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Posted: Tuesday December 16, 2008 7:21PM; Updated: Tuesday December 16, 2008 9:51PM
Stewart Mandel Stewart Mandel >
INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Chizik has zero chance to succeed

Story Highlights

Auburn's coaching search was one of the most bizarre in recent memory

Gene Chizik has no chance to rebuild because of a lack of fan support

Auburn A.D. Jay Jacobs showed a disconnect with the fans in hiring Chizik

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We've seen a lot of bizarre and controversial coaching changes in recent years, but Auburn's ouster of 10-year-coach Tommy Tuberville and subsequent hiring of 5-19 Iowa State coach Gene Chizik may be the strangest yet.

However, the reasons go well beyond what Charles Barkley would have you believe.

Personally, I never thought I'd see a stranger coaching search than the one that took place last year at West Virginia, when the governor anointed himself as the de facto head of the search committee, and the school, after interviewing any number of more qualified candidates, wound up promoting interim coach Bill Stewart based solely on a bowl win.

But give West Virginia's credit. At least that school was attempting to unify a fan base that felt jilted after the acrimonious departure of native son Rich Rodriguez. I'm not sure I've ever seen a school do so much to alienate its own fan base than Auburn has over the past several weeks.

First of all, despite the indignity of a 5-7 season (and the added insult of watching arch-rival Alabama rise to No. 1 in the country), there's no evidence to suggest that most mainstream Auburn fans wanted to see Tuberville go. Sure, they weren't happy, and sure, there was mounting anxiety over Nick Saban's budding juggernaut down the road. But most reasonable Tigers followers presumably appreciated Tuberville's 85-40 record, record six-game winning streak over Alabama and long history of wins over highly ranked teams.

At the very least, they figured he deserved another year to right his wrong after admittedly erring in his hiring of renegade offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. That much became evident when a protest broke out last week in front of the president's mansion over the school's treatment of Tuberville. (Officially, he resigned, but the school gave him $5.1 million to go away.)

The decision to oust Tuberville, like so many others over the years at Auburn, was made behind the scenes by a small but unduly influential ring of old-guard power brokers at the school who tend to overreact at the first sign of trouble.

Under those circumstances, any new coach short of Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll was going to be met with skepticism by at least some segment of the fan base. I talked with one Tigers fan at the SEC championship game who scoffed at the possibility of landing Texas Tech's Mike Leach (whom the school apparently never considered), insinuating he wasn't good enough for the job. That should give you a little sense of just what a deluded perception some Auburn fans hold of their school's national stature. (Another popular name at one point: Steve Spurrier.)

Regardless, Auburn AD Jay Jacobs -- apparently attempting to set some sort of Guinness World Record for most coaches interviewed in a 10-day span -- did talk to numerous candidates with impressive resumes, including TCU's Gary Patterson, Wake Forest's Jim Grobe and Buffalo's Turner Gill. So you can imagine the shockwaves across the sport when, of all the potential choices, Auburn selected Chizik, a coach who went 5-19 in his two seasons at Iowa State.

Tigers fans wasted no time expressing their opinion about the hiring, beginning with a now-infamous airport heckler the moment Jacobs arrived back from sealing the deal with Chizik. In a Birmingham News poll, 67 percent of fans called it a "bad" or "disastrous" hire. Embarrassed and/or furious Auburn followers have been venting on blogs and comment boards ever since.

You know it's bad when the coach himself feels the need to repeatedly describe himself as "the right man for the job" at his introductory press conference and for former coach Pat Dye to pen an open letter to Tigers fans expressing his support for both Chizik and Jacobs.

Personally, having observed him first-hand while the defensive coordinator at Texas, I believe Chizik is a pretty good football coach. He's sharp, he's intense and he's got that certain charisma you need to connect with today's athletes. His record at Iowa State was admittedly atrocious, but we never got the chance to find out whether it was a matter of poor coaching or simply inheriting an empty cupboard. He did not stay long enough to know the dividends of his own recruiting.

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