Auburn program goes from solid to shaky

Published 2:44 pm Thursday, December 18, 2008

I wish I could write about the Davis Cup and Roger Federer coming to Birmingham because this will be one of the biggest events to come to Alabama in a long, long time. It could be as big as Shoal Creek hosting the PGA Championship in 1990.

However, Auburn’s coaching search conclusion has forced me to take another direction. I was floored when news editor Scott Mims informed me Saturday night when Gene Chizik had been hired as Auburn’s newest coach. I thought he was joking. I asked myself, “How in the world could Auburn hire a coach that was 5-19?” The only answer I can give is that Jay Jacobs is the athletic director.

I don’t know whether Chizik is just the best salesman in the history of mankind or if Jacobs is just the most gullable person alive. It’s probably a little of both.

Chizik does talk a good talk. He was pretty inspiring to listen to at his announcement press conference. His talk of bringing back a physical offense and how he loves Auburn is enough to fire up any kind of football enthusiast, but that’s where it ends.

The problem is that Chizik is only just talk. He hasn’t walked the walk. The best evidence of that is his tenure at Iowa State. The new Auburn coach, who was a defensive genius at Auburn and Texas, gave up more than 400 yards on defense and 35.8 points per game. Iowa State lost its last 10 games this season.

This is the worst résumé I have ever seen for a new football coach. Mike Shula even looks better than Chizik does. In Shula’s worst season, he won four games, which is one short of Chizik’s career mark. Terry Bowden had at least won at Samford before being hired by Auburn.

So, why didn’t Auburn hire a guy like Gary Patterson or Turner Gill? Both have won at their respective schools. Patterson has been consistently winning 10 games a year at TCU, and Gill took Buffalo to a conference title. More importantly, Auburn could have made a statement by hiring Gill as the school’s first African-American football coach. Instead, they wound up choosing Chizik.

I knew things were strange at Auburn, but this incident takes the cake. It’s bad for a coach to come in already on the hot seat, but really, the whole administration for Auburn is on the hot seat now. They have taken one of the most solid athletic programs over the last decade and have made it a laughingstock.

The only thing I know is that Chizik is the big winner. He went from being close to being fired at Iowa State to head coach at Auburn.