Most who rise to the level of being head coaches in the Southeastern Conference know what it takes to win and how to win. Yet, some get it done and some don’t.
Senior Editor Phillip Marshall
All fans believe their schools should win, and if it doesn’t happen, it must be the coach’s fault. In truth, whether a coach is successful often depends on circumstances beyond his control.
Pat Dye couldn’t have chosen a better time than 1981 to become head coach at Auburn. Bear Bryant, who had dominated southern football for almost of a quarter of a century, was nearing the end of his career. He was having problems recruiting because prospects worried, with good reason, that they would have to go through a coaching change.
Dye played Bryant just twice and went on to win four SEC championships in the 1980's.
When Alabama won the SEC championship in 1999, it didn’t seem that Tommy Tuberville had come at the best of times, it soon became obvious he had. Alabama would be mired in turmoil for most of the next decade. In Tuberville’s 10 seasons, Alabama had four head coaches, five if you count Mike Price.
Tuberville won the SEC championship and had an unbeaten season in 2004 and won six consecutive Iron Bowls..
That brings us to Gene Chizik.
Most would have said in December 2008 that Chizik had come to Auburn at the worst possible time. Tuberville had resigned after a 5-7 season. Nick Saban was quickly building at powerhouse at Alabama, was dominating recruiting in the state and was a national media darling. Alabama had humbled Auburn 36-0 in Tuscaloosa in Tuberville’s final game. The SEC overall was at an all-time high and getting stronger.
Much of that hasn’t changed. Alabama has won 36 games the past three seasons, won the national championship in 2009 and is among the favorites to win it in the coming season. But Chizik made it clear from the day he arrived he would not back down. He would take on Alabama and other SEC powerhouses in recruiting and on the field. Auburn, he said, could and would thrive, regardless of what Alabama was doing.
Sure enough, Chizik has won more in-state recruiting battles against Alabama than he’s lost. If Chizik and his staff continue recruiting as they have – and there’s no sign they’re slowing down – they’ll be in championship conversations more often than they won’t in the years ahead.
It’s not easy for Auburn and never has been. Alabama, as the university bearing the state’s name, has built-in advantages and always will have. But Chizik arrived believing Auburn has advantages of its own.
Chizik would do it his way, be true to his own values and to Auburn's values and he would win.
That belief was validated on Jan. 10 when he raised the crystal football in Glendale, Ariz.