Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sir Charles Spouts Off

"Sir" Charles Barkley has recently voiced his ire over Auburn's new hire Gene Chizik as the coach of the Tigers football program. As most Hawkeye fans are aware, Chizik was the football coach for the Iowa State Cyclones for the past two seasons. He coached the Cyclones to a 5-19 record. Chizik is, however, not a complete shot in the dark by Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs; Chizik was the defensive coordinator for the Tigers in 2004.

As an Auburn alumnus, self-proclaimed royalty and self-loving celebrity, Barkley - a former NBA star - exercised his regal right to voice his concerns for the future of Tiger football. Sir Charles believes the better choice was current Buffalo head coach Turner Gill. Gill recently lead the Bulls to a MAC conference championship and a 8-5 record. Barkley's biggest reason for wanting to hire Gill over Chizik is two-fold: Gill is a "terrific coach" and Auburn needed to "make a splash" with their new hire. Barkley went on to define "splash" as "creating a buzz" by hiring a black coach. Sir Barkley avows that race was the "No.1 factor" that Chizik was hired over Gill and argues "[y]ou can say it's not about race, but compare the two resumes and say [Chizik] deserved the job."

I agree with Barkley on the latter, a comparison of Chizik and Gill's resumes over the last two seasons is one-sided. Gill lead the Bulls to a 13-12 record; Chizik lead the Cyclones to a 5-19 record. However, in Gill's first year with Buffalo the Bulls compiled a 2-10 record. A coach's first year is always full of hiccups, so if you compare second seasons, Chizik goes 2-10 and Gill went 5-7. Again, the statistics clearly favor Gill. But to quote Barkley: "I don't use numbers, I use logic." So lets try to look outside the raw numbers at what Barkley may have used to form his logical conclusion that race was the number one reason Gill wasn't hired.

Prior to coaching at Buffalo, Gill was Director of Player Development for the Green Bay Packers and an assistant wide receivers coach. Previously, he coached Eric Crouch at the University of Nebraska, his alama mater, the year Crouch won the Heisman. Impressive credentials. I would agree this could qualify Gill as a "terrific coach."

Prior to coaching at Iowa State, was a defensive coordinator at Texas and Auburn. During this tenure both defenses were extremely strong. Auburn went undefeated in 2004 and the next year Texas won the National Championship, both while Chizik was at the helm of the defense. Equally impressive credentials to earn Chizik the moniker of "terrific coach."

One might argue that losing in the Big 12 North to the likes of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and to the powerhouses of the Big 12 South is more palatable than losing in the MAC conference. Buffalo is a small school in a small conference. One winning season doesn't necessitate a head coach position at an SEC school; of course, neither does two losing seasons in Ames. Perhaps the fact that Chizik has coached in the SEC is a tipping point?

Gill and Chizik were among a pool of at least 8 known potential hires. Assuming Gill was the only African-American in the pool, it doesn't mean he wasn't hired because he is black. Barkley's comments don't help Gill, nor do they help any of the other African-American coaches looking to get head coaching positions. Barkley wasn't part of the selection committee; he wasn't privy to the conversations between Jacobs and all of the candidates. An uninformed ego-manic playing the race card isn't logic and it isn't helpful. While I agree that African-American coaches are extremely underrepresented in college football, I doubt Barkley's blathering is going to ignite a hiring spree. Allow the younger coaches to cut their teeth - while finishing atop of the MAC East is an outstanding feat for Buffalo, 8-5 puts them in the middle of the pack in the MAC West. If the hiring continues to go to unproven white coaches, then let the accusations - er, logical deductions - fly.

Barkley should just shut his mouth about things of which he has no firsthand knowledge or involvement. If Auburn wanted to hire based on what Barkley wanted, then they would have asked for his astute opinion. My logic? I take guidance from only the most logical of sources: "I voice my opinion, if people don't like it they know what they can kiss."

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