IBOB rivals have made in hoops. Only in The Lede.

Auburn's Jungle has become one of the best home-court environments in all of college basketball.



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