Gene Chizik and an increasingly disgruntled fan base

US PRESSWIRE

The 28-10 dismantling of the Auburn Tigers at the hands of Mississippi State (28-3 if not for a 100-yard kickoff return by Onterio McCalebb) reminded the subjective SEC fans what the objective ones already knew: Chizik isn’t really a good coach.

It’s not that critics think he’s a bad coach, it’s that few people think he’s a really good coach.

In the two complete seasons without once-in-a-generation player Cam Newton as his quarterback, Chizik’s Auburn team registered a couple 8-5 seasons. Each season included bowl wins against Northwestern (2009) and Virginia (2011).

Not exactly the-world-is-ending type stuff, but nothing to get excited about either. So what’s the big deal?

US PRESSWIRE

The big deal is that Auburn was completely ridiculous to give Gene Chizik a massive pay raise and extension after the 2010 undefeated, championship season. In June of 2011, Auburn increased Chizik’s pay from a guaranteed $2.1 million annually to $3.5 million. Moreover, the buyout was increased giving Chizik increased protection and helping to block other schools from taking a run at Chizik (was that really necessary?)

Chizik’s buyout in 2012 is believed to be $7.5 million. It drops to $5 million in 2013 and then $3.5 million in 2014.

The Auburn Tigers are 0-2 in 2012 and the remaining schedule is not a cake walk. I don’t think it happens, but if ULM manages their second straight SEC West upset when they travel to Auburn this weekend, the Auburn fan base is going to go nuts.

With that said, even an 0-3 start and a disastrous season where Auburn doesn’t reach bowl eligibility probably won’t be enough to fire Chizik with the current buyout numbers.

Auburn faces LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama as well as road games to Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. The road ahead is somewhat rough, but Chizik better keep his eye on Saturday’s game against the ULM Warhawks.

The contract extensions for head coaches in college football are an interesting animal. We’ve seen it before where schools are trying to make a run at other schools’ coaches, and the current employer responds by giving a contract extension and/or raise in order to keep the coach.

I understand the process, but was this really necessary with Chizik after the championship season? Which programs would have tried to get Chizik that Chizik himself would have seen as a move upward?

It reminds you of Notre Dame’s extension to Charlie Weis (though Chizik’s deal pales in comparison to this monstrosity) where Notre Dame gave Weis a ten-year extension in the middle of the 2005 season as Notre Dame sat 5-2. The deal was reported to be worth $30-40 million and keep Weis at Notre Dame through 2015. Weis has coached at several college and NFL teams since then and is still getting paid by the Irish. Ouch.

Perhaps, as SDS writer SKip Oliva surmised, there is another reason for the contract extension:

And it’s that desire to avoid slipping back into SEC irrelevance, more than anything, which drove Auburn’s decision to give Chizik (and his staff) this most recent raise and extension. It’s less about rewarding and retaining a coach — who still has a minimal track record — then it is about broadcasting to the rest of the SEC, and potential recruits, that Auburn is willing to spend and compete on par with its rivals. In a market where you can’t (openly) spend on players, spending on coaches is the easiest way for recruits to see how committed a school is to football.

Regardless of the reasons behind the contract, the deal is done, and Chizik simply needs to get his Auburn team back on the right track. College football fans don’t demand championship every year; they demand progress every year. They demand their coach to demonstrate that things are on the right track.

Fans don’t want coaches fired for rebuilding, they want to fire coaches for rebuilding for three straight years. Chizik hasn’t been rebuilding for three years yet of course, but that doesn’t mean the seat takes three years to start warming.

Right now, Chizik is failing to show that Auburn is headed in the right direction. Getting killed by Mississippi State is clear evidence. Digging further into the numbers of the game reveals an ugly picture.

  • 216 total yards of offense
  • 2 for 12 on third downs
  • Five turnovers
  • 2.3 yards per rush attempt
  • While Auburn’s defense did well on third downs, Miss State moved the chains all day with a balanced attack (222 yards passing, 166 yards rushing)

One game, however, isn’t overly meaningful if Chizik can get his boys to re-focus and compete on the field. It starts with taking out ULM this Saturday.

COMMENTS

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  • I just find it funny how long it has taken for people to realize that Chizik isn’t that good of a coach. Unfortunately for Auburn fans, another Cam Newton isn’t coming around for a long, long time.

  • Can we please get Mike Leach into the SEC ??????

  • I think the biggest issue right now for Chizik is at QB. Defensively I think they are fine. But they have no leadership at QB and Frazier is clearly not the guy. Clint Mosely probably isn’t either so maybe getting one of the highly touted freshman in the mix might start to heal the wounds. Chizik is a great person with great character but he needs to show he has the willingness and the guts to make a move that will benefit the team later on down the line in the long run and not ride the Frazier pony into the ground. Frazier may later be “the guy” but remember he was recruited to run Gus’ offense, a similar offense Frazier ran in high school. The I formation, drop back passer he is not. It is easier to go from a pro-set offense to a wide open zone read offense than it is to go back the other way.

    Look I’m no Auburn fan, but I do love college ball. The issues are obvious and I think Coach Chizik could eventually be the coach Auburn wants. But he needs to take some leadership and make the necessary changes for a winning future.

    • Finally a Bama fan I’d be willing to talk to…

      Anybody calling for Chizik’s job at this point does not know anything about the game of football. Auburn lost 2 games to 2 good teams. One at a Neutral Site (which they were in till their final possession) and and one on the Road (which they were in till late in the 4th quarter).

      History Lesson: Last 0-2 Start for Auburn, they finished 8-5. Next season which was 2004… Undefeated. This team looks a lot like the 2003 team.

      Bigger point… It’s still September. For all we know, we could pull a UGA and “Right the ship” and potentially finish 10-2. (I’m aware it’s not likely, but we’ve seen stranger things happen)

      As for what BamaAtlanta said, He’s right about the QB issues. To me, this is looking an awful lot Jason Campbell & Daniel Cobb. Last year all Frazier did was run, he’s learning a new offense and like he said, he was brought in for Malzahn’s system, not the one he’s running now.

      People need to move on with the whole “You’re not going to find another Cam” cause last I’ve checked, this school was more known for Tailbacks and there is a decent stable there right now. Don’t get me wrong, Cam was great and he was fun to watch, but we all knew he was 1 and done. Not to mention, there were always an additional 10 players on the field with him every play. I can tell from Sabanites comments on Auburn stories he is still waking up in cold sweats remembering “The Comeback”