Auburn even worse off than originally thought

Auburn Tigers head coach Gene Chizik (L) and defensive player of the game Nick Fairley kiss the championship trophy after defeating the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in Glendale, Arizona, January 10, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

If you do a Google search for the phrase “Auburn disrespected” it returns 1,160 results (in 0.16 seconds … Congratulations, Google). The Tigers were the defending national champions, yet came into the season ranked No. 23 in Associated Press poll, which ruffled some feathers down in Alabama.

This ranking was obviously wrong. Unfortunately for Auburn, not in the direction it was thinking.

The Tigers looked like a shell of their national-championship selves on Saturday, needing an onside kick and a late rally to defeat Utah State 42-38 at home.

Everyone knew Auburn would be down with the losses of Cam Newton and Nick Fairley to the NFL, but I don’t think anyone figured it would be this far down. The Tigers were a 24-point favorite against the Aggies, who are better known as that team you sometimes pick to win a couple of games in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Not only did Utah State nearly upset the defending national champion, it controlled the line of scrimmage against it until the final three minutes, when it was in a prevent defense. The Aggies did whatever they wanted offensively, especially on the ground rushing for more than 200 yards, while Auburn struggled to get anything going in the run game. That doesn’t happen in these games. Normally these early-season close calls are born out of turnovers and big plays, not long, sustained touchdown drives.

Maybe Utah State is going to be good this year, who knows. It plays in the WAC, and with Boise State gone, maybe it can make a little run. But that’s irrelevant.

If Auburn has trouble going toe-to-toe with Utah State, imagine how tough it’s going to be when it plays any SEC West opponent? If Utah State runs for 200-plus against Auburn, what will Trent Richardson and Alabama do?

Yes, there are a ton of new starters for the Tigers, so it’s going to take some time to round into shape. But like I said, today was less about execution and more about losing at the point of attack. Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn have a lot of work to do if Auburn has any thoughts of finishing this season in the top 25.

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Auburn head coach on HBO pay-to-play segment: “It’s pure garbage.”

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik walks the sidelines in the second quarter of play against the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in Glendale, Arizona, January 10, 2011. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Brooks Melchior of has followed up on his report about the pay-to-play scandal involving Auburn University with a couple of scathing quotes by head coach Gene Chizik.

In his remarks to the media on the same day the HBO special premiered, Chizik said he felt the presentation was one-sided:

“What’s disturbing to me is they interviewed other former Auburn football players that had exactly the opposite to say but somehow or another that failed to make the air. Unless I missed that section.”

Today a source familiar with the HBO production told me that the four ex-Auburn players who appeared on the show were the only former Auburn players who were interviewed by HBO on-camera.

When I asked HBO about its efforts to engage Auburn personnel about the show, HBO VP of Public Relations Ray Stallone sent me the following statement:

Our producers did reach out to the Auburn Sports Information Office to get comment from them on the claims made by the former Auburn players interviewed by Real Sports. The Sports Information Office represents the Athletic Department in dealing with the media. We read to them in detail over the phone the statements made by the former players that we were planning to include in our report and the response we received from the school was a “no comment,” which we included in our piece.

Later in the press conference, Chizik said of HBO’s reporting:

“It saddens me that somebody’s going to air a show with basically one side being known. I think that’s pathetic and I think it’s pure garbage.”

When asked whether or not anyone from HBO contacted him directly about the piece, Chizik responded with, “Absolutely not.” But as Brooks points out, it sounds like HBO went through the proper channels at Auburn in terms of requesting comments or interviews about the segment. Not surprisingly, Auburn wanted nothing to do with the show and naturally, now Chizik is offended that he wasn’t asked to give his side.

All of this is textbook. Details emerge about dirty college football program. Dirty college football program denies any wrongdoing and pins blame on the media. Pretty soon, dirty college football program fans will all start to rail on the media for clearly having a personnel vendetta against their team. We’ve seen this all before. Of course, what is Chizik supposed to say at this point? “Spot on, HBO – man, you nailed us! Jesus H., nice reporting. Truly good work here…”

No, he’s going to vehemently deny it all and see if it all goes away. But by the look of things, the sh*t has only started hitting the fan.

Will Auburn have all its players eligible for the title game?

SPORTSbyBROOKS has news that will make many Auburn Tiger fans spit up their Cheerios this morning.

All indications are that Heisman winner Cam Newton will be eligible to play Oregon in the BCS National Championship Game in two weeks. But there have been reports that indicate that some Tigers could be facing academic issues for the game.

But just when Auburn fans thought they could relax, a cryptic comment by head coach Gene Chizik last week indicated the barn door on eligibility issues for the Tigers hasn’t swung shut just yet.

The MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER reported last week:

Chizik said Auburn is “still getting some things cleared up academically” and isn’t yet sure if all players are in good academic standing.

Jay Coulter at the Auburn website Track ‘Em Tigers reiterated the lingering concern today in a blog entry:

There’s still no word on whether Auburn had any academic casualties that could cause some players to miss the championship game. Auburn coach Gene Chizik has been mum on the subject for the past month. You can bet the rumor mill will be in overdrive this week if Chizik doesn’t address the issue. Keep your fingers crossed…

It’s not fair to speculate at this point which players may be ineligible because none of them may be. If you read between Chizik’s comments it certainly seems that he could be without some of his players, but maybe he’s misleading the media. Or maybe the issues will be cleared up by January 10th (whatever that means).

Of course, if Auburn is without Newton then it changes the entire landscape of the game. But as of right now, Tiger fans seemingly have nothing to worry about.

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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