Thomasville Times Enterprise

November 29, 2012

Learning from mistakes

Clint Thompson

— It's transition time on the plains in Auburn.

Last week's news of the Tigers' dismissal of coach Gene Chizik came as a surprise to some. It was just two years ago that the Tigers won the BCS national championship.

The firing wasn't a shock to this Auburn hater. After all, what did Auburn expect would happen when it hired a coach with a 5-19 record at Big 12 weakling Iowa State.

Once Chizik arrived in Auburn, other than the magical season of 2010, the Tigers have been mediocre, especially in the SEC. In his four seasons, the Tigers finished 15-17 in conference play, which included an 8-0 record two years ago. What's really alarming for Tigers fans is the lack of competitiveness Auburn played with this year.

Consider the SEC domination opposing teams had against Auburn: Mississippi State (28-10), Arkansas (24-7), Ole Miss (41-20), Texas A&M (63-21), Georgia (38-0) and Alabama (49-0). Now, there were games where the Tigers had a glimmer of hope, in particularly, a 12-10 defeat to LSU. Lets face it, though, it's not as if the Tigers are blowing away defenses with their offense.

I'm sure there are Chizik supporters who will point to the fact he brought Auburn its first national championship since 1957. I counter with the fact that Chizik was the beneficiary of a one-man gang known as Cam Newton. If ever there was one player to win a championship all by himself, it was Newton (and maybe Herschel Walker).

Newton enjoyed one of the greatest seasons a college player ever had, throwing for 2,854 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Newton's success was costly. Who knows how much it cost Auburn to bring in Newton (that's still to be determined)? It also bought Chizik undeserved time on the sideline.

Now, the question is who will replace Chizik. As a Georgia fan, I'm nervous about the potential of Charlie Strong coming to Auburn.

Unlike Chizik, Strong has been successful as a head coach at Louisville, tallying a 23-14 record in three seasons. What really concerns me is how stout Strong was as a defensive coordinator at South Carolina and Florida. Georgia's offense didn't fare well against those teams.

Another potential hire, though, it would require the Tigers to sell their soul to the devil, is Bobby Petrino. Say what you want about the guy's personal history and his disgraceful dismissal from Arkansas, Petrino wins football games.

It's a critical time in Auburn football. Consider the SEC West only got stronger with the addition of Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy favorite Johnny Manziel. Combined with stalwarts Alabama and LSU and up-and-comers Ole Miss and Mississippi State, this division is only getting stronger. Auburn is quickly fading into oblivion.

For Auburn fans, they better hope the athletic department has learned from past mistakes.