Where Smart Picks Go to Die
I will admit that yesterday’s Iron Bowl defeat 49-0, the worst for Auburn since the series’ renewal in 1948, was very painful to watch through the eyes of an Auburn fan. In a normal year, Iron Bowl week is filled with excitement, intrigue, and very real stakes for both teams. It is an awful feeling to go into a game against your biggest rival knowing that you have absolutely no chance to win. It is an awfuller feeling to watch your team fulfill those predictions while looking absolutely over-matched and helpless, never once showing any fight. It is quite fair to say that last night’s game was the lowest point of Gene Chizik’s tenure at Auburn – an era that will be very hard to define with its highest of highs and lowest of lows.
But the news today of Chizik’s firing marks the beginning of a supposed healing process for the Auburn faithful. It feels good to know that action is being taken, and I expect more finality by the end of the week regarding a new head coach. The reality of the situation, however, is that regardless of the hire, a large portion of the Auburn fan-base will be disappointed. Certain hires might even upgrade that disappointment to hostility.
It is important to keep in mind that as the week unfolds, numerous rumors will abound. In all likelihood, multiple candidates will be labeled the front runner, smoke screens will be thrown out, and true information will be difficult to come by. At this moment it appears that Bobby Petrino and Gus Malzahn are the hottest names, but who knows if that will be true tomorrow (or even later tonight).
The news that Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson will be among the members of a search committee is certainly interesting. Jay Jacobs was given sole responsibility for the Chizik hire, and it’s obvious that the administration has learned from that mistake. In fact, while it appears Jacobs job is safe for now (and he is still being given a seat on the search committee), I would not be at all surprised to see a new athletic director within a year from now.
The most interesting name on the search committee, however, is Mac Crawford. Crawford, a former Auburn fullback and former CEO of several healthcare related companies, may be able to provide the kind of no-nonsense leadership Auburn so desperately needs in this situation. He is not one of the traditional “good-ole boys”, yet he still carries the financial substance and tag of “Auburn man” that may allow him to coalesce other power brokers into a unified decision.
Perhaps the best stance for Auburn fans to take at this point is to forget any personal biases they may have for or against certain coaching candidates. There will be things to like and dislike about any of the potential candidates, as there really is no “slam-dunk” candidate available. Regardless of the hire, it is of critical importance that everyone be on the same page afterward, including the fans. If you want to know what happens when that’s not the case, just ask Mike Shula…