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April 22, 2013

Chizik “100 percent confident we did it right” | Former coach adds he’ll return to sideline

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Photo by Todd Van Emst


AUBURN, Ala. – For four months after being fired, former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik remained almost completely silent.

For 19 days after his an incriminating report of how he ran the program, specifically during the 2010 national championship season, Chizik’s response was relegated to a two-page statement released by his representation.

Finally, Chizik let his voice be heard Monday afternoon on WJOX radio in Birmingham. And oh, was there fury in that voice – a polar opposite of Chizik’s demeanor throughout the 3-9 season that lost his job on Nov. 25, 2012.

“It’s a shame that it was a season that was so miraculous, and there were so many magical moments in the season for coaches and players … for anybody to have to even put an asterisk by that and say, ‘let’s defend ourselves,’ it’s a shame,” Chizik said.

“Simply to the Auburn people, it’s not fair. It’s not right. But it is what it is. That’s why I’m here today. I care about my reputation, I care about the integrity of who I am and what I do. I’m 100 percent confident we did it right.”

Chizik’s radio appearance, breaking a nearly five-month silence with the exception of serving as guest analyst during ESPNU’s National Signing Day coverage, came a few hours after Auburn University declared its internal investigation found no academic fraud or other wrongdoings as alleged in an April 3 article posted by Selena Roberts on her web site, Roopstigo.com.

When Auburn officials reached out to Chizik to convene about the report, he was reportedly livid, but agreed to allow the university time to conduct its review.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs has routinely praised Chizik for how he carried himself, both through the thrills of 2010 and the rigors of 2012.

“It makes me feel good, because Auburn obviously feels the same way,” said Chizik, who still lives in Auburn. “We had a lot of accusations and allegations thrown our way. Jay did exactly what he should have done, which is come back with facts, with data, because we’re about truth.”

During the 25-minute segment, Chizik was asked numerous times about the prior investigation regarding Cam Newton – which Chizik again pointed out facts, that Auburn has not faced major NCAA punishment in 20 years.

“It started out as a Mississippi State problem, then after 13 months, it became an Auburn problem,” Chizik said. “Without question, it’d have to be the most scrutinized program in the country. But I still go back to: what are the facts? The NCAA’s been in there almost two years. They found no major violations.”

Chizik also responded for the first time to questions about being dismissed after four years as Auburn’s head coach, and just two years removed from a national title.

“The bottom line is we had a 3-9 season, I’m not the coach anymore. I understand the business. I understand what people have to do,” Chizik said. “Am I bitter? No. Do I wish I was still the coach at Auburn? I would love it because I love the place. You asked me how I am with the university and Jay Jacobs … you know what? It’s business. If you get your feelings hurt because of business decisions people have to make, then apparently you don’t really understand the business.

“Hey, I love football, I love coaching, I love being around the kids. But the bottom line is, they made a change and I’m moving forward.”

Chizik, 51, added he’s not finished with his coaching career. He was Iowa State’s head coach from 2007-08, following numerous defensive coordinator positions – including undefeated seasons at Auburn (2004) and Texas (2005).

“I definitely want to have those options available for myself. I still feel like I have a lot to offer to young men, I feel like I have a lot to offer to the coaching profession,” Chizik said. “Right now we’re weighing out different options with different people. We’re just going to see where we land next.”

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