Does anybody really care?
Much was made of recent coaching rankings by The Sporting News that had Auburn’s head coach Gene Chizik listed 36th overall and seventh in the SEC.
Yes the rankings were ridiculous. The logic for putting Chizik, who in just three years at Auburn has already won an SEC and a National Title, behind the likes of Gary Pinkel (who’s never won anything, even in the weak Big 12) and James Franklin (who racked up a fantastic 2-6 SEC record in one season at Vanderbilt) is utterly absurd.
Conventional wisdom is that without Cam Newton, Chizik would have neither the SEC nor the National title. Guess what? That’s likely true. But that doesn’t apply only to Chizik. If you take the best player off the best team in any season that team probably won’t have the same result it would have had with him. Does that discount what Chizik accomplished?
Urban Meyer’s Florida teams were vastly different with and without Tim Tebow. The difference was so great, in fact, that Meyer cried and quit. That’s not held against him. The Sporting News ranks Meyer fourth nationally.
Flip the question around and ask how many coaches who had great players failed to achieve at the level Chizik’s team did while Newton was there? How many teams have Heisman winners but no national or even division title? The list is long.
How does this work? If you’re penalized for having good players then any coach who had a good recruiting year should drop in the rankings, right? Is there any logic here at all?
There’s no question Chizik still carries the 5-19 albatross from Iowa State. It’s a number that haunts his resume and opens the door for outlets like The Sporting News to have that gnawing nugget of doubt.
Since he arrived at Auburn with his 5-19 suitcase and a swirl of questions all Chizik has done is defy expectations. While Newton was a mega star and a once-in-a-generation player, it’s not like Chizik’s teams were chopped turkey before or after Cam’s one year inferno.
Few expected Auburn to win its first game under Chizik and most felt a bowl was a longshot. With largely the same cast that had flopped in 2008, Auburn beat teams it wasn’t supposed to beat (West Virginia in the rain for instance), beat most it was supposed to and landed a plum bowl destination. Auburn won that too.
No discussion of the marvelous manner in which Chizik handled turmoil, distraction and pressure of the 2010 BCS Championship season is necessary. National Coach of the Year was deserved.
With so many stars of the 2010 season gone to graduation or the NFL, Auburn was again burdened with low expectations for 2011. “Surprised if this team wins more than four games,” is how more than one observer put it. Despite struggles at quarterback and on defense, Chizik’s team cobbled together eight wins and won its third straight bowl game.
For the record that’s three straight seasons in the brutal SEC West where Chizik’s teams achieved more than they were expected to.
There aren’t 35 coaches in the country who’ve performed better than Gene Chizik. Even if you factor in the albatross, there aren’t 35.
With all that said, the thing to remember most is that none of it matters.
It doesn’t matter where Matt Hayes of TSN ranks Chizik or where Mel Kiper of ESPN ranked Cam Newton on his draft board.
Chizik being ranked 36th won’t win a single game. It won’t lose one either. Kiper’s silly evaluation of Newton didn’t prevent him from setting the NFL on fire as the first draft pick of the Carolina Panthers.
What they say, whoever they are, is irrelevant.
That’s the one thing Auburn and Auburn people have always instinctively known and should never forget. We don’t need Matt Hayes or Mel Kiper or Craig James or Rece Davis or ESPN or FoxSports or Brent Musberger or Kirk Herbstriet to validate us.
We are Auburn. That’s all that matters, not what somebody on the outside thinks or doesn’t think.
We are not defined or limited by the perceptions of others. We don’t need a T-shirt from Wal Mart boasting about things that never were to boost our ego. We don’t use our battle cry as a taunt to prop up our self-esteem. Our sense of worth isn’t determined by the number of stickers and flags we can put on our car.
We are who we are. We are what we are. We do what we do. And we’re damn proud of it.