Auburn Football: Making the Case to Retain Gene Chizik as Auburn Head Coach

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Auburn Football: Making the Case to Retain Gene Chizik as Auburn Head Coach
Auburn coach Gene Chizik presser on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. Photo Credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics

The sting from a 1-5 start to the 2012 season has many Auburn supporters yearning for a change at the top of the Auburn football program and the Auburn athletic department.

It is completely within the rights of every Auburn fan (especially those who spend hard-earned money on attending games and donating to the program) to voice their opinion on who they think the coach should be and what changes should be made. However, this decision should not be made out of emotion and should be thought of with the long-term view of the Auburn football program in mind.

With that being said, it is a foregone conclusion to many members of the Auburn family that Gene Chizik will not return as the Auburn head coach in 2013 because of Auburn’s struggles out of the gate in 2012.

Auburn should retain Chizik as head coach in 2013. If you need to read that again, Auburn should retain Chizik as head coach in 2013.

On June 10, 2011 Auburn made a significant investment in Chizik after he hoisted the crystal ball above his head in January of 2011. It extended his contract until 2015 and gave him a salary increase that totaled $3.5 million dollars a year. If certain incentives are met, that contract could go as high as $4.5 million dollars a year.

Auburn should not walk away from an investment (bad investment or not) of that size just two years later.

Athletic director Jay Jacobs was more than happy to make that investment at the time.

I am pleased to announce a well-deserved raise and contract extension for Coach Chizik," Jacobs said. "We believe that we have the best coach in college football. More importantly, Coach Chizik is a great mentor to our student-athletes, he represents Auburn with class and integrity in all that he does, and he is an outstanding ambassador for Auburn University. (via Auburn Athletics, AuburnTigers.com)

Jacobs’ words will ring hollow if Auburn walks away from what it believes is “the best coach in college football.”

The issue of Chizik’s $7.5 million buyout has been a topic of debate. If it wanted, Auburn could pay that amount over the next three years without blinking.

The problem is not in the money. The problem is in the message it sends to the college football coaching market. “We will only like you and support you in the good times,” is not what any coach wants to hear in the volatile world of college football.

Currently, Auburn has the ninth-ranked recruiting class for 2013, according to Rivals.com. The 2013 commitments will be Chizik’s fifth recruiting class. His last three recruiting classes, along with the 2013 recruiting class, will be the backbone of Auburn football through the 2017 football year.

Does a coach not owe it to the players and their families that he recruits to attempt to make good on his promises?

There is precedent with the top programs in the SEC that stick with their coaches through good times and bad.

In 2009 and 2010, the Georgia Bulldogs were a very mediocre 14-12. That included losses to UCF, Colorado and Mississippi State. Despite a two-year valley (where Mark Richt changed defensive coordinators and defensive schemes), Georgia stuck with the person who it thought was the right coach for the program.

It is safe to say that the Tigers would trade places with the 5-1 Bulldogs this season. Many Georgia fans would probably trade a 2010 BCS title for a 3-9 season in 2012, as well.

In Columbia, SC, Steve Spurrier led the Gamecocks to a 7-6 record in both 2008 and 2009. South Carolina currently sits at No. 7 in the first BCS rankings of the 2012 season.

Chizik's message: "I am the leader of the team and leader of the group. I am unbending in how I approach things with our football team."

— Aaron Brenner (@wareagleextra) October 16, 2012

 

Chizik did not all of a sudden forget how to coach. He has been in the coaching business for 23 years. He has won numerous awards, including the Frank Broyles Award in 2004.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Carlos Rogers is one of three Thorpe Award winners that Gene Chizik has coached.

Chizik has also tutored three Thorpe Award (best defensive back in college football) recipients.

Chizik has made mistakes, there is no doubting that. To throw him to the dogs after one losing season would be foolish and set the football program back even more than it is.

You would be getting lied to if you were told that Chizik is putting a decent product on the field. It’s far from easy to watch Auburn on offense and defense, at times.

Auburn fans and the administration should allow him to fix what is broken by hiring new people in places where a new face is needed and to continue building towards his vision of the Auburn football program.

College football is cyclical, like all things. There are peaks and valleys. It was not long ago that the current national champions were going through a valley that saw a 6-7 record and a coaching change. No one believed a 5-7 Auburn team in 2008 would be in Glendale, AZ two years later winning a national championship.

Patience is hard to come by, but it is what is required of Auburn fans. As many lucky bounces as Auburn got in 2010, it is getting just as many unlucky bounces this year.

Auburn should stand by the man it invested so much into and stood by when hiring with a 5-19 record from Iowa State. If it doesn’t, Chizik will not be the only one to look like a fool.

 

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