Chizik has no chance to succeed
None of that really matters, however, because Chizik has absolutely no chance of succeeding at Auburn. Zero. It's hard enough to walk into a rebuilding situation at an SEC school -- where the competition is ruthless, where you're going head-to-head with one of the best recruiters in the sport (Saban) and where the fans are notoriously impatient. Any coach who inherited this job was bound to struggle for the first couple of years, which made it all the more important for him to have the support of the community.
Chizik, it seems, has almost none, which means every little misstep he incurs -- the first bad loss, the first questionable decision -- is only going to fuel the skeptics that much more. It's going to take some sort of immediate miracle (like somehow turning a 5-7 team with no quarterback into SEC champions overnight) to win over the public.
"This is a lost cause," noted Alabama radio personality Paul Finebaum said on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" Tuesday. "He is a dead man walking."
On that same program, a panelist suggested Chizik to be "the worst college football coaching hire since Gerry Faust," the ill-fated Notre Dame coach whom the school plucked from a Cincinnati high school in 1981.
I don't think you have to go back that far. Chizik's hiring is extremely reminiscent to that of Florida's Ron Zook in 2002.
Zook, like Chizik, was a respected defensive coach and avid recruiter who, under ordinary circumstances, could very well have succeeded in Gainesville -- he did wind up taking Illinois to the Rose Bowl -- but never stood a chance because the fan base was so divided by his hiring to begin with. FireRonZook.com was launched within days of his hiring, his every little misstep was scrutinized by fans and media, and, after posting a modest 23-14 record, he was gone in less than three years.
Making matters worse, Chizik's hiring comes under a far greater cloud of controversy due to the allegations by Auburn alum Barkley, and the implications by so many others, that racism played a part in the school's decision. How else to explain why Auburn would choose a 5-19 coach over Gill -- generally considered the popular choice among fans -- who lifted Buffalo from the lowest dredges of Division I-A to winning a MAC championship two weeks ago?
Make no mistake, the lack of black coaches in Division I-A (four out of 119 schools) is a monumental embarrassment and a continued source of frustration among those of us who follow the sport closely. The fact that Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong has not come up for a single one of the 20 job openings this offseason is mind-numbing.
Is it possible that race played a role in Auburn's decision? Of course it is. But that's pure speculation by anyone who suggests it, Barkley included. If you're going to accuse Auburn of racism, then you might as well do the same to Clemson, Syracuse, Tennessee and Washington, all of whom also hired white coaches with less head-coaching experience than Gill.
There's simply no way to say definitively whether race was a determining factor in Chizik's hiring. While Gill was certainly a promising candidate, by no means was he a no-brainer. (Note that Grobe, were he interested, or Leach, had they talked to him, certainly would have been.) But there's one thing the Auburn brass is most certainly guilty of: Downright incompetence.
How could Jacobs and his cohorts possibly think the hiring of a 5-19 coach would be well received by their constituents? And how could they possibly expect Chizik to succeed under such divisive circumstances? How can there be such a vast disconnect between that school's powers-that-be and the people they (supposedly) serve?
Perhaps they thought Tigers fans would still be enamored with Chizik due to his role as defensive coordinator for Tuberville's undefeated 2004 team. Chizik, after all, was revered back then. Had he stayed on, or had he remained a respected coordinator at Texas, his hiring probably would have been well received. He wouldn't have that ugly "5-19" stigma attached to his name.
Back on planet earth, however, Auburn just paid $5 million to oust one of the most respected head coaches in the country in order to pay a reported $2 million annually to one of the least-proven head coaches in the country.
You don't need Charles Barkley to figure out that's a recipe for disaster.