Racism….Only Jacobs Knows.

chizik By. Kevin Strickland

Last Saturday the Auburn Tigers hired a struggling coach from a           lackluster team to replace the departed Tommy Tuberville as head of their football team.

In selecting Iowa State’s Gene Chizik, the Tigers picked a coach with a 5-19 career record, a coach on a ten-game losing streak and a coach that just completed an 0-8 record against Big 12 competition, even though his Cyclone team did not face Big 12 powers Texas, Texas Tech or Oklahoma.

The Tigers bypassed a number of coaches who were imminently more qualified on paper including Gary Patterson of Texas Christian, Brady Hoke of Ball State and Turner Gill of Buffalo, all of whom confirmed interviews with Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs.

The Chizik hire was puzzling and sparked widespread outrage from Auburn fans.

It also provoked outspoken Auburn alumni Charles Barkley to insinuate that race played a part in Auburn’s decision, specifically that Gill’s ethnicity, and the fact that he was married to a woman of another race, was the determining factor in denying him the job.

Sensing blood in the water, the national media went into a feeding frenzy. Auburn was eviscerated in sportscasts, ripped in newspaper columns and blasted on talk radio.

But here’s the thing. For all the self-righteous babble coming from the national media, no one really knows how Jacobs arrived at his decision.

In communication with Auburn fans and in press conferences, Jacobs says he was enraptured by Chizik’s passion and intensity.

Jacobs says he was impressed with Chizik’s worth ethic. He says he was swayed by Chizik’s history at Auburn.

He says he was influenced by Chizik’s connection to the area and his ready-made knowledge of the recruiting landscape.

All that may well be true.

It’s entirely possible that the decision was never really between Gill and Chizik. Gill may have been the third, fourth, fifth or sixth choice on Jacobs’ list.

Gary Patterson had a more impressive resume than both of them combined.  Who’s to say he wasn’t Auburn’s first choice?

The fact is that nobody knows.

There’s no question that Gill had momentum among the Auburn fans. Photoshopped pictures of the Buffalo head coach wearing Auburn gear started making the rounds early in the interview process.

There’s also no question that the hiring of Chizik is curious and bears questioning. But is it not racist in and of itself to assume that race is a factor when there’s no tangible evidence to support that position?

The problem with the harsh criticism Auburn has faced for allegedly passing over Gill is that other schools are watching. It seems that the way to avoid being accused of being racist is to forgo interviewing minorities altogether.

When Ole Miss needed a head coach the Rebels didn’t interview a minority. Neither did Florida, Mississippi State, Alabama, Georgia or Arkansas in their most recent coaching hires.

Would the outcry against Auburn exist had the Tigers followed suit and not talked to Gill or Rodney Garner during the process?

There’s no question that the hire of Chizik defied logic. But making the leap to racism because Auburn chose not to hire a minority candidate is absurd. Perhaps Auburn administrators just aren’t very smart.

At least the Tigers were willing to consider hiring a minority. After the firestorm Auburn has endured will other programs be as willing?

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