From the Sidelines: Jacobs’ unaffirmative action makes bad situation worse

Published 10:31 pm Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A sour Auburn offseason turned even worse Monday when faithful Tiger fans were subjected to the political rally that was the press conference officially presenting Gene Chizik as the university’s new head coach.

Most press conferences designed to announce head football coaches are filled with optimism. This one, unmistakably, was not.

Instead, it seemed more of a plea. It felt like a desperate Jay Jacobs was spending the bulk of his energy delivering the company line and praying somebody was believing it more than he could bring himself to do.

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He stated over and over and over again that Chizik was indeed the right man for the job at Auburn. And when Jacobs wasn’t peddling that story, Chizik was.

Jacobs extolled Chizik’s virtues as he tried to convince media members and Auburn fans that the former Tiger defensive coordinator was the best man to pull the program out of the hole its powers-that-be dug.

Jacobs credited Chizik as being a hard worker in recruiting while he served for two seasons as Iowa State’s head coach. That statement seemed a backhanded shot at recently-departed coach Tommy Tuberville who long drew criticism for his deficiencies on the recruiting trail.

Moreover, the attribute becomes less of a selling point for Chizik when the fact is considered that his 2008 recruiting class ranked 62nd according to and 58th on the list.

In fact, Chizik’s efforts produced nothing higher than a three-star player in that group of signings.

So, score one for the dissenters on that argument.

Jacobs also talked extensively about how much Gene Chizik desires to be at Auburn and how much he loves the Auburn family.

Again, his argument holds little water when it is considered that Chizik bolted the defensive coordinator post for Auburn to take the same position at Texas.

And nevermind the fact that Chizik displayed both his loyalty and the value of his word when he assured Iowa State that he was certainly not leaving the Cyclones to go to Auburn.

So what makes Chizik the right man for the job at Auburn?

That is a question to which only Jacobs and those immediately above him can answer honestly.

Clearly, Chizik’s season-opening wins over South Dakota State and Kent State carry much more weight than one would suspect.

And the fact that his team went 0-10 after that is obviously no cause for alarm for the people who felt that Tuberville’s 5-7 campaign merited an untimely force-out.

The simple truth is virtually no one was thrilled with the Chizik hire even before Auburn alum and former NBA standout Charles Barkley said what so many others were thinking.

The Chizik choice, Barkley stated blatantly, was racially motivated.

That was it. Barkley played the race card, the one thing in this society that still makes people tense with discomfort.

And while the source of the accusation is considered by many to be a bafoon, his claims in this regard can’t be immediately dismissed.

The candidate favored heavily by Auburn fans, Buffalo head coach Turner Gill, is black.

More importantly, he was a far better candidate than Chizik. Granted, he went 2-10 in his first season at one of the worst programs in the country. But he clawed his way to 5-7 in 2007 before winning six of his last seven games to go 8-5 and win the MAC championship with an upset of previously undefeated Ball State this season.

His name is buzzworthy. His reputation is admirable. His credentials are unquestionable. But his skin is black. And, that fact, apparently eliminated him from contention.

Even if such is not the case, the national perception of Auburn will now be slanted to the contrary. The school that had been considered one of the most prominent programs in the conference under Tuberville saw an opportunity to not only hire the right man for the job, but also make a statement in the process. And, inexplicably, Jacobs and Company balked in the 11th hour in what will surely stand as a defining, and likely haunting, moment in the program’s history.

While Gill is obviously the martyr in the story, things will ultimately work out better for him as he probably would never have been given ample opportunity to succeed at Auburn.

Chizik, on the other hand, will have more than enough time to repeat the 5-19 success he had in two seasons at ISU.

His already questionable recruiting prowess will likely suffer even more since the “I’m the right man for the job” line will have less of an impact on prospective players than it did on Auburn fans.

But none of that changes the fact that Auburn buckled under the pressure and backed up its decision by continually stressing that “He’s the right man for Auburn.”

Jacobs placed the light squarely upon Chizik’s Auburn ties, despite the fact that those ties weren’t enough to keep him on the plains the first go-round.

He talked extensively about “the Auburn family.”

And, even in a year when the country showed enough forward thinking to elect a black man as its president, Jacobs displayed that at Auburn, family is only skin deep.