GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jay Jacobs’ first job was at a funeral home owned by his grandparents in Lafayette, Alabama. At age 12, Jacobs mowed the lawn, trimmed hedges, picked weeds and occasionally rode along on ambulance calls. He even helped out at burials.
“Last man to let you down,” Jacobs jokes 50 years later.
After working nearly every day since that summer in 1972, Jacobs is formally retiring following nearly four decades in college athletics. The 62-year-old, who spent 13 years as Auburn’s athletics director and won the 2010 national championship with coach Gene Chizik and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, will step down at the end of June as Florida’s associate AD for external affairs.
“It’s bittersweet,” Jacobs told The Associated Press. “Made some great relationships over the years. It’s tough to leave, but it’ll be fun what I’m about to do regardless of where I’m at geographically.”
Jacobs spent the past five years in Gainesville with his wife, Angie. His day-to-day role included overseeing communications, marketing, ticketing, licensing, boosters and serving as the sport administrator for Florida’s football program, which finished 6-7 each of the last two seasons.
He plans to stay close to college athletics in retirement, possibly serving as a consultant or another behind-the-scenes endeavor.
“It sounds awful to say, but I don’t want any requirements,” he said. “I don’t want to have to show up somewhere consistently. I want to just see what that’s like for a couple of months not having to do that.
“It’s going to be an adjustment because I don’t know any other life than this.”
Jacobs recently moved his parents from Tampa to a retirement home in Tallahassee and has two of his three daughters living about 300 miles north of there in Birmingham, Alabama.
“A couple of my dear friends, they’ve already shut it down,” he said. “They’re going hunting and hanging out with their family. I sort of long for that.”
Known by many as “Brother Jay” because he often greets friends with “Hey, brother” in a soft, Southern drawl, Jacobs attended Wolfson High School in nearby Jacksonville before enrolling at Auburn and joining the football team as walk-on offensive lineman.
He earned letters in 1982 and 1983, becoming part of the Tigers’ first Southeastern Conference championship team in nearly 30 years. He got his bachelor’s degree in 1985 — after a one-year stint as head coach at Lee-Scott Academy — and then joined his alma mater as a graduate assistant.
He served in the strength and conditioning department for three years before sliding into football administration in 1991. He became Auburn’s 14th AD in 2005, and his 13-year run remains the third-longest tenure in school history.
Auburn claimed 12 national championships across five sports during his watch, none more memorable than beating Oregon 22-19 to end the 2010 football season in Arizona. His notable hires included basketball coach Bruce Pearl and football coaches Chizik and Gus Malzahn, who led the Tigers to the national title game following the 2013 season.
“Winning championships, those always are fun, but when I think about my career, I think about the people and the relationships and how people have enriched my life. Just good people everywhere,” he said.