Maybe Tommy Tuberville really did resign as Auburn's football coach.
It sure looked fishy that Auburn gave Tuberville $5.1 million last week after he resigned of his own free will, but maybe there wasn't something sinister afoot. Before all you recently resigned Alabama state employees start calling Montgomery and asking when you'll receive your two years of salary, consider this. Maybe athletic director Jay Jacobs and the booster puppetmasters pulling his strings simply don't know how to read a contract.
They certainly can't read a won-lost record.
Let's review. After a 5-7 season, they forced out Tuberville (85-40 and beat Alabama seven times in 10 seasons at Auburn) so they could hire Iowa State coach Gene Chizik, who went 5-19 in two seasons in Ames. But hey, there's good news. Chizik was undefeated against Big 12 heavyweights Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma in 2008. Of course, Iowa State didn't play any of those teams; it went 0-8 in the Big 12 despite having the league's weakest schedule.
When Tuberville was fired -- I mean, when he made an autonomous, unprovoked decision to resign -- conventional wisdom suggested Auburn would hire a coach who would strike fear into the hearts of Alabama fans and Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, or at least one who might make Saban break a sweat. Instead, the Tigers hired a defense-first guy whose team managed victories this season against South Dakota State, Kent State and no one else. Isn't a program supposed to upgrade after it runs off a coach? No matter how good Chizik is, the response to his hiring will be so universally negative that it will cripple Auburn's recruiting efforts this year.
Before hiring Chizik -- who, it must be noted, was an outstanding defensive coordinator at Auburn from 2002-04 and at Texas from 2005-06 -- Jacobs interviewed Buffalo coach Turner Gill, TCU coach Gary Patterson, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley, Ball State coach Brady Hoke and others. The difference between Chizik and those names in the previous sentence? With the exception of Patterson, all the other guys found success at programs that either were awful or mediocre when they arrived.
It's certainly difficult to win in Ames, so Chizik doesn't deserve to be buried. Jacobs and the men giving him his marching orders are another story. Gill's Bulls were underdogs for seven consecutive years, and he took them to a MAC title this season. Johnson won at Navy before heading to Atlanta. Patterson's only losses this year came at Oklahoma, which is playing for the national title, and at undefeated Utah. Hopefully, for Jacobs' sake, all the other coaches turned down the job. Or maybe, just maybe, returning to the South and coaching Auburn-level players will turn Chizik into the second coming of Shug Jordan. Either Jacobs has a preternatural gift for finding great coaches who merely need a change of scenery, or he just guaranteed himself his own Tuberville-style severance package.
Jacobs wasn't too embarrassed to admit he'd hired Chizik when he was met by reporters at the Auburn airport after returning from hiring Chizik; the deception was a miscommunication. Jacobs couldn't have known Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard was about to announce the news and rip his former coach in the process. No matter the reason for the subterfuge, the entire affair makes Jacobs look even more incompetent. If you're counting, Auburn officials finally admitted to hiring Chizik after 9 p.m. Saturday.
Auburn fans probably hope Jacobs or some flunky will swallow Chizik's contract, pretend it never existed and call Gill immediately. A few hours before Chizik's hire leaked, Birmingham News Auburn beat writer Charles Goldberg asked his Online readers to chime in with their thoughts about a potential Chizik reign. Heed this warning before you click this link. Unless you're an Alabama fan or an SEC West coach, it's more uncomfortable than the answering machine scene in Swingers.
Jacobs can take solace in this. Central Florida must have bought the domain name firegenechizik.com when Chizik worked at that school from 1998-2001, because that URL takes Web surfers to a page touting former UCF tailback Kevin Smith.
Of course, firejayjacobs.com was available, but the site's creator certainly won't get his wish. Silly Tigers fan. Jacobs won't get fired. The puppetmasters will cut his strings, he'll collect a fat check and he'll announce to the world that he resigned.