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Who’s The Better Coach: AU’s Chizik Or ISU’s Rhoads?

At the end of the 2008 season, Auburn AD Jay Jacobs fired Tommy Tuberville and his staff following a 5-7 season.  Jacobs hired former Tuberville assistant Gene Chizik away from Iowa State and much head-scratching ensued on the Plains.  To fill the vacancy left by Chizik in Ames, ISU turned to former Auburn defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads who’d just been let go by the Tigers.

In January of 2010, Jacobs looked like a genius.  Chizik had a BCS championship ring and Cam Newton had a Heisman Trophy.  (Of course, the school also had to deal with all manner of scrutiny and accusations regarding Newton and the NCAA even changed a rule after the fact to close the so-called “Newton loophole.”)  But two years later, it’s fair to ask who really wound up making the better hire back in ’08: Auburn or Iowa State?

In two years in Ames, Chizik posted a 5-19 record, including an 0-8 Big XII record in 2008.  At Auburn, his teams have finished 8-5, 14-0 with Newton, 8-5, and now 1-4 to begin the 2012 campaign.  Tally it up and that’s a 36-33 mark over five-and-a-half seasons as a head coach.  Take out the Newton season and Chizik is just 22-33 overall, 17-14 at Auburn overall, and just 7-12 in the SEC.

Meanwhile, Rhoads took over a team that had gone 5-19 under Chizik and has reached two bowl games, finished with a winning record in his first season, and now has Iowa State at 4-1 this season following a 37-23 win at #15 TCU on Saturday… a win that ended the nation’s longest win streak at 12 games.  Rhoads also has upsets over #22 Texas in 2010, #19 Texas Tech in 2011, and a 37-31 shocker over then #2 Oklahoma State last November under his belt.  He’s currently 22-21 as the Cyclones’ head coach.

You won’t find Rhoads matching up well with Chizik in the recruiting rankings.  Currently, Auburn is #9 in terms of 2013 commitments while Iowa State is #60.  Last year, Auburn’s post-signing day rank was #10 in the nation.  Iowa State was #87.

But ISU’s coach appears to be a guy who can do more with less, while Chizik is a guy who’s looking increasingly like a guy who can do more… with Cam Newton.  Iowa State appears to be getting better.  Auburn appears to be getting worse.

Rhoads signed a deal last December paying him $20 million over 10 years.  Chizik was given a salary of $3.5 million per year after his BCS win.  Who’s getting more value?  That depends on how much a BCS championship is worth two years after the fact.

Look, there’s no question that Chizik is having to coach in the SEC while Rhoads is in the Big XII.  There’s a difference there.  And we certainly aren’t suggesting Chizik should be let go.  He did land Newton and he did win the BCS title with him.

But it is fair to ask which school got the better deal on its football coach.  If Rhoads is winning in an easier conference, then why didn’t Chizik?  And if Rhoads is pulling upsets with a team whose foundation was laid by Chizik, then why isn’t the foundation Chizik’s put down at Auburn paying off in something better than a 1-4 record and a soul-crushing 24-7 loss to previous butt-of-jokes Arkansas this past weekend?

Here’s betting in January of 2010, Jacobs didn’t think anyone would be able to even ask if his coach is better than Iowa State’s coach.



The Big 12 an easier conference? Really? The conference rankings over the last few years have shown the Big 12 to be the equal of, sometimes slightly better, sometimes slightly less...than the SEC. As for Iowa State. I don't think you'll find an ISU supporter anywhere that isn't glad that Chizik is gone. 


Let's get this back on topic ( Iowa State fan here acknowledging that the SEC is a superior conference)...


Who's the better coach?  It's a trick question.  The answer is BOTH (or neither).  Gene never belonged in Ames and 10 out of 10 ISU fans would take Paul over Gene if asked.  I can't speak for Auburn fans but I suspect they'd prefer Gene over Paul mostly because Paul doesn't have the SEC pedigree that Gene does.  Paul is on his way to becoming the greatest ISU coach ever (I know, I know,  tallest midget...) and we just love the guy.  He grew up 30 miles from campus and was on Dan McCarney's staff when Dan was pulling us out of the cellar in the early 2000's. He is truly one of us and that means a lot to the fanbase of a program that's been a punchline (and punching bag) for nearly a century.


It's much different for marquee SEC programs.  You guys care much less if your coach is "one of you".  Your coaches have to win, period.  And I'm not sure Paul could have done that out of the gate at Auburn the way Gene did.  We're enjoying the ride up here; we're enjoying watching our defense become good even by Big XII standards.  We're loving the upsets and bowl games.  We're breaking attendance and season ticket purchase records.  We're enjoying getting out of Iowa and Nebraska's shadows a little bit.  None of these things move the needle at Auburn.  Auburn is about championships and Gene delivered one.


Whose better?  I would never trade Paul Rhoads for Gene Chizik.  How's that for an answer?


Chizik was a fine Defensive Coordinator.  Not much of a head coach though.  Paul Rhoads has performed better with ISU since Chizik left and Dan Carney performed better before Chizik got there.  I may be colored with crimson glasses, but I've never been impressed with Chizik's teams.  Even in the 2010 championship year, Auburn could have easily lost 5 games if not more.  Cam pulled them through when the game was on the line.


It's been said that Chizik's only plan for improvement at ISU was to recruit better players.  You see how that worked out for him.  Apparently, that's his only real strategy at AU as well and that won't cut it in the long run.  Tubberville was a much better coach in my opinion.


And now that I've taken my chance to bust on Auburn....the SEC is still better than the Big XII.  Come on folks, if you can't play defense then you don't have a real shot to compete. 

DennisMcElroy 1 Like

 @AllTideUp Any head coach is only as good as their assistants. Chizik brought in somewhat of an all-star cast and has now lost some of the key assistants. Some of the best coaches are those that keep their outstanding assistants employed for a long period. Perfect example - Hayden Fry of Iowa. 


It's not pretending the year does not exist. It's putting that year in context.


Chizik is not building a program. He had a stellar year managing a lightning-in-a-bottle team with a generational talent at QB. Good for him.


His other 3 teams included 2 middle of the pack efforts, and this year it's a horse race with Kentucky to see which team is the SEC's worst.


Trend is down. Straight down.



It very unfair to judge Chizik and not include the year he had Cam Newton. It wasn't all Cam that season he was the biggest cog in the machine but not the only one. Chizik is an excellent coach IMO.


 @dynamitefan2 I think that this is by and large a fair statement.  It is unfair to remove the successes and judge an individual only on the failures. At the same time, if this success was not a product of Chizik, meaning you could put anyone in that situation and they would win, would it be fair to assume the same?  Of course, you would also have to apply that logic to the reverse; put a any legendary coach in his place during the failures and would they also have the same seasons?  I'm not sure.  Overall, a well thought out statement, dynamitefan2. Unfortunately, the currency of coaching is measured only in wins, and Chizik's account is currently in the red. 


First off, the SEC has NOTHING on the Big XII this year....say whatever you want....deapest conference in the land.  Rhodes had to piece together 'the foundation' that Chizik laid...Ill grant Chizik that he did find some good recruits and was not delt much of a hand while at ISU.  All that aside, Rhodes is one hell of a coach.  Chizik has had the benefit of a top 25 recruiting class year in and out since arriving at Auburn and had a much more talent laden team coming into Auburn that Rhodes did at ISU.  The difference is motivation, passion, and respect.  Chizik thinks that big names can motivate themselves, wrong, ask Mac Brown how 11 players play together when each is competing with eachother for the limelight...he's had that education and learned the importance of motivation over the past couple years.  There is no questions about Rhodes passion...he wears his emotion on his sleeve...that's just his personality, but Chizik makes no best he looks like a soggy noddle trying to put a dent in a cast iron pot when he talks to the team or the press.  Then there's respect.  I will leave the ethical questions out of the discussion for now (but it really does play a role when it comes to the individuals that are drawn to your program).  Chizik thinks that, well, afterall he is a head Coach at a school in the SEC...he deserves respect.  Rhodes knows that he has to earn the respect of his university, players, fellow coaches, and fan base every day he is on the job.  He also wouldn't change that attitude if he were at any other school.  Paul Rhodes, better man, better coach.


 @StateMan08 Well, to say that the SEC has 'NOTHING' on the Big 12 this year is somewhat of an overstatement.  I believe that the BIg 12 is overall a better conference when measuring each time as a part of the median/mean/mode, but that doesn't really mean a whole lot to us if Alabama (or another team - hey, anything can happen in college football) wins the national title game.  I think ultimately it will be either Alabama vs Oregon, or Alabama vs West Virginia.  Then again... I'm short on my wins in the bets department, and it is too early to come to any conclusion in that regard.  Go Cyclones!


 @StateMan08 Oops.. meant to say;

 if Alabama (or another SEC team - hey, anything can happen in college football)


 @StateMan08 "First off, the SEC has NOTHING on the Big XII this year....say whatever you want....deapest conference in the land."


Thanks for the comic relief.  The Big XII may be "deap," but the SEC is by far the deepest conference.  Good luck in Ames.

daveakston 1 Like

 @DawgInMemphis  @StateMan08 I would say that the Big 12 is generally the better conference when weighing all teams and creating an average.  The SEC has some elite teams, but it also has some teams that are not good.  Place Alabama against any team and it wins 99% of the time, but this is one end of the spectrum.  I would support the statement that the SEC has the best team(s) in the nation, but not that it is the deepest conference if the measure includes all members as an average, or median.

DennisMcElroy 1 Like

 @DawgInMemphis  @daveakston  @StateMan08 There are several comparisons of conference strength and they always ALWAYS show the Big 12 even, better, or slightly less than the SEC. The conferences are pretty much dead even in strength. You can't compare an injury riddled Mizzou team this year with the 7-5 squad (very average) of last year. For example:

So far this year its the Big 12

Last Year

(gives a slight edge to the SEC

Gives an edge to the Big 12





 @daveakston  @StateMan08 I'll have to respectfully disagree.  Take Mizzou for example.  Over the last several years, Mizzou has been quite successful in Big XII league play.  Look at them this year... they just lost to Vandy - traditionally the worst team in the SEC - and are 0 and 3 in conference play with Bama coming to town this weekend.  I'm not trying to knock the Big XII - it's full of great schools with good football programs.  However, the SEC is crazy deep.  The traditional "lower tier" SEC schools are - Vandy, UK, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State.  I'm a huge Miss. State fan, and I'm glad to see that Bulldog football is MUCH better than it's been since JWS left the program (a huge part of our success now was that Coach Croom came in and really changed the culture at MSU).  We THUMPED Michigan in the Gator bowl two years ago.  Ole Miss is a much improved team this year.  Vandy is not the Vandy of old.  UK is pretty bad this year, as well as Auburn.  I don't know what's happened at Arkansas, but that's a mess as well. Tennessee is looking better this year.  If you lined up the power rankings for the SEC vs. any other conference (this year - and most years), I think the SEC wins 60% + of those games.  Maybe it's me being a bit of a homer, but aside from UK, every team in this league is more than capable (even a terrible Auburn team).  You're not going to find too many SEC fans that will disagree with me.  I try to look at things as objectively as I can, and I don't think there's any doubt that the SEC is the best, and deepest, conference today.

StateMan08 1 Like


My mistake...should have left the conference vs. conference debate out of my post...the objective of that statement was to point out that Iowa State has had some of the toughest schedules in the nation (last year ranked second most difficult, this year can fact check me on that....but they were tougher than Auburns).  Iowa State has not had the individual talent that Auburn has had or has, and Rhodes is certainly doing more with what he's got, especially considering the mountain they have had to climb with the schedules they have faced...both Rhodes and Chizik have now had the opportunity to develop their programs...Rhodes has been able to do much much more.  He may not get a national championship this year or next (or the next, etc.), but the trend is up, and the respect he garners from our fan base and everyone he meets is palpable.  Better man, Better coach.


"But ISU’s coach appears to be a guy who can do less with more." 


I think you mean "more with less." 


I really enjoy the blog!  Keep up the good work - makes my work day flow so much smoother!



John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



Ha!  You are correct, my friend.  Many thanks for the catch.


It's been corrected.


Thanks for reading the site,



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