Two years after Alabama makes a splash with the hiring of Nick Saban, Auburn goes out and, like 13-year old Chinese divers, barely makes a splash in the pool by hiring Gene Chizik? That is not a Saban-like hire; that is like a Callaway-like hire (see UAB). But give Auburn a break…at least for now.
There are a couple of important things to keep in mind. First off, Iowa State is bad. Really bad. And they have historically been awful. Yes, they had some success in the 70s under Earle Bruce and later with Dan McCarney, whom Chizik succeeded as head coach in Ames. But this is a program that has a winning percentage of around 43 percent. And even under McCarney the Cyclones were more like breezes, losing as many as 10 games twice and successful seasons were spotty (and driven by players that would move on to the NFL — Sage Rosenfels, Ellis Hobbs, Seneca Wallace). And even though McCarney was able to recruit respectable classes, it was still a tough sell. So, you cannot necessarily hold that against Chizik.
Second, remember that Chizik was a well-respected coordinator. As a defensive coordinator, he produced three Thorpe winners [best DB in college football] and led defenses on two different undefeated teams — 2004 Auburn Tigers and the 2005 Texas Longhorns [BCS champs that season]. His 2004 effort also earned him the Frank Broyles Award, given to the best assistant coach. So his talent was recognized. It was probably a bad investment on his part to take the Iowa State job, but he saw his opportunity. Unfortunately, it did not pan out [or at least he was not there long enough to find out]. Keep in mind that Pete Carroll did not do so well at the pro ranks and could be considered a questionable hire by USC (at least at the time). I am not stating that Chizik will buy a dynasty — whoops, I meant build a dynasty, but the situations are similar. Carroll was not the Trojans top choice — nowhere near it. And he was not well-received at first. Going 6-6 in his first season and losing to Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl (!!) certainly did not help things. Now, Carroll is considered one of the better coaches in the FBS ranks, and rightfully so. In the right situation, Carroll has flourished. Perhaps the same can happen with Chizik on “The Plains.” Only time will tell.
Perhaps he is not the best pick. Maybe Turner Gill would have been better. Or maybe we will find out that Chizik is not really cut out to be a head coach. Great coordinator (see Carl Torbush), but not fit to be the top guy. But cut Auburn some slack. It was certainly questionable to fire — whoops, allow Tuberville to resign and THEN fill the void with a 5-19 coach who is riding a nice ten game losing streak. But Chizik is no dummy when it comes to football. He has been at Auburn before and knows the recruiting trails in the SEC. He was successful at his assistant gigs at Auburn and Texas and perhaps was just in a bad situation. Give it time. At least until next August.