Auburn coach Gene Chizik knows how defensive coordinator Ted Roof feels this morning. He’s been there before – literally. Six years ago, as the man running the defensive show for Auburn, Chizik limped off the Tiger Stadium turf after being blistered 31-7 by LSU. That was 2003. Better days were just around the corner.
Today Auburn fans are not sure what the future holds for this football program. Suddenly, fans who just three weeks ago were lauding embattled athletic director Jay Jacobs for proving his critics wrong are now shaking their finger in his face saying, “I told you so.”
There are plenty of places to point fingers. The truth is, no one person is solely responsible for this sudden crash in Auburn fortunes. Chizik is still the coach he was in September. So is his staff. Was it a big mistake not playing backup Neil Caudle earlier Saturday night? Perhaps.
Have SEC schools figured out this quickly how to defend the offense of Gus Malzahn? It’s certainly possible, but more than likely improbable. Could anything have been done Saturday night in Baton Rouge to cause a different outcome? Unfortunately no.
The simple truth is that Auburn’s program is in much worse shape than anyone realized even a year ago. For all of Tommy Tuberville’s greatness, he fell down on the job during the last three years of his tenure – especially when it came to recruiting.
There are not more than two or three players on the 2009 roster that Alabama really wanted for themselves. The truth hurts. This coaching staff is good, but they’re not miracle workers. Coaching can make players better and they can be motivated to play over their heads at times; but in the end it’s near impossible to trump talent.
The cold hard facts today are that Auburn is a long way from its glory days. Turning on Chizik now would be a huge mistake for this program. Whether you wanted him or not, it’s hard to argue that his methods aren’t pointing Auburn in the right direction. Splintered factions among the fanbase likely means lost recruits in February.
As fans endure these final weeks of the season, we can all learn a lesson from our neighbors to the north. After a decade of failure, Alabama officials, alumni and fans came together and said enough. They vowed to do whatever it took to put their program back on top. In a matter of less than three seasons, they are all in lockstep with one another. The results unfortunately have been astounding.
They hired the right coach and stood behind him despite the rough inaugural season that included a loss to Louisiana-Monroe. In two short seasons they returned to national prominence. Today they sit at the top of the polls. They are on track next season to open the second addition to their stadium in less than 10 years. Things turned around lightening fast for Alabama.
This morning Auburn fans have a choice. Do we all get on the same page and move forward or do we turn on each other, pick sides and fight until the program is in complete shambles? We watched Alabama do it for a decade and it was wonderful.
Do we want to give them the same pleasure? I think not.