Charles Barkley says race factored in to Auburn not hiring Gill

Charles Barkley is angry at his alma mater, the University of Auburn. Barkley is saying that the only reason Auburn didn’t hire Buffalo University head coach Turner Gill to be their next head football coach (they hired Iowa State’s Gene Chizik) is because Gill is black.

Gene Chizik“I think race was the No. 1 factor,” said Barkley, who played basketball for three seasons at Auburn during the early 1980s. “You can say it’s not about race, but you can’t compare the two resumes and say [Chizik] deserved the job. Out of all the coaches they interviewed, Chizik probably had the worst resume.”

Gill, a former Nebraska quarterback, took over one of the country’s worst programs at Buffalo three years ago. He guided the Bulls to an 8-5 record and their first MAC championship this season, upsetting previously unbeaten Ball State 42-24 in the Dec. 5 conference championship game.

The Bulls won 10 games in their first seven seasons at the Division I-A level. Gill guided Buffalo to 13 victories during the last two seasons combined.

“I’m just very disappointed,” Barkley said. “I just thought Turner Gill would be the perfect choice for two reasons: He’s a terrific coach and we needed to make a splash. I thought we had to do something spectacular to bring attention to the program. Clearly, if we’d hired a black coach, it would have created a buzz.”

Barkley, who works as an NBA analyst for Turner Network Television, said he spoke with Gill before Gill interviewed with Auburn officials last week.

“We talked about the whole race thing in Alabama,” Barkley said. “I told him it’s there and it’s going to be anywhere you go. I told him you can’t not take the job because of racism. He was worried about being nothing more than a token interview. He was concerned about having a white wife. It’s just very disappointing to me.”

I have no idea if race had anything to do with Auburn hiring Chizik over Gill although there’s no doubt that it’s a little strange when you hire a guy who went 5-19 at Iowa State over a coach that turned around a morbid Buffalo program. And it’s not like Iowa State is facing the likes of Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma in the Big 12 South every year.

It was an odd hire to say the least. Did race play a factor? Maybe, although let’s not ignore the fact that Chizik was the defensive coordinator at Auburn from 2002 to 2004. It’s not like they hired a guy that went 5-19 at Iowa State that had no affiliation with the school. So his hire might have more to do with having the right connections than the color of his skin.

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