Monday, October 8, 2012
Future, not the past, will decide Chizik's fate
By Chris Low
The hot-seat question has become as much a part of the SEC football experience as festive tailgate parties, fierce recruiting battles and national championship hardware.
This just in: If you coach in this league, you’re always on the hot seat.
Gene Chizik's season hasn't started out the way he and Auburn fans had hoped, as the Tigers are 1-4.
What matters is the here and now.
There is no such thing as equity. There is no such thing as enduring loyalty. There is no such thing as patience.
Remember when coaches used to talk about five-year plans?
Heck, a four-year plan in this league is about as obsolete as leather helmets.
That’s what happens when more than half of your head coaches are making in excess of $2.5 million per year.
And when you do win in this league, you better keep on winning.
This is all a long-winded way of saying that I’m not the least bit surprised by all the unrest at Auburn right now. The Tigers are 1-4 and looking like a long shot to finish with a winning season. All the while, there’s a growing faction among the Auburn fan base that wants Gene Chizik out and wants him out now.
Yes, this is the same Gene Chizik that led Auburn to a national championship two years ago, the school’s first in 53 years.
But it’s also the same Gene Chizik that just lost to a reeling Arkansas team last week at home and has now lost six of his last seven SEC games dating back to last season. Those six defeats were by an average margin of 23 points.
On the surface, it’s ridiculous that a coach two years removed from winning a national championship would even be in the conversation of coaches around the country who’re in real trouble.
Let’s be honest. Only a handful of people on the Plains really know whether Chizik is genuinely in trouble.
One of those people is former Auburn coach Pat Dye, who’s still a major player when it comes to matters involving the Auburn football team.
Dye went on an Arkansas radio show last week and said Chizik wouldn’t be in trouble if he didn’t win another game this season and maintained that Chizik would “absolutely” be back next season no matter what.
For what it’s worth, Dye also said former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino (who was once an assistant at Auburn) would never get hired at Auburn.
Of course, Dye made his comments before Auburn went out and stunk up Jordan-Hare Stadium against Arkansas, a loss so ugly that Chizik apologized to the Auburn fans.
In theory, I’m with Dye on this one. I don’t see Auburn sending Chizik packing after this season. But if things don’t get better in a hurry, he’s going to have one foot out the door entering the 2013 season.
Some may say he already does. Chizik brought in two new coordinators prior to this season. It’s been a disaster on offense, and at this rate, the person whose seat may be the hottest is offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.
Still, Chizik’s issues run much deeper than simply trying to salvage this season.
That “other” school in the state of Alabama is dominating college football right now and has a head coach that is driven beyond belief. The Crimson Tide aren’t recruiting players under Nick Saban. They’re selecting them.
Not only that, but Saban has a pretty fair track record of developing those players, which explains why Alabama has won two of the last three national championships and is ranked No. 1 again this season.
Saban casts a long shadow across that state, which even for a coach like Chizik who won a national championship of his own two years ago, can create impossible odds.
The recruiting rankings are starting to work against Chizik, too. Auburn’s class last year was ranked No. 17 nationally by ESPN, but was No. 3 in 2011 and No. 4 in 2010.
The problem is that a lot of those players who helped Auburn attain those lofty rankings are either no longer in the program or haven’t panned out to this point.
What’s more, sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier -- ranked among the top high school quarterbacks in the country two years ago -- has struggled mightily this season and was pulled last week in favor of Clint Moseley.
The Tigers are ranked 12th in the SEC in total defense. That’s after finishing 11th in total defense last season.
Simply, there’s not a lot that Auburn can hang its hat on right now, making it difficult for anybody on the Plains to see a rosy future.
That’s not to say it won’t get rosier down the road, but the future is surely how Chizik will be judged.
Whether he gets one more year, two more years or no more years, you can bet the Auburn brass will base that decision on how much confidence it has in Chizik being able to dig the program out of this funk going forward, and probably most importantly, being able to steer the program out of that giant crimson shadow.
Anything he’s done in the past ... is just the past.