In a move that the college football world has been expecting for weeks, Gene Chizik has been fired as the head football coach at Auburn.
Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs released a statement which read in part:
After suffering some tough losses in a transition year in 2011, we had hoped our team would show improvement this season. Unfortunately, it has not. The competition in our league is fierce and is currently at an all-time high, and we cannot risk falling further behind by waiting another year and hoping for improvement.
That is why after careful consideration and a thorough evaluation of our football program, I have recommended that Coach Gene Chizik not be retained. President Gogue has accepted my recommendation. Earlier this morning, I informed Coach Chizik that he will not return as head coach.
My primary consideration in making this recommendation was doing what is in the best interests of our current student-athletes and the future of our football program. That has always been my top priority, and it always will be.
And with the news, it ends one of the most bizarre coaching tenures in recent college football history. Chizik will go down as the only head coach in the history of the sport to be fired two years after winning a National Championship.
From the beginning the relationship between the coach and Auburn seemed to be a bit of a strange match, with Chizik arriving on the Plains after two unspectacular seasons at Iowa State where he went just 5-19 their coach. Still, in his first year at the school, Auburn went 8-5 (a three-win improvement over the previous season), won the Outback Bowl, and nearly upset eventual National Champion Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
Of course the crown jewel of Chizik’s time at Auburn was a 2010 season which Auburn won the BCS National Championship. Thanks to a historic season from Cam Newton, the Tigers went 12-0 in the regular season, defeated South Carolina for an SEC title and took down Auburn in Glendale, AZ to win the title.
Ironically, that night in Glendale proved to be the high point of Chizik’s tenure and also the unofficial beginning of the end of his run at Auburn as well. With Newton gone, the Tigers had a relatively successful 2011 season (they finished 8-5), but also saw them deal with a handful of off the field issues, and an embarrassing 42-14 defeat in the Iron Bowl to rival Alabama.
And the residual karma of that night only seemed to continue into the 2012 season. With Malzahn taking his offense to Arkansas State and defensive coordinator Ted Roof leaving for Penn State, Auburn struggled from the beginning with new coordinators running both their offense and defense. In the end, the Tigers finished 2012 with a 3-9 record, with their sole wins coming over Louisiana-Monroe (in overtime), New Mexico State and FCS school Alabama A&M. In the process, Auburn finished 0-8 in the SEC, the first time the club went winless in conference.
Now the search for Chizik’s replacement will begin in earnest.
The name that most people seem to speculate as the favorite is former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, with others such as Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes, and potentially Malzahn himself as long-shot candidates as well. Also, in an ironic twist, one name which could come to light is Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who is expected to end up as a head coach somewhere in the next few seasons.
Chizik will finish his Auburn career with a 33-19 overall record and 15-17 in league play.
As part of his contract, Chizik will be paid a $7.5 million buyout.
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