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Chizik "A Good Buy Right Now"?

2008 December 17
by Brian Goff

Lately, the hiring of Gene Chizik for the head football coaching job at Auburn generated a ton of (mostly negative) buzz. Charles Barkley’s comments about race as a factor, particularly Turner Gill’s interracial marriage, stirred the pot even more. A story from the Columbus (GA) Ledger-Enquirer offered this supportive quote from a local businessman and AU fan:

“I’ve found that when everyone is down on something, it’s usually a good time to buy,” Carreker said. “A lot of people are down on him right now, so it might be a good time to buy into Gene Chikiz.”

If coaches were assets that could be “bought low and sold high” as well as “cashed in” at most any time, maybe such as analogy would fit. Even if the average opinion of Chizik is lower than his potential right now, he will have to outperform that opinion by a wide margin. While past stock performance says very little about future performance (except over very long horizons), past coaching performance holds more correlation.

On Chizik’s upside, his last defense at Auburn led the nation in points allowed; in his lone year at Texas, their defense finished fifth while the team won the National Championship (they were 14th in D the year before he arrived). Of course, as some have pointed out, Auburn’s defense was not their problem. They finished 18th in D this year in spite of an offense that put the defense on the field for most of their games.

On the downside, and the very, very unusual aspect of this hire is Chizik’s performance as a head coach. No reasonable person would expect Iowa State to challenge AU’s win totals. Yet, most of the stories I’ve read seem unaware of ISU’s record pre-Chizik: from 2000-2006, they were 9-3, 7-5, 7-7, 2-10, 7-5, 4-8. So, the worst two seasons in those six exceeded Chizik’s win total at ISU.

More stunning, though, is a coach “moving up” in the coaching world after losing his last 10 games. I wondered, has anybody even come close to that. Lacking Elias Sports Bureau’s data, I racked my brain and asked some others. The closest that anyone (Dennis Wilson) could come up with was Dennis Green in moving from Northwestern to Stanford. In his last two seasons at NU, Green went 2-9 and 3-8 while losing his last five games; however, the move from NU to Stanford pales next to the ISU-AU jump if measured by metrics like attendance or football revenues. Tommy Tubberville lost his last 3 games at Ole Miss as part of a 6-5 season before moving to Auburn, so maybe the AD took the booster’s advice and “doubled down” — if Tubberville could have good success coming in with a 3 loss streak, think what could happen after a 10 loss streak!

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