AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn's 10-day coaching search came to a sudden and unexpected ending Saturday with the hiring of Iowa State's Gene Chizik.
Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard confirmed the news in an evening press release.
"Gene (Chizik) confirmed for me today that he is accepting the head coaching position at Auburn," Pollard said. "I'm disappointed for Iowa State fans and student-athletes that he has chosen to leave our program after only two seasons. "I understand that Auburn is a dream job for him, but the timing and the way it played out has been hurtful and disappointing."
Auburn still has not confirmed the hire. Athletic director Jay Jacobs, who returned from Memphis in a university plane along with school president Dr. Jay Gouge and two associate athletic directors Saturday, denied any hire has been made.
"We're still in the process," he said.
The 46-year-old Chizik was Auburn's defensive coordinator from 2002-05. He just finished his second season with Iowa State, where he is 5-19. His Cyclones lost 10 straight to finish this season. He was Auburn's defensive coordinator from 2002-05. News of Chizik's hiring did not go over well with Auburn fans. Message board posters were quick to criticize the hire. A group of fans numbering about 20 were at the Auburn-Opelika Robert G. Pitts airport to meet the arriving Auburn delegation when it landed around 3:30 p.m.
One boisterous individual booed loudly as the plane as it drove down the tarmac, extending his arms and giving two thumbs down. As Jacobs approached a group of reporters, the fan shouted, "We want a leader, not a loser."
He continued to heckle Jacobs throughout the athletic director's 35-second interview with reporters.
"I think that if everything continues to go well, then in the next few days we ought to have the process narrowed down pretty well," Jacobs said. "We'll go from there, but we're still moving along. It's been good so far."
Asked specifically if reports about Chizik were true, he shook his head and said: "We're just still working through the deal." Chizik's name did not surface until Friday, when Iowa State officials confirmed the coach met with Auburn officials. That meeting is believed to have taken place Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas, the same day Auburn reportedly met with TCU's Gary Patterson.
Chizik was spotted at Des Moines International Airport early Saturday by the Iowa TV station KCCI. He was catching a commercial plane headed for Memphis, where his agent, Jimmy Sexton, is based.
Chizik led Auburn's defense for three years. During the Tigers' undefeated 2004 season, they gave up 11.3 points per game, the lowest total in the nation. He won the Frank Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach. He joined Mack Brown's staff at Texas as a co-defensive coordinator in 2005 and won the national championship that year.
After two years he got his first head coaching job at Iowa State, where has had little success. The Cyclones won their first two games this year but lost 10 straight to finish the season.
Chizik is a 1985 graduate of Florida, where he played linebacker.
He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Clemson in 1988. He's also had coaching stops at Middle Tennessee State (1990-91), Stephen F. Austin (1992-97) and Central Florida (1998-2001).
Chizik replaces Tommy Tuberville, who went 85-40 in 10 seasons at Auburn before resigning Dec. 3.