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?

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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.