Was race the issue?

Buffalo head football coach Turner Gill is doused at the end of their 42-24 victory over Ball State in the Mid-American Conference NCAA championship football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Friday, Dec. 5, 2008. (AP)

Buffalo head football coach Turner Gill is doused at the end of their 42-24 victory over Ball State in the Mid-American Conference NCAA championship football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Friday, Dec. 5, 2008. (AP)

Charles Barkley was very adamant in who he wanted to take over his Auburn Tigers when on TNT for NBA coverage last week. And with Auburn’s decision, Barkley is screaming foul.

Barkley called for Auburn to hire ex-Nebraska coach and quarterback Turner Gill — now head coach at Buffalo University. Barkley sited Gill’s wonderful job at Buffalo and his ability to turn a once laughing stock of Division I football into a conference champion in just three years.

However, Auburn decided to hire Iowa State head coach Gene Chizik instead.

Barkley came out after the official announcement of Chizik and claimed the only reason the Tigers didn’t hire Gill was because Gill happens to be an African-American.

“I think race was the No. 1 factor,” said Barkley, who played basketball for Auburn before a long NBA career. “You can say it’s not about race, but you can’t compare the two resumes and say [Chizik] deserved the job. Out of all the coaches they interviewed, Chizik probably had the worst resume.”

And you know what? Barkley has a point.

Look at what these two coaches bring to the table:

Chizik is 5-19 over his two seasons as head coach at ISU. Sure Iowa State was 4-8 the year before Chizik took over, but Chizik has actually manged to make them worse. Not only that, but ISU was just one year removed from being tied for the North Title. Sure it’s difficult to recruit to a school like Iowa State — I mean who really wants to go to Ames? — but that’s not an excuse.

You know where else it’s hard to recruit players to?

Try Buffalo, NY., where it’s always cold and they play in a minor conference. Yet Gill has attracted players that never would have thought about Buffalo before, and has molded them into a class team. In the past two years Gill has lead a team that had won 10 games total — I’ll repeat that, TOTAL — in their first seven seasons, to 13 wins.

Heck, Gill has more wins this season than Chizik does in his head coaching career.

But Auburn AD Jay Jacobs said he had two main concerns. First was Gill’s lack of experience in the SEC — because coaching in the Big 12 was worse? And second was that Jacobs was concerned as to why he should hire Gill at Auburn if Gill was passed over at his Alma Mater after last season.

First of all, both those “concerns” are insulting when you choose Chizik as your coach.

Second, lack of experience in the SEC? Really? The Big 12 is a very competitive market, and just as tough to coach in. And then lets see Chizik take a horrible team and turn them into something respectable — oh wait, he can’t.

And then there was the concern about Gill being passed over at Nebraska. This was probably the most insulting and least informed statement Jacobs made. Did Jacobs even look at what state the Huskers were in while searching for a coach? Did he notice that the Nebraska offense was in great shape? Did he notice that NU needed stability on defense? Did he realize that Gill is an offensive coach?

Did Jacobs even pay attention to Gill during his interview, or was it just an interview set up so he didn’t look racist? And here’s the most important question, did Jacobs even consider the fact that Auburn’s defense is fine but he needs a lot of help on offense?

Gill is an offensive coach with a great track record. Chizik is a defensive coach who hasn’t shown he can lead a team. If those are your two options, you make the call.

Maybe race wasn’t a part — in fact I really hope it wasn’t — but Jacobs puts up a horrible defense against the argument when he hired Chizik. Gary Patterson? Sure. Brian Kelly? Go for it. Chizik? Not a chance.

Three words describe my feelings towards hiring Gene Chizik at Auburn right now: The Wrong Choice.


7 responses to “Was race the issue?

  1. You know what was really the wrong choice?

    Firing Tuberville.

    TT beat Alabama like five times in a row before this year, and he had Auburn undefeated in 2004.

    Consider this Auburn’s “Frank Solich” moment.

    Chizik will never compete with Alabama while Saban’s there. He’ll have Auburn middle of the pack in the SEC at best.

    As for Turner, he’ll get his chance soon enough. I’ve heard his name mentioned for every single HC opening this year, but I think he needs one more good year at Buffalo before moving on — if he wants to at all…

  2. Joel,

    I understand where you’re coming from, but it’s easy to look at the situation from the outside and think getting rid of Tuberville was a bad decision. Man, it was awful between him and Auburn…it was time for them to part ways.

    It’s like a married couple that stays together for a long time for the sake of the kids, despite absolutely hating each other. Then, when one spouse does something really terrible that is the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back,’ the other spouse finally gets out. People viewing the situation from the outside will say it was not right for them to end it just because of that one thing…but you don’t see how messy it was every single day. Tuberville and the powers at AU would not speak to one other if they passed each other in a hallway (for years before the firing/resignation).

    It was better for everyone in Auburn that Tuberville and the university called it quits, and now AU can start anew. Maybe hiring Chizik was not the best idea…but at least AU can move on from the miserable relationship it had with Tuberville.

  3. Michael Mason-D'Croz

    I can understand the firing of Tuberville — I had been told his relationship with the AD and boosters had been on thin ice before the season started. I understand moving in a different direction.

    I really do understand that for Auburn. But the point of this post and the thing I don’t understand is why Auburn chose a mediocre coach to replace Tuberville.

    Yes, Chizik is a good defensive mind and a good defensive coordinator. However, he has shown nothing to suggest he’s a good head coach. Really the parallel I draw here is between Chizik and ex-Nebraska coach Bill Callahan.

    Callahan is an excellent football mind. He know’s what he’s doing when it comes to guiding an offense. And it showed when his teams took the field, they were always good on offense — once there were players that fit the system, sorry Joe Dailey — but he was a bad head coach.

    Some coaches are meant to be “bit players” and just be assistants, and maybe Chizik is one of those. Maybe Chizik will be a great hire for Auburn. Anything is possible. However, at this time the hiring makes no sense to me.

    Like I said before, I understand the firing of Tuberville and moving on. I just don’t understand how “moving on” can include Gene Chizik as the new head coach. There are plenty of other good, experienced and successful coaches who would have loved to coach at a school like Auburn … Jay Jacobs just plain and simple didn’t try and made a poor selection.

  4. Jay Jacobs just plain and simple didn’t try and made a poor selection

    Well, the situation is complicated…and I’m not justifying it…but to explain may take 45 paragraphs. I’ll just say this…Jay Jacobs did not make any selection. He did not make this hire. In fact, if he wasn’t such a bad BS’er (which is why he is A.D…b/c he’s a BS’er…but he’s terrible at it so I can’t understand why they chose him), I’d feel sorry for him taking all the heat.

    Point is…Jacobs name is on this hire…but he did not make the choice.

  5. And Turner Gill did not get passed over because he’s black or because he’s black and married to a white woman. He got passed over because he would not agree to be a head coach with no control. The control and power structure at AU is so messed up, it’s mind-boggling how they don’t see that a head coach needs control…and non-football people who simply have money do not need control. Every program that works like AU does fails in the end.

  6. I still think firing Tuberville (or him resigning, whatever) was a bad idea. Sometimes for the good of your organization you put aside your professional differences and work something out. There may have been personal issues, but TT was a decent coach at Auburn.

    But I agree that Gill’s non-selection wasn’t about race. I think it would have been a bad move for him professionally. Any coach at Auburn over the next couple of seasons is in a lose-lose situation. Gill would honestly have been better off at Iowa State (not that I’m suggesting he should have gone there). Like Nebraska, the expectations at Auburn are way high – and neither Chizik nor anyone else is going to be able to live up to that.

  7. Michael Mason-D'Croz

    I truly believe that race wasn’t the issue in Gill not getting the job. However, it would be impossible not to notice when one man is more qualified on paper than another, but he gets passed over. It’s also hard not to notice when that more qualified applicant happens to be an African-American.

    With that in mind, I am giving the benefit of the doubt that race had no part in it. I hope that in this day and age, race plays no part in whether someone is hired or not.

    When it comes to the hiring, I guess I assumed boosters had a very large part, but ultimately Jacobs would make the hire. If that’s not the case, then my bad a little on being so pointed towards Jacobs. I also didn’t know that the program doesn’t really give control to the coach and his staff. However, I have it on good grounds that Gill never started negociations, so he had no chance to agree or not to being a coach with no control.

    In the end, it’s probably best for Gill to not have this job. I just didn’t like the way that Auburn let it happen … basically letting the media know/think it was between Gill and an unnamed (Chizik) applicant — who most thought was Will Muschamp — then going with the latter, even though he was much less qualified.

    The whole process just doesn’t look good from the outside for the Auburn program.

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