Auburn’s hire of Gene Chizik

I’m pretty well stunned by Auburn’s selection of Iowa State head coach Gene Chizik to replace Tommy Tuberville. Showing the door to a guy who won only five games this year and replacing him with a guy who’s won only five games ever is just insane. It can’t be the outcome the War Eagle leadership anticipated, and no amount of spin around Chizik’s success as defensive coordinator can erase the fact that the guy has been an absolute failure as a head coach.

His results at Iowa State are amazingly bad. Expectations there are not high – this is a team that averaged 4.2 wins a season over the 20 years prior to Chizik’s arrival – but Chizik managed to lower the bar even more. Taking over a team that won four games in 2006 (after winning seven in ’04 and ’05), Chizik “led” the Cyclones to three wins in ’07 and two this season. Those two wins were over South Dakota State and Kent State – Chizik went 0-8 in the Big 12 despite getting to skip Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech on the schedule.

To put his brief tenure at Iowa State into perspective, only seven other Division I teams have won five or fewer games in the past two seasons – SMU (2), Idaho (3), North Texas (3), Washington (4), Duke (5), Syracuse (5) and Utah State (5).

In 2006, Chizik was a hot prospect, having led both the Auburn and Texas defenses during undefeated seasons. And he deserved a shot at a head-coaching gig. He got it, and he blew it. That he would fail upward into a top-tier job after screwing up at Iowa State is amazing and rather insulting to the Turner Gills and Derek Dooleys of the world who have shown they have what it takes to move from assistant coach to head coach.

The Birmingham News ran a piece on the hire today carrying the following lead:

AUBURN – Gene Chizik knows a little something about winning.

The cheeky “knows a little something …” line is meant to paint a picture of Chizik as a “winner”. The article goes on to recap his successes at Auburn and Texas as an assistant coach. But here’s the thing – assistant coaches don’t “win” games. They succeed or they fail at their job and their assignments, but winning comes from the top. Teams have to win in all three phases of the game on the field, and they have to win in numerous aspects – from recruiting to conditioning to game prep and so forth – off the field. The head coach is at the helm, and is responsible for “winning” and “losing”. All Chizik knows a little something about is losing.

Maybe he was a great coach in an impossible position at Iowa State. His results sure don’t indicate that. Auburn is ignoring his results and giving him a pass on his actual performance as head coach and turning the clock back to 2006. That they would do this and hire Chizik says a lot about the state of Auburn football, the mentality around the program and the pool of candidates available after they axed the guy actually responsible for those War Eagle wins they now want to attribute to Chizik.

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One Response to “Auburn’s hire of Gene Chizik”

  1. Smoove D says:

    As a University at Buffalo alum, watching Turner Gill take that team from the basement of Division I-A to a MAC title* in three seasons has been amazing. While Mr. Gill will certainly go on to bigger things, I’m glad Auburn fucked this up good and proper. I’d like to see Mr. Gill stay in Buffalo for a few seasons – and then end up in Aggieland once they figure out what a mistake Mr. Sherman is.

    * Despite Whitlock’s bitching and moaning in his column, Buffalo won that fair and square. Championship teams don’t turn the ball over four times, and every one of those led to points for the Bulls.

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