Auburn president made final call in hiring Chizik

Published 4:50 pm Thursday, December 18, 2008

AUBURN — Auburn University President Jay Gogue said he made the decision to hire football coach Gene Chizik and did it without seeking or receiving input from Auburn trustees or other boosters.

Gogue told The Birmingham News in a story Tuesday that the ex-Iowa State coach was the only candidate recommended by athletic director Jay Jacobs. The hiring has drawn criticism by some Auburn fans because Chizik was only 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State, his first head coaching job.

Gogue said he was “somewhat surprised” by the negative reaction.

“Auburn people care deeply about this place,” he said. “Coaching changes are always difficult. So, while the reaction initially surprised me a little, I would have to say looking at it now that I am not as surprised given the fact that people do care so much about the program.”

Gogue said he wasn’t involved in interviewing any other candidate before meeting with Chizik Saturday in Memphis.

“I think this is a person I am comfortable with,” he said.

He said he wanted Chizik to address three areas of concern.

“I was interested in his views on graduating his athletes; taking care of your kids and making sure that I don’t read about them in the newspaper in terms of off-field activities; (and) making sure the NCAA rules are followed,” Gogue said. “We have 10 years of no compliance problems at Auburn.

“And I finally asked him what would be among the first things he would do as coach and he told me that he wanted to return to Iowa to say goodbye to his players. I was impressed that he wanted to go back and talk to the kids face to face. I have been places where that didn’t happen.”

Gogue instructed Jacobs to get permission from a school’s athletic director before interviewing any coach.

“Don’t call a coach, don’t call an agent,” he said he instructed Jacobs.

Gogue also knows the perception has existed at Auburn that trustees wielded too much control over the university and athletics program, including hiring and firing football coaches. He said that wasn’t the case this time.

“Not a single call with any advice or counsel was made to me,” Gogue said.