TUSCALOOSA - After the final game of his fourth season and perhaps the final game of his time at Auburn, head coach Gen Chizik almost apologized.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik says fans deserve better/Robin Conn photo
At Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday, the fans outside were still celebrating Alabama's 49-0 destruction of Auburn when Chizik stepped the podium in the crowded interview room.
"Obviously, that was a very disappointing and embarrassing loss to our in-state rivals," Chizik said. "I want to. ...
Chizik caught himself and abruptly changed the course of his remarks.
"It's obvious to everybody it was a sad performance," Chizik said. "The Auburn fans and Auburn alumni don't deserve that, what they got tonight. We did all the classic things in a football game that you can't do and win it. We just got beat. Everybody saw how it happened.
"We weren't very efficient offensively. We certainly weren't very efficient defensively. On special teams we were very sporadic as well. I think that pretty much speaks for what happened and how it happened. A very poor performance."
With that, Chizik took questions that he knew were coming. Less than two years after winning the national championship, his job is clearly in jeopardy.
Auburn had finished a 3-9 season, the first time since 1950 an Auburn team had lost nine games. It had finished 0-8 in the Southeastern Conference for the first time in school history. It had been outscored by Alabama and Georgia - its two biggest rivals - 87-0 this season and 174-21 over the past two seasons. In 16 quarters against Alabama and Georgia, Auburn had scored just one offensive touchdown. It had been outscored 150-21 in its last three SEC games. In those three games - against Texas A&M and Georgia at home and at Alabama - the starting quarterback played just one series of the third quarter in each game.
Saturday's margin of defeat was second in Iron Bowl history only to a 55-0 Auburn loss in 1948, the year the modern series began.
Asked if he had been told whether he would return, Chizik said he would not address it.
"I'm not going into all of the job situation with any questions," Chizik said. "This isn't about me. I've got a locker room full of guys over here that are very disappointed and hurting, starting with our seniors. That's my focus. I'm not going to entertain any of those questions. My focus is to get back in there with them and trying to lead a group of very disappointed young men and coaches."
Asked what case he would make to return as Auburn's head coach, Chizik's eyes blazed.
"You know, I don't have to make a case," Chizik said. "You saw what you saw out there tonight. I'm very disappointed for our fans. We've been in tough times before. We've got to come back and continue to work to try to fix everything that has kind of spiraled downward."
Asked if his program was as bad as it appeared on the field, Chizik offered no specific answer beyond his tried and true "coach better and play better."
"I think that is up to whoever the eye of the beholder is," Chizik said. "Obviously, there are some times we've played well and sometimes we've played extremely poorly. Again, that goes back to us coaching better and playing better."
Chizik then talked like a man with a secure job, saying the evaluation of the program had to start immediately.
"This isn't about me," Chizik said. "Of course, I'm the head football coach at Auburn. There is no question in my mind we can turn this thing around and get back on the right track."