If there’s a consensus among Auburn fans regarding the hiring of Gene Chizik, it’s that the new coach will have the full backing of the program’s supporters. Meanwhile, area football coaches expressed bewilderment at the choice.
According to Iowa State University, former coach Chizik was hired as the Tigers’ new head coach on Saturday.
Cullman County Auburn fans reacted with caution, but stressed that Chizik will have their full support.
“I think he has the mind for coaching and has enough experience to make a good head coach,” said Cullman County Auburn Club member Marcus Clark. “It may take two or three years to get there, but we’ll support him.”
Club secretary Charles Wunderlich pointed to Chizik’s role as Auburn’s defensive coordinator during the Tigers’ 13-0 2004 season.
“It’s definitely a positive,” he said. “He’s familiar with Auburn, the program and some of the people here. And he definitely did a good job when he was here.”
After more than a week of interviews and rumors, some were happy to see the search end.
“I’m happy that Auburn has found a coach,” said Clark. “And I understand that we can’t be in the top 10 every year, but they’ll bounce back.”
Club president Fred Bussey declined to comment.
Good Hope High football coach Chris Moss was surprised a former member of Tommy Tuberville’s staff was given the job.
“I just don’t think you fire a guy like Tommy Tuberville and then hire a guy that was his assistant,” he said.
Tuberville stepped down as Auburn’s coach Dec. 3 amidst rumors that he was under pressure from university trustees.
During the search, athletic director Jay Jacobs indicated money would not be a limiting factor while looking for a new coach.
Chizik earned $1.05 in base salary this season, in which Iowa State went 2-10. A buyout of his contract will cost $750,000.
Auburn was paying Tuberville an average of $3.3 million per year. His buyout cost a reported $5.08 million, in two installments.
“They talked about money not being an object, but you just wonder if they’re settling for somebody,” Moss said.
Former West Point High football coach Michael Simmons was underwhelmed by the hire.
“I thought they were going to have to hire someone to trump Nick Saban,” he said. “I don’t think this is a trump card.”
But Simmons added that Auburn fans will continue to support Chizik and the Tigers, regardless of wins and losses.
“Of course, I’m for Auburn, not the coach,” he said. “I’ve been an Auburn fan all my life, and that’s not going to change now.”
A former defensive coordinator at Auburn and Texas, Chizik saw his Iowa State team finish 111th in total defense in 2008. The Cyclones ranked 115th out of 119 teams in passing defense, and were rated 95th in rushing defense.
“He was an assistant to Tuberville, and Tuberville was a defensive guy anyway,” said Moss. “So you don’t really know what you’re getting.”
“A coach is like the players; you look at his record and what he’s doing, but until he gets to the job, you really don’t know what well he’s going to do,” he said.
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