Sun Dec 14 02:39pm EST
Remember Nick Saban's initial arrival at Alabama, and contrast that with the welcoming party that met Jay Jacobs Saturday after he'd finalized Gene Chizik as Auburn's new coach:
One former SEC assistant heard the news and laughed out loud.
One former Auburn assistant who worked alongside Chizik reacted with stunned silence.
One college football insider who knows both the current Alabama boss and the man Auburn has chosen to battle him said Chizik is a good coach -- but Nick Saban will eat him for breakfast.
- - -
Saban looms over this hire like the Wicked Witch of the West, watching Dorothy and her little friends struggle in the forest via crystal ball while sending a storm over the Plains to send the Tiger program into a deep hibernation. No one -- and I mean literally no one that I can find on the record, from people sprinting to jump on the pile to those who have to be more political about it -- has anything actually positive to say about the decision. A small but relevant sample:
• Paul Clark, CycloneReport.com: " ... I must admit, even I am surprised at the bizarre turn of events whereby he failed miserably at Iowa State and still got to jump on the very first opportunity that came along to move back south. What the hell Auburn is thinking is anybody's guess. And who cares. Because it just unburdened Iowa State of its most unprepared, overmatched and incompetent head coach of the modern era."
• Jerry Hinnen, Joe Cribbs Carwash: "I don't know how to react. It doesn't seem real. It doesn't seem like they could possibly be so shortsighted. I'm going to spend tonight trying to figure out how to react. That, and drinking."
• Sean Keeler, Des Moines Register. "The only thing the man did consistently over the past two years was keep a lot of people at arm's length. The losing looked as if it was taking tiny bites out of his soul."
• "Rowdy 73," in an apology on behalf of the "Auburn family" to Turner Gill" "I trust that you understand that these people (Jacobs, Gogue, Lowder et al) are stuck in the 19th century and not representative of the great majority of Auburn men and women. To reject you for an over-the-hill retread is a decision made by the 'good ole boys' and for the 'good ole boys'. Please do not judge the rest of the Auburn family by their stupidity."
• Auburn fans at Auburn-Opelika Airport:
At least one irate message boarder has suggested ($) fans with Auburn car tags replace them with regular Alabama tags, then "get a Sharpie and write [President Jay] Gogue's address on the back of it, slap a couple of stamps on it and mail that sucker in." The only people joining Jacobs and Gogue on their private island in this hire are doing it in the "Well, he's our coach now, so let's support him" vein, also known in these parts as, "War Eagle, anyways." Meanwhile, even insiders like Pat Dye are being very clear that they had nothing -- they repeat, nothing -- to do with this travesty.
Which completes (for now) the descent of probably the fastest, steepest meltdown I've ever witnessed, from a consistently top-15 program that competed for the conference championship and dominated its cross-state rival six years in a row to one that's so spooked by the towering specter of Saban across the state that it ran one of the most successful coaches in school history out of town and -- after a very public, very chaotic search -- committed itself to three years of a gamble that no one's willing to throw in on. Chizik doesn't just have to win: He has to win big, and quickly, or he'll be bounced like Ron Zook and Mike Shula before him, two other unpopular hires that never won over skeptical fan bases during a string of mediocrity. "FireGeneChizik.com," bizarrely, redirects to Central Florida's athletic site, but something similar will be up by the end of the week, and it will be very, very popular until Chizik beats Saban, or until the early headline predictions come true, whichever comes first.