Chizik chopped: Auburn fires coach two years after BCS title run

Chizik chopped: Auburn fires coach two years after BCS title run

November 26th, 2012 by David Paschall in Sports College08football

Auburn coach Gene Chizik applauds following a touchdown in an NCAA college football game.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

SEEKING SUCCESS

Gene Chizik became the sixth consecutive Auburn coach (minimum one full season) to post a winning record with the Tigers:

COACH // SEASONS // RECORD

Shug Jordan* // 1951-75 // 176-83-6

Doug Barfield // 1976-80 // 29-25-1

Pat Dye // 1981-92 // 99-39-4

Terry Bowden // 1993-98 // 47-17-1

Tommy Tuberville // 1999-2008 // 85-40

Gene Chizik* // 2009-12 // 33-19

* -- Won the national title

A day after Auburn suffered a 49-0 loss at Alabama to complete an abominable 3-9 football season, Gene Chizik was fired as coach of the Tigers.

Chizik guided Auburn to a 33-19 record in four seasons, a run highlighted by the Tigers going 14-0 and winning the 2010 national championship behind the one-year marvels of quarterback Cam Newton. Auburn fell to 8-5 last season, which matched the record of Chizik's first year, but this season's team lost more games than any team in program history other than the 1950 Tigers, who went 0-10.

In its last three Southeastern Conference games against Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama, the Tigers were outscored by a combined 112-7 in the first half.

"My primary consideration was doing what is in the best interest of our current student-athletes and the future of our football program," Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said Sunday afternoon. "After some tough losses in a transition year in 2011, I had hoped our team would show improvement this season. Unfortunately, it did not.

"As we all know, the competition in our league is fierce. In the final analysis, I decided that we cannot risk falling further behind by waiting another year and hoping for improvement."

Auburn experienced the most sizable two-year fall following a national championship since The Associated Press began its rankings in 1936, and Chizik is now the second coach in SEC history to be fired despite winning a national title at his school. Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer was dismissed in 2008, a decade after leading the Volunteers to the title.

Chizik, who was Auburn's defensive coordinator for the 2004 team that went 13-0, was a controversial hire by Jacobs due to his 5-19 head-coaching record at Iowa State during the 2007-08 seasons.

"In my 27 years of coaching, I have gained an understanding of the high expectations in this profession," Chizik said in a statement. "When expectations are not met, I understand changes must be made. While we experienced a tremendous low in 2012, I will always be proud of the incredible highs that we achieved, including three bowl victories, an SEC championship and a national championship.

"I've been fortunate to spend seven years of my coaching career at Auburn, which is an incredible place to work and live. My family and I have been blessed to call Auburn home and look forward to remaining in the Auburn community."

Jacobs announced a search committee that will include three former players -- fullback Mac Crawford (1968-69), quarterback Pat Sullivan (1969-71) and tailback Bo Jackson (1982-85). Sullivan and Jackson won the Heisman Trophy during their senior seasons, and Sullivan currently coaches Samford University.

"We will be thorough and thoughtful as we look for someone with a track record as a proven winner, a commitment to playing within the rules and a focus on student-athlete academic success," said Jacobs, who added that there would be no time frame.

The total buyout for Chizik and his nine full-time assistants is $11.09 million, according to the university. Six assistants will be paid the remainder of their 2012-13 contracts in equal monthly installments until June 30, 2013, while the others -- offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and assistant head coach/receivers coach Trooper Taylor -- will be paid over the next 18 months.

Loeffler and VanGorder were hired earlier this year and were disastrous, with the Tigers finishing 115th among 120 Bowl Subdivision teams in offense (305.0 yards a game) and 82nd in defense (420.5).

Chizik's buyout will be paid in monthly installments through the 2015-16 fiscal year. All buyout totals could decrease with future employment and would be affected if Auburn violated NCAA rules.

It was reported that NCAA investigators interviewed at least one assistant last week, as well as several players.

"We're not going to talk about, confirm or deny, anything with the NCAA," Jacobs said. "This boils down to winning and losing, and winning three games is unacceptable."

Two former Auburn offensive coordinators, Bobby Petrino and Gus Malzahn, could be among the potential candidates. Petrino coached Arkansas to 21 wins during the 2010-11 seasons but was fired in April for lying about an extramarital relationship, while Malzahn worked under Chizik for three years before taking over at Arkansas State.

Malzahn has led ASU to an 8-3 record but at Auburn had several recruiting targets who either struggled on or off the field, most notably quarterbacks Kiehl Frazier and Zeke Pike and tailback Michael Dyer.

"I think we're going to have the best pool [of candidates] we've ever had," Jacobs said.