Looks like Auburn took the easy way out.
Auburn hired former Iowa State coach Gene Chizik to replace Tommy Tuberville, and it hasn't exactly prompted cheers and thunderous applause through the Plains.
Many are baffled that Chizik - who went 5-19 at Iowa State - was picked over Buffalo head coach and Fort Worth native Turner Gill. Count me among that group. What he's done with turning Buffalo from a joke into MAC champions is miraculous, and quite impressive.
This is where it gets messy, because many also believe race was a factor. Charles Barkley, an Auburn grad, believed that was the case with Gill, who is black. The story was told on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" of how two SEC coaches said Gill wouldn't get the job because he's married to a white woman. As popular columnist Paul Finebaum put it, "The hiring of an African-American also would have put to bed the image in some people's minds that a plantation mentality still permeates the cool air on the loveliest village on the Plains."
Does his racism still exist in the dirty South?
You bet. One of my friends was effected by it growing up in Louisiana, and I saw it firsthand back in college. Was it a factor here with the Auburn hiring? I wasn't in the meetings, and can't speculate, but it would be naive and ignorant to think it wasn't.
The pressure's already there, though, for Chizik. Auburn, which had been among the measuring sticks for success in the SEC, has been passed by Florida, Georgia, LSU and hated rival Alabama.
Already in his first press conference, Chizik kept saying he's "the right guy" (not the kind of thing that would inspire confidence). Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs also said that while interviewing Chizik, that he felt he had Iowa State "on the turnaround" (huh?) and that Chizik was the "best fit."
If he doesn't turn things around quickly, there's no doubt Chizik will be gone. Coaches aren't allowed extended time to build programs anymore. You've got to build, and win now.
As for Gill?
I've never met him, but I've talked with several area high school coaches who've dealt with him in recruiting, and they've talked about what a class guy he is. My bet: He'll be just fine. Something way better than Auburn is waiting for him.