Storming the (Alabama) state house
A Georgia alumnus found his calling in Alabama politics
When Mike Hubbard was a young boy growing up in Hartwell, his class went on a field trip to the local radio station. It made such an impression on the then-13-year-old that he went back and asked for a job.
Next thing he knew he was on the air.
“I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Hubbard (ABJ ’84) says.
Now speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, Hubbard made a career behind—and later in front of—the camera. President of Auburn Network Inc. in Auburn, Ala., Hubbard oversees radio stations, a magazine, an audio production company and a media consulting business.
And he’s considering a run for Alabama governor in 2018.
“It’s challenging; I’m very competitive,” he says of his political career. “It also provides a lot of opportunity to do a lot of good.”
As a Georgia student, Hubbard didn’t anticipate the role he would eventually play in Alabama politics. He entered UGA the same year as running back Herschel Walker and earned a quarterly stipend working for the UGA Athletics Association. Hubbard lived with the football players in McWhorter Hall.
“It gave us someone who could follow through on in-person interviews at the dorm or phone call interviews when players were asked to call a media rep after practice,” says UGA Senior Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton, then sports information director.
Hubbard was part of Walker’s successful campaign for the Heisman Trophy in 1982. Hubbard also worked with the department to promote his roommate, defensive back Terry Hoage, for the award. Though defensive players are rarely in serious contention for the award, Hoage came in 5th in the voting in 1983.
He and Hoage remain good friends. Hoage, who owns a winery in Paso Robles, Calif., named his 2010 Syrah Cuvee “The Hub” after his former roommate.
Hubbard’s work at UGA is what led him to Auburn University in 1984, right after graduation. As a member of the sports information office there, Hubbard helped Auburn secure the 1985 Heisman for running back Bo Jackson.
“I thought I’d be here two years and I’ve been here ever since,” he says.
His work at Auburn led to his media empire. As a 21-year-old he took oversight of the Auburn coach’s show, handling production, ad sales and syndication. The show realized a $35,000 profit the year before he began doing it, $100,000 the year after, he says.
He left Auburn University in 1990 to head Auburn’s radio and television sports network. In 1994, he created the Auburn Network.
In 1996 he was introduced to Bob Riley, who at the time was running for Congress.
“It changed my life,” Hubbard says of that meeting. “I liked Bob Riley a lot. I came home that night and told my wife, ‘I’m going to get involved in his campaign.’”
Riley was elected and soon suggested that Hubbard ought to run for office as well. In 1998, Hubbard won the District 79 seat, representing part of Auburn and Opelika. The first Republican to represent that district, he was re-elected in 2002 and 2006. Elected chairman of the Alabama GOP in 2007 by the executive committee of the Alabama Republican Party, Hubbard was Riley’s minority floor leader and put together the successful plan to elect a Republican majority to the state house in 2010.
Hubbard says he wants to serve another term as house speaker before considering a run for governor in 2018. Beyond that?
“I really have no desire to go to D.C.,” Hubbard says. “We are really doing some extraordinary things. We are changing Alabama fundamentally.”