Auburn hires Iowa State’s Gene Chizik

Published 6:35 pm Saturday, December 13, 2008

AMES, Iowa – Auburn has hired Iowa State’s Gene Chizik as its new football coach, turning to a former defensive coordinator who helped the Tigers forge a perfect season but has won five games in two years as a head coach.

Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said Chizik told him Saturday he was accepting the job at Auburn.

“I’m disappointed for our Iowa State fans and student-athletes that he has chosen to leave our program after only two seasons,” Pollard said in a statement. “I understand that it is a dream job for him, but the timing and the way it played out has been hurtful and disappointing.”

Chizik will succeed Tommy Tuberville, who resigned following 10 seasons with an 85-40 record.

“Through my travels in coaching over the last 23 years, there’s one place that I’ve always wanted to return to and that is Auburn,” Chizik said in a statement posted on the Auburn athletic department Web site late Saturday. “My family and I are Auburn through and through, and look forward to being part of the Auburn family and community.”

Earlier, after landing in Auburn on a university jet, Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs had declined to confirm the hiring after it was reported by numerous media outlets. But he later said in the statement that he was proud and excited to have Chizik returning to Auburn.

“He is a high-energy coach that is an outstanding motivator and demands a tough, physical style of football,” Jacobs said. “I’m confident that Gene can build upon the foundation that has been established and make this a program that competes for championships on a consistent basis.”

Jacobs was on the plane with university President Jay Gogue and other athletic department officials, reportedly returning from a trip to Memphis, where Chizik’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, is based. A couple of dozen fans greeted the plane and some of them heckled the Auburn officials for choosing a coach with a losing record.

The 46-year-old Chizik is 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State after successful stints running the defenses at Auburn and Texas. He coached the nation’s top scoring defense on a 2004 Auburn team that went 13-0 in his third and final season with the Tigers before taking the same job at Texas.

That 2004 defense allowed just 11.3 points a game and Auburn finished the season ranked No. 2 in the country. In his lone season running the defense for Texas, the Longhorns won a national championship.

Chizik made $1.05 million in base salary and guaranteed pay last season under a six-year deal and would owe Iowa State $750,000 if he takes the Auburn job.

Auburn was paying Tuberville an average of $3.3 million a year and agreed to give him $5.1 million to buy out his contract despite calling his departure a resignation. He stepped down after a 5-7 season and the Tigers’ first loss to rival Alabama in seven years, a 36-0 rout that was the final blow for a team that was predicted to win the Southeastern Conference Western Division.

Iowa State started out 1-8 in Chizik’s first year, but wins over Colorado and Kansas State at the end of the season gave the program momentum heading into 2008.

The Cyclones opened this season with wins over South Dakota State and Kent State before the bottom fell out. Iowa State ended the year on a 10-game losing streak and finished winless in the Big 12.

Like Chizik, Tuberville’s background was as a defensive coordinator. Auburn’s biggest problems came on the other side of the ball, where the Tigers ranked 110th in scoring offense last season. Tuberville fired first-year offensive coordinator Tony Franklin in midseason when a switch to the spread offense failed to pan out.

Last week, Chizik stripped offensive coordinator Robert McFarland and defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt of those duties and reassigned them within the staff. He also fired quarterbacks coach Tony Petersen and secondary coach Shawn Raney.

Auburn reportedly had interviewed at least eight coaches, including Buffalo’s Turner Gill and TCU’s Gary Patterson.