John Reed-US PRESSWIRE
Friends, we are gathered today to remember the time that Gene Chizik spent at Auburn. He is a good man that was embraced by the Auburn family. He was all in. He preached faith and family. And he delivered Auburn University both its most magnificent and disastrous seasons in football history.
I wasn't dancing.
I've been steadfast for the season's majority that I believed Gene Chizik was owed an opportunity to fix his mistake. Whether Scot Loeffler is an awful coach or not may have not been written in 2012, but a shift from the personnel in orange and blue was a mistake. Could it have been different if Chizik had an opportunity to right that wrong? Could a move back to the spread in 2013 have saved the downward spiral?
We'll not know. While I supported an unmade decision to allow that fix, I accepted the inevitable. That someone had to answer for a catastrophic season on the Plains became a clear realization as the apathy of games against Auburn's two biggest rivals washed over me. I didn't care. I wasn't alone. And that apathy began to make its appearance in the stands, and more importantly, on local economy.
But I'm not dancing, because as a fan of 30 years, a legacy and an alumnus, I realize what 2010 meant. While critics can point to Cam Newton, I'll remind them that Chizik did that. Did Chizik coax one of the greatest college athletes of all time to come to Auburn? Did Gus Malzahn? Did Trooper Taylor? It doesn't matter. Chizik assembled that staff, stood toe-to-toe with Nick Saban and refused to roll over while Saban raided the state. His predecessor did not.
Do you get that? Alabama is on the verge of winning its third national championship in four years. That Gene Chizik managed to win the fourth in that span against the dynasty that Saban has built is nothing short of a miracle. The program waited 53 years for that championship. 53. My father was born the last year it happened. Auburn had two real shots at it in that span, and nothing could go the right way. But for 14 magical games, Gene Chizik led the greatest Auburn team in history to its biggest moment. Grown men shedding tears. Shock. Awe. Remember what that felt like, and thank Gene Chizik for his service.
I hated the hire. My dad still reminds me that, when he dropped me a text to tell me it was coming, my reply was simply, "Gene (expletive) Chizik?" But from the moment he arrived on campus, he did every single thing correctly. He said the right things. He embraced the concept of family, which is mocked by everyone but understood by no one outside of it. He assembled the right staff. And he hit the recruiting trail and was relentless in a time when anything less would fail. He did enough in year one. He did enough in year three. And he had the two most remarkable seasons in Auburn history. For the failures of this one, a rough decision had to be made. I hate it, but I've accepted it as necessary. I wish Gene Chizik the best.
And here we are. A crossroads that I long ago told you we would reach. The Auburn family has become divided over the potential hiring of Bobby Petrino. But Bobby Petrino has a few things going for him: he's available, he is very good at coaching football and he would crawl naked over broken glass to get to Auburn (there's a joke in there, feel free to make it).
What is the beef? "He's not the type of character that we talk about in the creed. THE CREED. READ THE CREED." Stop it. Stop it now. You just fired a man that exemplified the creed two years after he won a national championship because you wanted to win now. If you want to win now, hire the best coach that is available.
"But he wasn't even that good against Nick Saban!" Stop it. He was at Arkansas. Arkansas is Ole Miss. Arkansas is South Carolina. And Bobby Petrino took ARKANSAS to a BCS bowl game. Nick Saban's talent at Alabama was superior to Petrino's at Arkansas.
"But he'll leave the second a better opportunity comes along!" What's a better opportunity? The NFL? Texas? There are better jobs in America than Auburn, but the list is much shorter than that of Louisville. Would you leave Louisville for the NFL? Would you realize you wished that you had not and take an SEC job to get back to a position that you loved?
Just get over it. If the names we are floating are Bobby Petrino, Jimbo Fisher, Kirby Smart and Gus Malzahn, there is one home run among them. And he'll come. Go get him.