The campaign bus of college football coach-turned-politician Tommy Tuberville caught fire along an Alabama highway on Wednesday night.
The bus, advertising Tuberville’s candidacy for U.S. Senate, went up in flames on I-59 North in DeKalb County, about 10 miles from the Georgia state line. The driver escaped uninjured, police said. Tuberville was not on the bus at the time of the fire, which caused the shutdown of the road’s northbound lane.
Tuberville’s campaign manager told Al.com that the fire started “during a test drive shortly after maintenance.” Foul play is not suspected.
The cause of the fire is unknown and the damage has likely left the bus as a total loss, a DeKalb County spokesman told Al.com. However, the campaign is apparently asking supporters for money to repair the bus, so perhaps repairs are possible.
Tuberville is set to square off against former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a runoff on July 14 for the Republican nomination for Alabama’s junior seat in the U.S. Senate. Either Tuberville or Sessions will challenge Democrat Doug Jones for his Senate seat in November. Jones holds the seat after beating controversial former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore in a 2017 special election, an election that followed Sessions’ resignation to take the Attorney General role.
Tuberville has received the endorsement of President Donald Trump over Sessions, who resigned as Attorney General on Nov. 7, 2018.
Tuberville’s controversy-filled football career
Tuberville, a native of Arkansas, began his college coaching career as an assistant at Arkansas State in 1980. He continued on as an assistant at Miami and Texas A&M before landing his first head-coaching job at Ole Miss in 1995. After four seasons in Oxford, Tuberville left for Auburn just days after infamously saying, in response to rumors he was leaving for Auburn, “they’ll have to carry me out of here in a pine box.” It’s a statement the folks at Ole Miss have not forgotten.
It wouldn’t be the last time Tuberville left a coaching job controversially. He went 85-40 over a 10-year run at Auburn but resigned following a subpar 2008 season. Tuberville resurfaced at Texas Tech in 2010. He coached the Red Raiders for three seasons until abruptly leaving — during a dinner with prospective Texas Tech recruits — for Cincinnati.
"The waitress brought our food out, and we thought [Tuberville] went to the bathroom, but he never came back to dinner," said Devonte Danzey, a junior college recruit who ended up signing with Auburn. "Then next thing I know, the next day, he made an announcement that he's going to Cincinnati."
Tuberville’s time at Cincinnati fizzled out, too. The Bearcats went 25-14 over his first three seasons, but 4-8 in Year 4. To the surprise of no one, Tuberville stepped down after that season, had a brief foray in broadcasting before moving into the world of politics. Some of his former players say Tuberville the politician, who has made his share of controversial statements, is completely different than the coach they knew.
“That doesn’t reflect the person that I knew,” former Auburn wide receiver Devin Aromashodu told the Washington Post. “It sounds like two different people.”
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