We’ve seen coaches come and go, but rarely has an exit caused an uproar like Gene Chizik’s. There are several reasons, but none more compelling than a story as old as time. To paraphrase Dennis Green, he’s not who we thought he was.
Chizik played high and mighty during his two years in Ames. He constantly talked values, commitment, and integrity. He had bibles on his desk. He insisted on a team Chaplain. Chizik looked a lot of young men right in the eyes and promised them that together they’d build something special at Iowa State. He asked their mothers and fathers to trust him. He urged fans to believe in the journey, and open their wallets along the way. Then he left broken hearts all over Iowa State University, and skid marks on Ames. Raise your hand if you don’t think Chizik actually told people he regretted taking the job?
Chizik did nothing to me. He was the kind of guy you could interview 50 times and feel like you didn’t know him at all. Not the real him. In that way, he reminded me of Steve Alford. Alford could forget he met you, 10 minutes after meeting you. Unfortunately, Chizik’s players learned first hand just how cold blooded he is. He reportedly spent about two minutes explaining his decision to not see anything through. He talked for more than 30 minutes at his Auburn news conference and never once thanked Iowa State or Jamie Pollard for the opportunity. No apologies either. What would Jesus do? Not that.
Anyone should understand a man taking a better job for more money. Keno Davis did it. And he did it after just one year. But there are many differences. Keno actually accomplished something before leaving. Something like championships. He never held a news conference to delcare his love of Iowa. Or to say he was “firmly entrenched”. He just said he was happy and had no plans to leave. Near as I can tell, both were true. Keno also wasn’t the face and future of the program.
Jamie Pollard put it all on Chizik. And Chizik knew that. Heck, he took advantage of it. Overpaying assistant coaches, insisting the uniforms, school colors, and logo be changed, taking the names off the back of the uniforms… If Chizik wanted it, he got it. The payoff was promised as championships.
Iowa State was never near a championship. It was only two years, but I saw next to nothing promising greatness. Not all coordinators make good head coaches. Much has been made of Chizik’s undefeated teams at Texas and Auburn, but with the athletes those schools attract, winning sure didn’t leave when Gene did.
Now that Chizik’s gone, it’s easy to pile on with criticism we didn’t hear before. Some of that makes sense. We learned more about Chizik the man. However, many of us were unimpressed with Chizik the coach. The Cyclones were undisciplined, the sideline chaotic, and Iowa State found ways to lose games it should have won. It would have gotten better, but Chizik realized he was in over his head long before Auburn threw him a lifeline. Someone in the Iowa State athletic department told me two years ago he knew Chizik had no idea what he was getting into there when he talked about winning a national championship at Texas with only two elite players, the rest were role players. Yeah, right. 5-star role players.
Chizik was hired to take Iowa State to the next level, but like Alford at Iowa, that level was down, not up. Chizik recruited a lot of promising talent to Ames, and most of those players will end up staying. They won’t want to sit out a year. When you’re 19, a year seems like forever.
The irony here is Pollard gets a “do-over”. Why he offered Chizik a two year contract extension is beyond my comprehension, but Jamie thought Gene was on his way to big things. I didn’t see it.
Cyclone fans should pop corks. Pollard too. Chizik was a phony and never a good fit. He didn’t want to be in Iowa, couldn’t wait to leave, and now finds himself surrounded by a posse of angry Auburn fans.
Some of the above explains part of our fascination with this story. The rest comes down to one much simpler thought:
Can you believe Auburn hired a guy riding a 10 game losing streak?
They can have him.