Ever since Auburn announced that it was hiring Iowa State head coach Gene Chizik to replace Tommy Tuberville as head coach of their football team, they haven’t been getting much love from the fan base. Sure, Chizik spent a few years as defensive coordinator at Auburn under Tuberville, and was also the defensive coordinator for the Texas Longhorns the year they won the BCS National Championship, but his 5-19 record at Iowa State isn’t exactly impressive.
The question most Tiger fans have had is why would the school get rid of Tuberville to hire a coach that’s barely won 25% of the games he’s coached? If he can’t turn Iowa State around in the Big 12, how is he supposed to restore Auburn to glory in the SEC? Well, while he doesn’t know the answers to those questions, former Auburn basketball player Charles Barkley is pretty sure he knows why the school chose Chizik over Buffalo’s Turner Gill.
Chizik is white.
“I think race was the No. 1 factor,” said Barkley, who played basketball for three seasons at Auburn during the early 1980s. “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.
“I’m just very disappointed. I just thought Turner Gill would be the perfect choice for two reasons: He’s a terrific coach and we needed to make a splash. I thought we had to do something spectacular to bring attention to the program. Clearly, if we’d hired a black coach, it would have created a buzz.”
While I’m not sure his race is the only factor in Auburn’s decision, Charles does have a pretty good point. If I were an athletic director at a school looking for a new football coach, I’d be a lot more impressed with what Turner Gill has done in his tenure at Buffalo than Chizik at Iowa State. I’m not even sure the majority of college football fans in this country knew Buffalo had a football team, and now two years after getting there, Gill led the school to a MAC title by beating then-undefeated Ball State in the conference title game.
Still, I do think race may have played a small part in the decision. After all, the SEC has only had one black head coach in the entire history of the conference, and Sylvester Croom just resigned from Mississippi State at the end of this season. I’m not trying to label an entire state here, but as someone who has spent a bit of time in the state of Alabama during his lifetime, I sure do remember seeing a lot of confederate flags proudly displayed around the place. To pretend that racism doesn’t still exist there would be stupid, and I’m sure the school considered that before hiring the black head coach with the white wife.
Of course, I’d rather only make the ignorant portion of my fan base angry than the whole thing by hiring Chizik, but that’s just me.