By Shane from Centerpoint
I know there are literally dozens of major sportsâ€“related topics I could cover in my column this week, but none of them seem very important when compared to the â€œearthâ€“shakingâ€ events taking place down on the Plains of Auburn. I strive to talk about the â€œhotâ€ topics, and right now itâ€™s all about the Tigers.
Looper and Trooper, Auburnâ€™s â€œmediaâ€ co-head coaches, are in the process of reinventing the â€œartâ€ of recruiting. While running the biggest P.R. campaign Auburn fans have witnessed since Bo Jacksonâ€™s Heisman run, they recently staged two undisciplined events (Tiger Prowl â€“ Big Cat Weekend) that were designed to draw national attention, as well as the interest of potential recruits.
The outlandish, non-traditional nature of the events created quite a stir. Both drew the television cameras as well, especially the â€œToomerâ€™s Cornerâ€ pep rally, where some of the nations top recruits somehow magically gathered to participate in the â€œrollingâ€, designed to simulate an Auburn victory party. Forget the fact that the Auburn coaches convinced those great players to drive all those miles; it was even more impressive to see them (Looper and Trooper were there) allowing their top recruit to disrespect the head coach of their cross-state rival.
By the way, the young man did come back and personally apologize to Nick Saban, which shows his maturity and class. In fact he and Saban became friends. Still Auburn left a few possible transgressions on the table that night. Actually, Auburn â€” like most SEC member institutions â€” might be willing to commit a few minor violations when the situation requires such things to be done.
Team Trooper-Looper deserves a huge applause from the Auburn family. Theyâ€™ve at least taken the Tiger program a few steps forward, away from the self-imposed â€œdeath penaltyâ€ former head coach Tommy Tuberville had the Tigers heading toward.
Speaking of head coaches. There is one in particular weâ€™ve heard very little from â€“ the man who reminds Auburn legend Pat Dye of himself â€“ â€œnewâ€ Tiger head man Gene Chizik. Weâ€™ve seen and heard plenty (maybe too much) from the assistants I discussed above, but for some reason Chizik has been off the radar.
Until now! Birmingham News sportswriter Jon Solomon has graciously provided me with something to comment on by asking coach Chizik five great questions. On the other hand, Chizikâ€™s answers left something to be desired, and show me why he has outspoken assistants acting as his front men.
When Solomon asked Gene about the psychological effect of his losing (5-19) record causing Auburn fans to question his hire, Chizik replied, â€œI donâ€™t get validated from the outside world. So, I donâ€™t even pay attention to that.â€ Do what? What kind of Eastern philosophical doctrine does that train of thought come from?
Iâ€™ve got a news flash for you Gene â€“ the Fans, Alumni, Boosters, and Board of Trustees and Auburn University are your outside world and they will judge you and validate you within about a two or three-year time frame. Iâ€™ll guarantee you something else too â€“ the powersâ€“thatâ€”be will make you pay attention or theyâ€™ll send you packing.
One question into the Q & A and Iâ€™m beginning to wonder about this guy.
Solomon also asked Chizik what he thought about former coach Tommy Tubervilleâ€™s endorsement, backed by Tubbyâ€™s statement that he was very confident that Gene would succeed at Auburn. Chizik gave some superficial responses. Among those statements were quips like, â€œItâ€™s certainly appreciated. You know, I appreciate the kind words. Obviously, I was with Tommy for three years.â€
It all sounds so disingenuous when you know that ole Chiz was waiting in the wings to take over Tommyâ€™s defense back in 2003, when the â€œJet Gateâ€ gang tried to oust Tubby and replace him with Bobby Petrino. Yeah, I bet those two (Tubs and Chiz) got along great after that. Actually, I think Chizik fled to Texas soon after.
Solmon continued by asking Coach Chizik what he thought about new Tennessee leader Lane Kiffinâ€™s almost childish approach to entering the league as a rookie, and to compare his â€œtakeâ€ as to how it should be done? Iâ€™m going to quote him in its entirety here because Iâ€™ve read it ten times and I still think it sounds stupid: â€œWhen things need to be said, I say â€˜em. When they donâ€™t need to be said, I donâ€™t say â€˜em. I just call â€˜em like it is when I need to call it. I donâ€™t feel like things always need to be said on my behalf about certain issues.â€ I think the words speak for themselves.
There were two more questions on the board, but Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve seen enough in the three examples above to make up your mind. Personally, I do know I canâ€™t see what the Auburn search committee thought they saw when they chose Gene Chizik as the man to take on Nick Saban. Can this really be the guy who is going to go into the homes of the best players, and out-sell Saban?
In the future, Auburn may very well have a better shot at success with the assistants running the show. I donâ€™t know what kind of player they may attract with that type of system, but Chizik apparently thinks that young people will respond to the Trooper and Looper Show much better than he will be able to affect them face-to-face in the home.
Oh! I almost forgot to mention one more piece of news on the Auburn front: former offensive coordinator Tony Franklin is mad, and heâ€™s talking â€“ to anybody whoâ€™ll listen. Iâ€™m not sure what his game plan is going to be, but it probably wonâ€™t be good news for Auburn.
â€”Shane writes a weekly column for the Call News and the Capstone Report.