Two years after a BCS title, could Auburn’s Chizik get fired?

Brian VanGorder (right) watches his career path take a sudden downturn. (AP photo)

Brian VanGorder (right) watches his career path take a discernible downturn. (AP photo)

Even as Auburn was en route to the BCS title, there was something unreal about the journey. Not that the 2010 Tigers weren’t the nation’s best team. But you wondered how they got that way.

This is a reference to Cam Newton, but not in the way you’d think. Nearly two years after it was reported that Newton’s dad had sought $180,000 to send his son to Mississippi State, we await the first bit of evidence that Auburn paid, or even offered, anything beyond a scholarship. The NCAA investigated at length and found nothing untoward. So far as can be discerned, Auburn won with Newton fair and square. That said …

Newton blew across the Plains in the time it takes to change, er, planes at Hartsfield-Jackson. (OK, slight exaggeration. But only slight.) He arrived from Blinn Junior College in January 2010, took his team to 14-0 the next January and, Heisman Trophy in tow, was gone. He was an Auburn student-athlete for roughly a year.

Auburn began its championship run ranked 22nd in the Associated Press preseason poll — one spot ahead of Georgia, six spots behind Georgia Tech. The Tigers were 8-5 in the season before Newton, 8-5 in the season after Newton. Today they’re 1-4, the victory coming in overtime against Louisiana-Monroe. They just lost 24-7 at home to an Arkansas team that was outscored by 100 points in its two previous SEC games. Which brings us to the other part of the disconnect.

The 2010 national championship was won by Gene Chizik’s team. Is Gene Chizik a national championship coach?

Counting two seasons at Iowa State, his career record is 36-33. His record without Cam Newton is 22-33. His record before Cam Newton was 13-24. His record since Cam Newton is 9-9.

A BCS title should buy a coach a long honeymoon, but let’s remember that Chizik works at Auburn. Where Terry Bowden resigned under pressure 11 months after he’d led the Tigers to the SEC championship game. Where school officials were moved to take a clandestine flight to Sellersburg, Ind., to woo Bobby Petrino, then of Louisville, to fill the head-coaching position occupied by Tommy Tuberville. Where Tuberville himself was gone four years after an undefeated season.

Things happen faster in the win-or-else SEC, and Auburn occupies the epicenter of Football Gone Wild. The Georgia-Georgia Tech relationship has been described as clean, old-fashioned hate. There’s nothing clean or old-fashioned about the feelings Auburn and Alabama have toward one another. Theirs is the dirtiest form of loathing, updated daily.

Alabama again reigns over college football. It has won two of the past three BCS titles and is in Position A to claim yet another. For one year, Newton and Chizik and Auburn usurped Nick Saban’s throne, but that year seems now — heck, it seemed so even then — as the one-off to end all one-offs.

So today we ask: Could the coach who claimed a national championship in January 2011 get fired before 2012 is done? Anywhere else, you’d say no. Auburn, however, is not anywhere else, and this is among the worst Auburn teams ever. It ranks 113th among 120 FBS teams in total offense, 117th in scoring, 110th in passing efficiency, 75th in total defense and dead last in turnover margin. This with a new offensive coordinator (the overmatched Scott Loeffler) and a new defensive coordinator (Brian VanGorder, of whom you’ve heard).

According to Rivals.com, Auburn’s signing classes from 2010 through 2012 ranked fourth, seventh and 10th nationally. Continuity, alas, has gone missing. Nick Fairley, who won the 2010 Lombardi Trophy, arrived as a JUCO transfer and left for the NFL after two seasons. Running back Michael Dyer was the offensive MVP of the BCS title game and was kicked off the squad 361 days later. Auburn has begun each of Chizik’s four seasons with a different quarterback; the latest, sophomore Kiehl Frazier, has thrown eight interceptions against two touchdown passes.

The Tigers’ next two games are at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. (They’re a six-point underdog against the Rebels.) If Auburn loses both, it could well finish 0-8 in SEC play — two years after going 8-0. The SEC has seen all manner of strangeness, but such a plunge would have no precedent. Then again, Auburn’s rise to No. 1 didn’t have many antecedents, either. Yes, Herschel Walker lifted Georgia from 6-5 to an unbeaten national championship in his first collegiate season, but he stuck around a couple of more years and the Bulldogs stayed really good. And nobody wondered if Vince Dooley, who’d won three SEC titles before Herschel, could actually coach.

The former Auburn coach Pat Dye, who seldom makes a lick of sense, recently claimed he wouldn’t trade Chizik “for 10 Sabans.” If Chizik keeps losing, Auburn might soon swap him for one Bobby Petrino.

By Mark Bradley

403 comments Add your comment

Donald

October 10th, 2012
2:00 pm

Do you believe Gene Chizik and Jay Jacobs should be fired after the 2012 season? I’m for it 100%.

Donald

October 10th, 2012
2:04 pm

If Chizik is fired, (which he should), then we MUST have a SPLASH hire. And a really strong hire for a new AD.

Karma is ALL IN

October 10th, 2012
2:05 pm

Karma has a funny way of taking care of scum

Chip

October 10th, 2012
2:10 pm

I said it right after Auburn won the National Championship that Chizik would be fired in three years.

misterwax

October 10th, 2012
2:10 pm

I hear Al Groh and soon Paul JOhnson will be available….YEAH!

tvradioguy

October 10th, 2012
2:12 pm

So, if things happen so quickly in the SEC and results are demanded – WHY IS RICHT STILL AT GEORGIA? Mark, it is time for another tough look at RICHT’s record over the last few years – let’s take an honest look and see after his teams not winning against ANYONE of worth over the past few years (since the BAMA blackout game) if he deserves to remain the UGA head coach. I would say that he has peaked and the program has peaked and the coaching staff has no real answers for the future. What say you? Please write a column soon on this! I appreicate your work and thoughts on this!

Weyman C. Wannamaker Jr. (A Great American)

October 10th, 2012
2:13 pm

RIP Alex Karras.

(Sorry… not on topic.)

tvradioguy

October 10th, 2012
2:13 pm

Also – to follow up the previous post, what kind of buyout does Richt have now on his contract?? Didn’t they bring that down the last time it was renewed?

Blazing Gooch

October 10th, 2012
2:13 pm

what about kermit?

Petrino would fit right in!

October 10th, 2012
2:14 pm

I can see it now with recruiting young girls to go to school there. They should have a college course called “Motorcyle Riding 101″ or “How to meet your Sugar Daddy”. I bet they hire him.

Michael Veli a.k.a Jim Donnan's financial advisor

October 10th, 2012
2:18 pm

Well written article Mark, you must be learning from Ken!

Seriously

October 10th, 2012
2:18 pm

UGA has one loss and we are rightfully unhappy but we arent nearly in the same boat as AU. Also there’s no way in heck we would ever hire Petrino. Only one school in the SEC would fit that category and thats why he ended the story that way.

robodawg

October 10th, 2012
2:19 pm

What’s weird about Chizik’s national championship at Auburn is he did it without building a program. They were lucky enough to keep winning the first half of that season and became a great team by the end of the season. But it’s rare to see a whole team carried by a handful of star players for such a short period like that.

Fred Sanford Stadium

October 10th, 2012
2:20 pm

Richt to Auburn, Willie Taggart new head coach at UGA!

LHarding Dawg

October 10th, 2012
2:20 pm

Hey tvradio guy, stay on point. The story is about Auburn and Chizik, not Georgia and Richt. Again, really focus and stay on point.

Bob in SF

October 10th, 2012
2:21 pm

I can totally see Auburn being desperate enough to hire Petrino; if anything the Hawgs epic collapse has further cemented his rep as an offensive genius. That being said although Petrino will trumpet his new found love of Jesus and do all the right things that play well in church known as southern football, he will still be one of biggest sacks of excrement to ever walk the sidelines and Auburn will find the same karmic reward that awaits all teams who make a deal with him.

Logan Walker

October 10th, 2012
2:21 pm

Keep Chizik! Their suckiness brings great joy to my life.

Stinger 2

October 10th, 2012
2:22 pm

This blog is already turning to a bash CMR event when its about Auburn. Pitiful bunch of disloyal UGA anti-fans.

Fred Sanford Stadium

October 10th, 2012
2:23 pm

LHarding Dawg to Auburn with his hero CMR, Taggart to UGA!

Hollywould

October 10th, 2012
2:24 pm

You have to have a QB to win. Frazier was signed to run Malzhan’s offense. They signed Pike because of the changing offensive system but he was an idiot. Van Gorder trying to implement his cover2 will not work if you don’t have the corners who can play bump and run. A bad fit at the moment but will be ok next year.

cattledawg

October 10th, 2012
2:25 pm

I think Richt would like living on the plains.

collegeballfan

October 10th, 2012
2:25 pm

If the Auburn staff gets canned, someone tell VanGorder that Georgia Tech is looking for a DC.

Fred Sanford Stadium

October 10th, 2012
2:26 pm

I believe Frazier is eerily Jordan Jefferson-like.

Hollywould

October 10th, 2012
2:26 pm

As far as PetrinoAU nor anyone in the SEC would ever sign him. Lowder no longer captains the ship.

rollin' in the deep

October 10th, 2012
2:28 pm

Would CMR keep Trooper? Guy can recruit.

Instead of a plane

October 10th, 2012
2:30 pm

AU President and AD should take Harleys with a couple of bimbos to woo him to the plains.

bad brad

October 10th, 2012
2:30 pm

How’s that “all-in” philosophy working for you now, Auburn fans?

Mike S.

October 10th, 2012
2:31 pm

Its hard to say. What I look at is the fact I see no playmaking ability on the team. We talk a lot on AJC about Tech not having play makers. Well, Auburn looks no better, yet they have been recruiting in the top 10 since Chizik got there. You should at least see the athletic ability on the field, but its not happening even against lower competition. Spurrier used to joke about UGA doing nothing with recruits. Well, that applies to Auburn right now.

Another big deal is the defense. Auburn is used to playing good defense from the Tuberville years. They havent played a lick of defense since Chizik got there. If Fairley couldnt get to the QB, it was going for a big gain. Van Gorder’s unit doesnt look any better so far.

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 10th, 2012
2:34 pm

The “Auburn Family” …….. LOL

spent their 50 years of life savings buying ball players to assemble a National Championship team.

Oh well “Auburn Family” …..LOL

I guess its back to work at the Auburn Mobile Home Plant

It should take you another 50 to 60 years to save that money under your seat cushions and trailors to buy another National Championship team

;)

bullwinkle

October 10th, 2012
2:34 pm

As an Auburn guy I think you are right on about the weirdness of the championship season. A stranger cast of characters has rarely been assembled. Personally I will always be prouder of the Jason Campbell team – he was a class act and we had built a tremendous team around him (Chizik was the DC, btw). That said, the BCS year was a heckuva a bolt of lightning and the comebacks against UGA and especially Bama were all-timers. Auburn earned the trophy, period. As for what to do now: I think Ole Miss and Vandy are must-wins for Chizik and would be for most big-program coaches in the same boat, SEC or not.

Mike S.

October 10th, 2012
2:34 pm

Under no circumstances should Auburn hire Bobby Petrino. I realize the SEC fans like to treat CFB like its the NFL, but there’s no reason to sell out your principles to hand Petrino another big stage for his screw ups. Petrino needs to do time cleaning his rep up in Lexington or a smaller school.

cattledawg

October 10th, 2012
2:38 pm

Ive become such a BITTER Bulldawg and Braves fan. Everyear I buy into this being “The Year”.. Then its the same movie over and over. Alas, the dawgs will rally and beat a bunch of cupcakes and next year will be the YEAR. Sorry if Im off point or that Im not a true fan like others.

John

October 10th, 2012
2:39 pm

If today’s mindset had been in effect in the SEC 40 years ago, Shug Jordan would have been fired at Auburn somewhere between 1966 and 1968, Bear Bryant wouldn’t have lasted past the 1970 season at Alabama, and Vince Dooley, Ray Graves, Charlie McClendon, Johnny Vaught and Doug Dickey all would have had short careers as head coaches. As an Auburn alumnus and longtime season ticket holder, I had no problem with Terry Bowden’s departure because he essentially gave up on his team. Tommy Tuberville should still be the head coach at Auburn and he would be had he not had a momentary lapse in judgement and hired Tony Franklin. I like Gene Chizik but I have no idea why he hired Scott Loeffler or why he keeps Trooper Taylor on the staff. Schools have to become rational and quit firing coaches every time somebody sneezes.

Big Crimson 75

October 10th, 2012
2:47 pm

Hiring Petrino would be an epic disaster.
HE CAN’T BEAT SABAN.
It’s somewhat important for little brother.

Archibald Hole Broke

October 10th, 2012
2:52 pm

Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of Wareagles, uh Tigers, uh Plainsmen, uh Cheaters.

Gott a love karma!

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 10th, 2012
2:52 pm

“Auburn Family” are we All in ?????

Auburn Family lets be all in with our money so we can buy another Championship Team

Checks can be made out to the Cam Newton Champions Fund

;)

Archibald Hole Broke

October 10th, 2012
2:56 pm

Pay To The Order Of “All In Family Trailer Park Repair”

Geno Cheese Stick

October 10th, 2012
2:57 pm

Can’t we all just get along and be “family” once again?

Gary

October 10th, 2012
2:58 pm

The buy out is too high. Gene stays.

rollin' in the deep

October 10th, 2012
2:59 pm

Trooper for head coach!

Under The Bleachers

October 10th, 2012
2:59 pm

I say keep him, getting easier and easier to win in Auburn.

Is it coincidence that Lowder loses his bank, loses his board title at Auburn and the decline of the football program. I guess the ownership has changed hands.

Old Dawg

October 10th, 2012
3:00 pm

I love college football, but it is becoming more difficult to participate in this madness. If folks want to follow pro football, there’s the NFL, CFL and AFL (arena).

Schools dump the majority of their admission requirements to enable their programs to become great, then wonder why their current/former players, who didn’t earn quality degrees, are on the police blotter.

I’m not naive, just sick of the sewer college football (athletics) currently resides. Guess it’s time to spend time doing something else of Saturdays. After 58 years, I don’t want to be associated with D-I.

Yea, Sewanee’s right!

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 10th, 2012
3:02 pm

Come on “Auburn Family’

Lets be “All In” now

Donations to the Cam Newton Champions Fund go straight to buying quality players who can win you a Championship

Lets be “All In” and show our support for our cheating institution

Theres no other way to become a champion at Auburn

;)

Under The Bleachers

October 10th, 2012
3:03 pm

Petrino is going to Kentucky, and there is 7 million available to buy out the Cheese but it will only take 3 million to get him to stay quiet and leave.

Gary

October 10th, 2012
3:03 pm

Sorry Bullwinkle, But Newton shouldn’t have set foot on a football field after beign arrested for possession of stoeln goods at Florida, three counts of academic chaeting at Florida, and then the Cecil Newton 180k Mississippi St debacle. Auburn did not ‘earn’ anything. By your standard, Georgia should have kept all the players they dismissed and shortened the suspensions of the players who stayed and it would be OK. If Newton is not on the filed you loose 5 games in 2010. Again, he should not have been admitted into school after his history at Florida. Same can be said for that punk QB at LSU.

North Georgia Dawg

October 10th, 2012
3:04 pm

As far from elite as UGA is right now, I would rather be in our position than Auburn’s. Cam Newton was an unbelievable talent, but without him and a few guys on Auburn who got in trouble who were talented, this Auburn coaching staff has failed to put good players on the field. Great quarterbacks make a coach look better.

north georgia fan

October 10th, 2012
3:04 pm

At Auburn? You better believe it, they are probably flying in candidates right now.

Under The Bleachers

October 10th, 2012
3:05 pm

If Chizik is forced out and Trooper stays then Everyone should see how important the payments were made.

TheTruth

October 10th, 2012
3:08 pm

I guess this is the best way to subver the attention away from the annual crash and burn over in Athens and saint mark.

Pretty pathetic attempt. Chizik isn’t going anywhere. If Bradley or any of these so-called “sportswriters” did ANY amount of research before writing whatever comes out of their backsides, he would have noted that the buyout for Chizik is 7.5 million. He would have noted that despite a horrific record this year AU has another (third straight) top 10 ‘cruitin class coming in.

But let’s not let facts get in the way of a good ol’ “Hey look over there!!” hit piece.

2010 National Champs!!! Kiss the ring Bradley and all the rest of you leghumpers!!

Oh and one more little side note….you trying to suggest dooley woulda won ANYTHING without the one kid who did it all of THuga…I think his name was Walker? And you point to Cam Newton like you never hear of herschel or the one title he brought you single handedly.

What a bunch of morons!!

Big Crimson 75

October 10th, 2012
3:08 pm

Aubie never should have let Tuberville go.
They did, they hired Chizik over Turner Gil(right choice,btw).
Firing Chisik is a mistake.
Who, other than Petrino, takes the job knowing a National Title & SEC Title plus 3 Bowl wins in your first 3 years isn’t good enough?