Was Auburn's Decision Not to Hire Turner Gill Racist?

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Was Auburn's Decision Not to Hire Turner Gill Racist?

Auburn’s recent hire, Gene Chizik, has the media and Charles Barkley up in arms over their perceived discriminatory hiring practices. The inference from the media—or in Barkley’s case, the outright accusation—alleges that Auburn’s decision not to hire Turner Gill was nothing more than blatant discrimination.

Most importantly, the action has added fuel to the controversy concerning the number of black coaches in the NCAA football league.

The weekend after Auburn’s decision not to hire Turner Gill, the football media coverage left no doubt how they perceived Auburn’s choice in the matter. In between the clips of Charles Barkley ranting, football pundits shook their heads in disapproval, some going as far to say that the football league should “do something” about the lack of black coaches in the league.

Of course, “do something” means that there should be quotas or rules governing the hiring of coaches to ensure an equal chance for black coaches. This is tantamount to affirmative action, which assumes that colleges would rather have white coaches than win football games, which is ridiculous.

No one would argue that, from a talent perspective, passing on Turner Gill for Gene Chizik was a boneheaded move. Equally stupid was the missed opportunities to hire TCU's Gary Patterson, Tulsa's Todd Graham, and Ball State's Brady Hoke. However, due to the fact that Turner Gill is black and Auburn is in Alabama, the stereotypical assumption is that racial prejudice was the reason for the snub.

Unfortunately, race probably was a consideration for Auburn when they made their final decision of who to hire. However, it wasn’t the hate-filled prejudice from the “good ole boys network,” as Barkley and company have implied. In a racially charged world of political correctness, every step and misstep is sensationalized and scrutinized by the media; Auburn’s choice had to be very well planned.

Think about it—the SEC changes coaches at twice the rate of other conferences. What do you think is going to happen to Chizik after a couple of mediocre seasons? What if Auburn had hired Gill and he has a couple of mediocre seasons?

Suffering the same fate, the headlines will read, “Auburn Fires Turner Gill,” followed by a segment on the inequality of minority coaches in college football, including innuendos from gifted orators like Charles Barkley. Perhaps Auburn just decided to take their medicine up front.

In all probability, any coach that follows Tommy Tuberville is merely a sacrificial lamb for the real coach to follow. Right now Auburn has an average football team, below average recruiting, and a new set of coaches—that’s a recipe for failure.

In case you haven’t noticed, the SEC doesn’t put up with mediocrity. High caliber teams like Auburn demand that their team be good EVERY season, with greatness lurking around the corner. Fans will endure a couple of bad seasons from a coach with a proven track record, like Saban or Meyer. However, without that assurance of greatness, an unproven coach can put the home up for sale after a couple of 8-4 seasons. Ask Ron Zook.

Unfortunately, the consequences of political correctness have forced high caliber teams like Auburn to plan an “exit strategy” in advance when hiring minorities, especially in Alabama. Believe it or not, the hiring and firing of a black coach by an Alabama college is treated differently by the media and perceived differently by the public.

For example, when Chizik arrived in Auburn to assume his role as the new head coach, he was greeted with boos and heckling from the Auburn “faithful.” They screamed “you suck” and “go home” at him all the way to the car.

What if Chizik had been black? Do you think the story would have legs? Hell yes, big ones. What if a couple of idiotic fans actually yelled something racial? How do you think that would play out for Auburn?

What about Sylvester Croom? He had a relatively smooth ride from the media and the fans while at Mississippi State. True, but Coach Croom inherited a second-rate team and coached them right back into mediocrity. Expectations at Mississippi State are much lower compared to Auburn’s standards. Croom wouldn’t have lasted two seasons at Auburn.

It’s a sad fact, but race had to be considered when making the decision to hire a coach at Auburn; it’s naïve to assume otherwise. However, it’s equally naïve to assume that race was the only deciding factor, or that that decision was rooted in hate.

Based on Gill’s limited resume, the probability of success and the implications of failure had to be weighed. On the other hand, had Tony Dungy been up for the job race, wouldn’t have been a factor whatsoever.

It’s not fair and it’s not right, but it is what it is, and we have political correctness and the media to blame.

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