As losses continue to pile up for Gene Chizik and the Auburn Tigers in 2012, the doubtful has become the inevitable.
It is a foregone conclusion that Chizik will not be returning to Auburn in 2013.
No one knows who the next coach will be (that's a different story for a different day), but he will walk into a situation vastly different than the one Chizik walked into in 2008.
Chizik inherited a program in December of that year that had suffered a lot of roster attrition from Tommy Tuberville’s last two recruiting classes.
Whoever inherits the program four years later will not face the same roster issues that plagued Chizik.
Auburn is a program that can win immediately with the right hire.
It has been noted many times that Chizik has reeled in three straight top-10 recruiting classes. Say what you want about the coaching dexterity of Chizik, but he and his staff can recruit.
The problem has been the development of the classes he has brought in.
Nearly 20 players remain from Auburn’s 2010 recruiting class. It was ranked fourth in the country by Rivals. Auburn signed 32 in the class.
There has been a sizable amount of attrition from this class due to players getting into trouble or not living up to Chizik’s standards (see: Mike Dyer).
Even with the attrition, this class is large enough to provide a respectable base of seniors or redshirt juniors in 2013.
Auburn has over 20 players on the roster from the 2011 recruiting class (ranked seventh in the country by Rivals) who will be juniors or redshirt sophomores in 2013.
The impact of the 2012 recruiting class is already being felt this year with guys like Jonathan Wallace, Joshua Holsey and others. Eighteen players are on the roster from this year’s recruiting class that signed 21 recruits.
As you can see, the next coach will not be walking into his first season undermanned.
If (and it’s a big if) Auburn’s new head coach can hang on to the highly touted 2013 recruiting class, he will have even more talent to win immediately with.
The only question mark will be how well the new coach and his staff develop the inherited talent. The "right hire" will develop these players into consistent contributors of a championship-caliber team. Chizik and his staff haven't been able to do that.
It has become a trend under Chizik for 4- and 5-star talent to come in and never reach their potential.
Not only will the new coach inherit a boatload of talent, other perks that come with the Auburn head coaching position are state-of-the-art facilities and a solid recruiting base in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
Auburn has a brand new $16.5 million, 92,000-square foot indoor practice facility and recently renovated the weight room. There have also been upgrades to the exterior of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn has always had success recruiting in nearby Atlanta. Chizik has made inroads in what used to be Crimson Tide territory in certain sections of the state of Alabama.
The biggest battle that the new coach will have to fight will be the uncertainty in the athletic department should there also be a change of management in that area. According to AL.com's Kevin Scarbinsky, it appears there will be:
It’s believed that, behind the scenes, someone on Auburn’s behalf has reached out to gauge the interest of a potential candidate to succeed Jacobs as AD in the near future. It’s someone who, like Jacobs, is a former Auburn player, but unlike Jacobs, has successfully managed a multimillion-dollar business.
That potential candidate is former Auburn kicker Scott Etheridge. He interviewed for the AD job that went to Jacobs in 2004.
However, a coach would much rather deal with uncertainty in the athletic department than roster uncertainty.
With high expectations and fear of falling farther behind in the SEC, Auburn fans will expect a new coach to win and do so immediately.
With the roster and amenities that the new coach will have at his disposal, the opportunity to meet (or even exceed) those expectations is there for the taking.