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The Auburn Conundrum: How Much Heat Should Chizik Feel?

SEC fans know that The Auburn Creed is a huge part of the school’s tradition.  But The Auburn Conundrum is what’s making news down in Alabama today.  And that conundrum is this: How much heat should a coach feel just 15 games removed from an undefeated season, SEC championship, and BCS title?  Oh, and throw in a victory over Bama, too.  At Auburn, Gene Chizik’s 2010 win over Nick Saban is probably as important as all those other achievements.

But since Chizik won the national crown with one-year wonder Cam Newton at quarterback, his Tigers have gone just 8-7.  Remove the 14-0, Newton-led season from Chizik’s record on the Plains and it currently stands at 16-12.  Toss in his two rough years at Iowa State and Chizik’s slate reads: 21 wins, 31 losses overall.

Again, that’s if you remove the Newton season.  And who’s to say it’s fair to remove that season in the first place?  After all — by hook or by crook (pun intended) — Chizik was the man who actually lured Newton to Auburn in the first place.  That should count for something.

Unfortunately for Chizik, his career Iron Bowl mark now stands at 1-2.  While his recruiting classes are consistently rated very highly by the pundits who measure such things, many of his signees have quickly washed in and then straight back out of his program.  There have been nearly as many Auburn football stories in the police blotter as there have been in the sports pages.

And after capturing that BCS championship back in 2010, Auburn AD Jay Jacobs presented Chizik with a $3.5 million contract that put him among the highest-paid coaches in the country.  With that kind of money, pressure increases.

When Chizik arrived at AU, the word from Jacobs and others was that Tommy Tuberville had left the cupboard bare.  The next year, Chizik won his title with many of the players making up that bare cupboard (and no thanks to Tuberville was ever given).  Since then, Chizik’s had to build up his roster all over again.  And as we’ve stated many, many times, the SEC is no place for teams relying heavily on freshmen and sophomores.  From Bobby Petrino to Derek Dooley to Joker Phillips, ask any current or former SEC coach and you’ll find that the best SEC squads really do play “old man” football because they literally have older men starting.

Which brings us back to Auburn’s conundrum.  How much heat should Chizik be feeling after bringing Auburn its first national title since 1957 just 15 games ago?  Fifteen games!

In a perfect world, he probably shouldn’t find his seat warming at all.  He’s building again with several freshmen and sophomores in his two-deep, two new coordinators, and two new systems on offense and defense.  That’s not easy.  In addition, Kiehl Frazier hasn’t turned out to be the passing quarterback most folks expected him to become when he signed two years ago.  Most importantly, Chizik’s won a national championship.  That’s not an easy thing to do.  Even with Newton at quarterback.

But in reality, you better believe Chizik’s ship is now sailing into dangerous waters.  Even though several key players have graduated, Chizik’s had four recruiting classes to build depth and find new stars.  Clearly he’s taken some risks on the recruiting trail and several of those have blown up in his face (and in the crime sections of many newspapers).  Chizik’s also the one who changed both his offense and defense and brought in new coordinators.  Chizik, Chizik, and Chizik.

In a perfect world — a world before multi-million dollar salaries for coaches and a culture of instant gratification — Chizik’s national crown would buy him tons o’ time to truly build his program.  Example: This conversation probably wouldn’t be taking place if this were 1952 instead of 2012.

In reality, if it’s Year Four of your regime and you’re barely .500 over your last 15 games and your team is 0-2 to start its new season and it just got clubbed by Mississippi State 28-10 in its last outing… yeah, that means trouble.

How much trouble?  That’s the Auburn conundrum.



This article glosses over too many things.  One example:  No one ever claimed that Tuberville left the cupboard "bare," only that his last couple of classes were very weak.  Because of this, everyone knew 2010 was going to be the last chance for Tuberville's replacement to have a big year before the rebuilding would begin.  Also, you can't really say Chizik has had four recruiting classes -- the first class was mainly assembled by Tuberville before he left.


I do not judge Chizik based strictly on his record.  Given the rebuilding that is going on, the record is somewhat understandable.  The bigger problem to me is the lack of fundamentals.  Everyone knew the offense would probably struggle this year, but Loeffler looks clueless and Chiz is the guy who hired him.  Why not hire someone with more of a track record in big-boy football?  And while everyone knows VanGorder can coach defense, why are Auburn's defensive tackles so weak?  Why can the secondary not cover anyone?  Why do the linebackers look so lost?  And why can't anybody tackle?


All this goes back to coaching.  Chiz can get guys on campus, but he has yet to show that his program can consistently coach them up to their potential.  That's what needs to be fixed if Chizik wants to keep his job.


By the way... I wouldn't cite Josh Moon as an authority on anything, including the weather outside.  He is a total joke -- a Finebaum wannabe whose only goal is to stir people up.  Recall that when UAT hired Saban, Moon wrote that Saban was overrated as a coach.


Actually AUBURN needs a NEW Athletic Director......  Here is Auburn's main problem !!!

Get the right person and things could get RIGHT through time.........


What a stupid article.  Auburn fans love Chiz and recognize he is out recruiting Saban right now in Alabama.  Also, why no mention of all the players arrested in tuscaloosa or how about their recruit in Mobile just arrested for RAPE?  Alabama runs a dirty program and always has.  Nobody respects your claimed 9 national titles because you cheated every time.  And don't even go the "14 NC" fantasy. 




While the videos are quite annoying, I also appreciate the privilege of viewing the website free.  Thanks for that, guys.


The bigger conundrum at Auburn may be this:  Can anyone compete with Saban who is not named Petrino?


Which begs conundrum number three:  Can we really hire Petrino?


And conundrum number four:  Will it be worth the headache?


None of this to mention the fact that Louisiana Monroe has now become the pivotal game of the season that is only three weeks old and that they are coming off the biggest win in school history and that some are saying their quarterback should receive Heisman consideration.


Not gloating, but I would not want to be Chizik, Jacobs, or Dye right now.


Two things ....

1.  Hiring the Chizz at AU was a mistake.  It is that simple.  The Tigers could have won that championship with Newton and Malzahn and just about anyone as head coach.  Iowa State was happy to see him go, and now that the Cyclone program is in new hands, ISU is actually winning.  AU, on the other hand, gets worse, and the players show less and less discipline on and off the field.  The longer AU keeps him around, the worst things will be.


2.  These Publisher Union videos on the top right of these pages are annoying as hell.  They should not be set to autoplay.  I do not want the noise and I do not want the drag on my internet speed when I want to read one of these articles. 


Your first point completely misses part of the argument that was made in the article.  To say that Auburn could have won that with Newton and Malzahn and just about anyone at head coach totally discredits Chizik for the work he did to get both men on campus in the first place.  Malzahn was very good for Auburn, but it was Chizik's job to identify and hire him, just as it was his job to identify other coaches throughout his tenure thus far.  The same goes for identifying and recruiting Cam.  You can't punish a coach for actually doing his job well in recruiting players and coaches, can you?  That seems absurd.


Also, if you look at Iowa State's success during the last 2-3 years, you will notice that many of the players were Chizik recruits.  The man started 12 freshman during his last season at ISU.  You can't be expected to win immediately with those numbers.  And if ISU "was happy to see him go" as you state, then why did they try to give him a contract extension before he left?


I'm not saying that I'm happy with losing, but what I am saying is that after the 2010 title game, more than 30 players left the program, mostly due to graduation or the NFL.  That team was heavily loaded with seniors and juniors in all the right places (QB, DT, OL, MLB, WR, Special teams to name a few).  I'm certainly not excusing the off-the-field issues at the program over the last year or so.  Those need to be fixed and fixed quickly.  But please make a cogent argument before you make asinine statements like the above.John - Insightful, well thought out article.  Patience could pay off huge for Auburn as I think Auburn is about two years away from competing for the SEC again (the schedule next year is too brutal), but at least you point out correctly the nature of fickle football fans today compared to years ago.  Keep up the good work as I really enjoy the blog.


Auburn made a great run in 2010, Chizik did a good job putting that all together. Changing from the spread to a Pro style offense is also the right thing to do. Players like Tebow and Newton come along once in a blue moon. The fans need to understand changing from the spread means changing personnel and that takes time, I am not a fan of Auburn's but it will be 2-4 years to make that transition. Malzahn is a great coach but only in the spread, he would have a hard time consistently winning in the SEC with his style. The fact is Auburn will be lucky to make a bowl game this year or next. I do think it is worth the trouble to switch the offense, and Kiehl Frazier is not a pro style QB, He will not do well this season If I were him I would transfer to Ark. St. to be with Malzahn, Frazier grew up in High school playing in the spread and will be lucky to keep his job the rest of the season. I wish Auburn nothing but luck and the fans patience they will need it. I hope they give Chizik enough time to make the transition. I doubt the average fans will understand just how much if a uphill battler it is to change styles, the knowledgeable fans will get it but the average fan will be screaming for Chizik to go this time next year. I think if Petrino is available after next year enough time would have passed and they would consider him and more than likely will make it work. It's a world that is used to instant gratification in the internet age so less than  4 years will have passed after the end of next season since a BCS title and Chizik will probably get fired if his transition is not paying dividends in the form of a bowl next year. I doubt it will hapen that fast too, so we will know soon enough how fast you can go from a crystal football to being in the the unemployment line. 


Correct.  Malzahn was good for AU.  But if you think Chizz is a good coach for hiring one good assistant, then Tuberville is probably the greatest college coach of all time.  No one hired better assistants than he did.  Chizz has been a failure in recruiting.  43 percent of Auburn's 2009 and 2010 signees are no longer on the team, or never joined the program in the first place.  His percentage for 2011 is better, but then I would assume anyone could recruit after a championship season, especially when you could sell openings from the players leaving for the NFL.  He has already lost multiple recruits from 2012.  Yes, no one is perfect, but this guy is just not up to Auburn's standards.  I could go on, but this article sums it up pretty well.


To your point, AU could very well be two years away from competing for an SEC title, but so could about 10 other teams in the conference.



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