On the surface, Auburn coaching hire a bad joke

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 14, 2008 

Gene Chizik is a good football coach.

Please, read that sentence again, slowly.

Gene ... Chizik ... is ... a .. good ... football ... coach.

Auburn people need to keep reassuring themselves of that fact — and it is a fact — over and over.

Because on the surface, this is a bad joke.

Auburn dumps Tommy Tuberville, a man who was 85-40 in 10 seasons at Auburn, and replaces him with Gene Chizik.

Wow. That’s all you can say. Wow.

Many Auburn folks are shaking their heads. Alabama folks are laughing. Don’t believe me? Go talk to one or two. Or read the blogs. The Internet blew up.

No Steve Spurrier. No Will Muschamp. No Jimbo Fisher. No Turner Gill. No Gary Patterson.

Just a plain, old Gene Chizik, and you can hold the fries.

Chizik has been a head coach for two years. Ready for the record?

Please get the women and children out of the room; this ain’t going to be pretty.

At Iowa State, Chizik was 5-19.

That is five wins and 19 losses.

This year? The Cyclones opened with impressive wins over traditional powerhouses South Dakota State and Kent State. Not bad, a 2-0 start.

Then something terrible happened in the corn field.

Iowa State lost 10 in a row and finished in the bottom of the Big 12 North. Did not win a conference game. And folks down here thought Auburn’s season was woeful? At least the Tigers won five.

OK, that’s the bad news. There’s some good news, though.

You got to look for it, but it is indeed there.

Chizik at least knows what he’s getting into. He spent three seasons at Auburn, 2002-2004. And they were good years, for the most part. He was the defensive coordinator on the 2004 team that went 13-0, won the Southeastern Conference championship and should have had a shot at the national championship.

But while Auburn started its slide in 2005, Chizik left for Texas, where he coached a defense that was the cornerstone in the Longhorns’ run to the national championship.

See, folks, he’s a good coach.

A real good assistant football coach. One of the best, in fact. In 2004 he won the Broyles Award, which goes to the top assistant coach in the country.

So what does Auburn atheltics director Jay Jacobs do? He goes and hires an outstanding assistant coach with ties to Auburn and a dismal record as a head coach.

Then Jacobs throws Chizik into the SEC’s Western Division to compete against established winners like Alabama’s Nick Saban, LSU’s Les Miles, Mississippi’s Houston Nutt and Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino. Then if he’s lucky enough to survive, on the other side of the league, you have Florida’s Urban Meyer, Georgia’s Mark Richt and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier.

That’s bold, boys. A bold and daring hire, to say the least.

Some might even say stupid. Or was it the best Auburn could do?

If so, that’s one heck of an indictment.

Somebody needs to tell Chizik the SEC has changed a little since he left. The last two national champions hail from the league. Maybe while he has been getting his brains beaten out, he has at least had the television tuned to ESPN. You see, the last two years, Chizik has been knocking heads with coaches like Dan Hawkins at Colorado, Bo Pelini at Nebraska, Gary Pinkel at Missouri and Mark Mangino at Kansas.

Fine coaches, all.

But if you can’t even get the scraps off the table in a league with Mangino — you need to see a picture of the big man from Kansas to realize how unfair that comment was — how can you expect to dine at the table with Saban?

And how can you expect to do it with such a fractured Auburn family.

The Tuberville departure has split the Auburn family like a messy divorce.

It takes time for such things to heal. And, the one thing Chizik doesn’t have is time. Just ask Tuberville.

Jacobs has a lot of explaining to do.

You know, the best thing Auburn could do would be to move Jacobs aside as AD and replace him with Tuberville. Chizik and Tuberville worked well together four years ago.

And right now, Chizik can take all the help he can get.

(This column has been updated to correct that Dan Hawkins coaches at Colorado and corrected the spelling of Bo Pelini's name.)

You can contact Chuck Williams at chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com

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