Gene Chizik is overseeing a team that’s just an overtime win over Louisiana-Monroe away from being 0-8 at the moment. Last week, Auburn president Jay Gogue said a thorough examination of the football program would come at season’s end. That was followed by a longtime Alabama-based columnist suggesting it might be time for Auburn to find a new coach and a new athletic director. This week, oddsmaker Danny Sheridan piled on by telling an Alabama booster group that Auburn’s football program was again under NCAA investigation.
Amazingly, things are getting more negative still.
Now the aforementioned columnist is flat-out calling for heads and suggesting that a search for a new AD is already in motion. And Chizik is having to “no comment” his way past questions regarding the NCAA.
Yesterday, Chizik was asked about Sheridan’s claims that the NCAA was eyeballing the Tigers and that Chizik had pulled two of his assistants off the recruiting trail. His response:
“I don’t have time for all of that. I’ve got one direct focus, that is my team and my players. That has nothing to do with us winning. Whoever said what has nothing to do with anything, so I am not getting into any of that stuff. I’ve got one track, and that is our players and our coaches and trying to get us to the next win, so all of that stuff, I have no comment on that.”
Seems if these latest Sheridan claims weren’t true Chizik would have quickly denied them. But this isn’t a he-said/he-said issue. If the NCAA is investigating, it will eventually be made public, so Chizik couldn’t very well lie about it. Which makes his “no comment” style response much more conspicuous.
Meanwhile, Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News writes: “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 Jacobas as AD in the near future.” He says that person is ex-Auburn kicker Scott Etheridge who interviewed for the AU job when Jacobs landed it in 2004.
He also states:
“If that overture has taken place, it means someone at Auburn understands that the school can’t start rebuilding as both a football program and an athletics department until it starts over at the top in both places by replacing Chizik and Jacobs. It would be foolish to fire Chizik but keep Jacobs. You can’t allow the same person that overlooked all the warning signs of a 5-19 head coach to try again.
The timing is less than ideal to search for a new AD because there’s not near enough time to find one and ask him to go find a new football coach. So those searches have to run on parallel runways.
With Auburn falling farther behind its rivals every day, both of those planes should’ve left the hangar by now.”
As we wrote on Monday, Auburn’s search for a new coach is made more confusing by the Jacobs situation. Will recent scandals, off-field issues, allegations and NCAA investigations prevent AU from chasing a former target like Bobby Petrino (because of his own recent scandal)? And who will be making the call on a new coach? A new AD? The president? Big money men and boosters?
One of the issues Scarbinsky brings up in his call for an AD change is Jacobs’ decision post-2010 BCS title to present Chizik with a huge new contract ($3.5 million per season) and an enormous buyout ($10 million now, but dropping to $7.5 million in December).
In June of 2011 Jacobs had this to say about Chizik and that new pact:
“I am pleased to announce a well-deserved raise and contract extension for Coach Chizik. 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…
We look forward to Coach Chizik being our coach at Auburn for a long, long time.”
That was 16 months ago when Chizik’s record on the Plains was 22-5. Sixteen months later his Auburn record is 31-17. And both he and the man who gave him his contract extension are thisclose to being shown the door.
Welcome to state of college football today. With millions of dollars at stake, things can change in a nanosecond. In 16 months a program, a coach and an athletic director can go from being the best to being a total mess.