Daily Archives: December 14, 2008

From Auburn to Athens, or vice versa

You know, if you’ve read this blog for any period of time, you’ve no doubt sensed my proclivity for mockery when the occasion calls for it.  And this whole Chizik hiring seems ripe for that kind of approach, except when you read the kind of pain it’s provoked – the “I’ll need the better part of a bottle of bourbon just to get through the immediate moment” kind – it’s hard to work up the sarcasm.

No, it probably doesn’t rise to the level of Greek tragedy, but there is a certain epic stupidity in play here that’s worth noting.

Standing on its own, I didn’t particularly see the wisdom behind the decision to force Tuberville out, but I can understand how it happened.  Similarly, on its own, the decision to hire Chizik doesn’t seem like a home run from where I sit, but you could probably make some sort of case for it (at least I hope Jay Jacobs could).  It’s when you look at the entire chain of events that have comprised Auburn’s postseason that you realize how badly things have been handled.

First, Jacobs presents an explanation for Tuberville’s departure that no one finds convincing.  Then, he embarks on a very public course of running through coaching candidates that accomplishes nothing other than insuring that he’s bound to receive a series of public rejections.  Which he did.

Then, rightly or not, Jacobs allows public perception to center on Turner Gill.  The fan base is enthused.  But in the end, Jacobs goes with… the white guy riding a ten game losing streak.  Now that’s probably an unfair characterization – the decision doesn’t appear to be motivated by racism – but it’s one that’s going to be made, like it or not.  But skipping past that, if nothing else, Jacobs has succeeded in badly fracturing Auburn’s fan base with the way he went about the hire.

Worse than that, don’t think he doesn’t know it.

… Jacobs wasn’t too embarrassed to admit he’d hired Chizik when he was met by reporters at the Auburn airport after returning from hiring Chizik; the deception was a miscommunication. Jacobs couldn’t have known Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard was about to announce the news and rip his former coach in the process. No matter the reason for the subterfuge, the entire affair makes Jacobs look even more incompetent. If you’re counting, Auburn officials finally admitted to hiring Chizik after 9 p.m. Saturday.

When you’re an AD at a place like Auburn where the hiring of a head football coach is easily the most significant thing that happens during your tenure, not being willing to acknowledge in public at the first opportunity you get that you’ve made the hire isn’t good.  And somewhat contrary to what Staples writes, it doesn’t make Jacobs look incompetent; it makes him look weak.

In the end, the whole process smacks of an overreaction to Alabama’s rise under Saban and the unfortunate timing of a bad hire in Franklin which led to a disappointing season on the Plains.  On the one hand, that gave the excuse to those who were waiting for the opportunity to pull out the long knives to use on Tuberville, and on the other it created a sense of panic that, in the end, brought home Chizik.

I can’t help but compare that to what’s going on in Athens right now.  While Georgia’s ’08 season isn’t as big a disappointment as Auburn’s (although Tater Tot begs to differ with me), it’s certainly been disappointing and generated its fair share of fan unrest (look at the bright side, Auburn fans:  at least Jacobs has succeeded in getting you to quit focusing on the past season).  And yet, if you read the first part of an interview that David Hale conducted with Damon Evans, you’ll notice something missing.  There’s no sense of panic on the part of the Georgia AD.

… I don’t think we need to overreact right now in this point in time. I think we need to figure out where we need to get better, what we need to work on. I do believe that stability is good, but stability is only good if you’re having success. Stability just for the sake of having stability if things aren’t working well, then the stability doesn’t matter. But if you’re having success, and you continue to have success with that group you have, that’s good.

I want to make sure that people are accountable for their job performance, and I’ll leave that up to our football coach to do that, but I do talk to Mark each year about what’s going on with his staff, and I believe that he’s shown over the course of eight years that he’s been able to put together a great staff and have success. Now we’ve got to take this year, which is a learning year, a year to learn and grow from, and see how we respond to some of the things we dealt with this year to see if we respond and grow in a positive manner or we do the opposite. I tend to think we’ll respond in a way that we’ll get better as a program.

Sure, talk is cheap.  But after reading that, which AD gives you more confidence about having the ability and the will to move his school’s football program in the right direction?

Which brings me to my last thought on this, the concern that’s been bubbling up on message boards and other blogs about the possibility that Auburn intends to make a big push to bring Stacey Searels and Rodney Garner home.  Now, I understand why Auburn would want them, but why would they want to go to Auburn?  I’m not asking that to be snarky.  Chizik’s already shown a propensity to throw his coordinators under the bus when times get tough (and that was after a mere two years, don’t forget).  And the most enthusisatic reaction to his hiring would be fairly characterized as “interesting”.  Neither is likely to engender a great deal of confidence in prospective assistant coach hires.  Nor are either Searels or Garner close to Chizik personally, as far as I know.

So it seems right to say that Auburn needs these coaches more than these coaches need Auburn, or, at least, the situation Auburn finds itself in today.  To me, that suggests that the real sales pitch, if the story is true, will come from a higher level than Chizik.  And it’ll have to be a mighty convincing one, unless everyone involved is convinced that Chizik is a real diamond in the rough.  In the end, here’s the $64,000 question for Searels and Garner:  what does Auburn have to throw in the pot to make up for the expectation of what the next three years at Auburn versus the next three years in Athens will do for your professional reputations?

I don’t know what that is, but it had better be something stronger than hey, we just hired the guy who was the defensive coordinator on the last SEC team to go undefeated.  Because they just forced out the head coach of the last SEC team to go undefeated.

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