Gene Chizik isn’t bitter about getting fired by Auburn and still believes he can be a successful head coach. Beyond that, he is coy about his future coaching plans.
Chizik shed little light Monday on when he hopes to get back in coaching, or whether the former defensive coordinator would be willing to go back to being an assistant. He worked for ESPN on national signing day and said he’s been consulting defensively with some teams.
He has mostly stayed out of the public eye for the past five months. Chizik can be afford to be choosy about his next job since he received a $7.5 million buyout after his November firing, paid in monthly installments.
”I can’t pigeonhole myself whether I want to be this, this or this,” Chizik said. ”I’m very confident in my abilities, both as a head coach and as a defensive coordinator, absolutely.”
Getting fired after a monumental collapse two years after winning a national championship hasn’t changed Chizik’s feelings toward Auburn, which he said is evidenced by the fact that he’s still living in town.
”I’m a big boy, and I understand the business,” Chizik said. ”Whether it’s the SEC or the NFL, the bottom line is you have to win. In 27 years, I’ve never been dismissed from a job. So I’m in uncharted waters and uncharted territory, but I understand the business well enough to know that I’m not bitter. I have no remorse.
”Sure you’d like to look back and reflect and change some things because that’s just human nature, but I don’t look back on anything here but a lot of fond memories.”
Chizik was prompted to speak out after Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs announced the results of an internal investigation into allegations of grade-changing and offering improper inducements for players during the 2010 national championship season.
Chizik maintained that Auburn wasn’t guilty of either NCAA violation during his tenure. He said it was difficult dealing with a negative perception toward the program starting with the investigation into quarterback Cam Newton’s recruitment.
”You know, it is draining. And the reason it’s draining is because you try to figure out exactly why there’s so much scrutiny and you go back to the 2010 season,” Chizik said. ”It started there, and over two years, two and a half years, it just seemed like it never ended. It’s very frustrating, because you know you’re operating this football program exactly the way you need to do it. Every decision was made with the best intent.
”So it’s really just hard to operate day by day with what I consider to be the most scrutinized, and sometimes villainized, program in the country. I just didn’t see the facts and the data that ever came out that indicated it should have been. I still don’t.”
Chizik’s tenure was marred by the arrest of four players on robbery charges two months after the national championship game win over Oregon, and other off-the-field issues that led him to enforce a nightly curfew last season.
On the field, the Tigers went from 14-0 to 3-9 in a two-year span and didn’t win a Southeastern Conference game last season. They lost their last three by a combined 150-21.
Chizik declined to say whether he feels winning a national title should have secured him more time to turn things around.
”I can’t give my opinion on what they should or shouldn’t have done,” he said. ”Would I have liked the opportunity to come back and fix what I felt like upon reflection I had a good idea of where we were going and what we were doing? We had a great recruiting class going. It’s water under the bridge.”