Kevin C. Cox
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik was reportedly relieved of his duties Sunday.
The Gene Chizik era at Auburn is reportedly over. Chizik was fired as Auburn's head coach Sunday, one day following the Tigers' 49-0 Iron Bowl loss to Alabama.
Chizik finished his Auburn career at 33-19 overall and 15-17 in SEC games. The Tigers were a perfect 14-0 and BCS champions in 2010, but aside from that season, Chizik's record on the Plains was a meager 19-19 overall and 7-17 in SEC play. Chizik was 3-9 against Auburn's biggest rivals -- Alabama, Georgia and LSU -- and in 2012, Auburn finished 3-9 -- 0-8 in conference games -- its worst record since 1950.
This season, Auburn finished near the bottom of the SEC in most offensive and defensive categories. The Tigers averaged 18.7 points and 305.3 yards per game, ranking second to last and last in the SEC. In conference games, it was even worse. The Tigers managed just 10.1 points and 235.1 yards against SEC teams. On defense, Auburn allowed 28.3 points and 420.5 yards per contest, which ranked ninth and 13th, respectively.
Chizik hired two new coordinators before the 2012 season, and he made a bold move by selecting former Temple OC Scot Loeffler to run the offense. With the pick, Chizik hired a coach with one year of experience at the position and signaled a shift from Gus Malzahn's spread option to a pro-style offensive attack. As the season wore on, that move looked like a bigger and bigger mistake, bringing plenty of criticism to Chizik. As bad as Auburn's record was in 2012, the failed Loeffler experiment and the underdevelopment of four- and five-star talent ultimately should be viewed as the catalysts that led to Chizik's demise.
Perhaps as damning as Auburn's on-field results have been the off-field issues under Chizik's regime. The Tigers have dealt with several arrests and suspensions in the last four years, and the program is currently facing NCAA investigation for the second time under the tenure of its now former head coach.
With Chizik out the door, it's time to look ahead to the candidates Auburn may be considering to bring the program back from the ashes. Bobby Petrino, Jimbo Fisher, Gus Malzahn, Butch Jones and Charlie Strong are all names to watch, but there is not a clear leader at this time, and a new name could surface at any moment.
With the steep decline of the program since Auburn's victory over Oregon in the BCS Championship Game on Jan 10, 2011, it became painfully obvious that a change was needed to right the ship. But even though Chizik oversaw the disaster that was the 2012 season, Auburn fans shouldn't vilify the coach. No matter the perception that 2010 was all about Cam or Nick or Gus, Chizik led that team and held it together in the face of adversity on and off the field. It's time for Chizik to go, but the joy he brought to the Plains shouldn't be forgotten.