January 17, 2009

Roundtable: Most puzzling coaching hire

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.

This week's question: Which coaching hire has been the most puzzling this offseason?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
That would have to be the selection of Gene Chizik at Auburn. Chizik only won five games in two seasons at Iowa State, and Auburn feels he's the guy to contend with Nick Saban for supremacy in Alabama? No question winning at Iowa State is difficult, but the Big 12 North pales in comparison to the strength of the SEC West. Besides, Chizik's predecessor at Iowa State, Dan McCarney, had some decent seasons there, so it isn't completely a lost cause. Chizik was successful as a defensive coordinator at Auburn and at Texas, but he was a disappointment as a head coach. Maybe he'll prove a great coach in a more established program, but he obviously has a lot to prove. Maybe I just can't get past the fact that Auburn fired Tommy Tuberville after a five-win season, then hired a coach who had managed five wins in two seasons. Or perhaps I'm still just puzzled that Tuberville was fired in the first place.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
Resurrecting Bill Snyder is hardly the answer to what ails Kansas State. I don't care if he's tanned, rested and ready after a three-year sabbatical. At 69, Snyder is not the answer to the Wildcats' problems. Am I the only guy who remembers that Snyder went 9-13 overall and 4-12 in the Big 12 in his last two years in Manhattan? This was a program headed south. Now we're suddenly supposed to believe Snyder is K-State's purple panacea? If Snyder proved one thing during his glorious and historic rise in Manhattan, it was that this job takes lots of chutzpah and heavy lifting to build and maintain. I doubt he possesses the needed fire. It's not 1989 anymore. This "back to the future" experiment won't work. K-State should have stuck with Ron Prince.

David Fox's answer:
In a season of confusing hires, Kansas State still stands out. At least the other 20 schools with coaching vacancies were looking forward. Not Kansas State. The Wildcats brought back 69-year-old Bill Snyder after three seasons in retirement. Perhaps no one but Snyder can win at Kansas State; the K-State administration appears to believe that. When the Wildcats rehired Snyder, I was reminded of when Florida fired Ron Zook. Some Florida fans were livid the administration didn't bring back a then-unemployed Steve Spurrier. Now, even Spurrier would admit Florida made the right call by hiring Urban Meyer. As for Kansas State, the Wildcats can't attract anyone with the credentials Meyer had built by the end of his Utah tenure. But I'd think someone from Kansas State's vast network of former assistants would have emerged as a more viable long-term solution than Snyder.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
There have been a lot Gene Chizik, Paul Rhoads, Dabo Swinney, Brady Hoke, Steve Sarkisian, Lane Kiffin, Michael Haywood. But I think the most egregious head-scratcher was Kansas State's decision to rehire Bill Snyder. Snyder is 69 and was burned out when he "retired" after the 2005 season. It's as if K-State decision-makers threw up their hands and said, "OK, no one can win here except Bill Snyder." Snyder's final two teams at K-State finished with losing records. How much juice does he have left? Plus, given his age, it seems likely K-State will embark on another coaching search sooner rather than later.

Steve Megargee's answer:
Auburn's decision to hire Gene Chizik doesn't look quite as bad now that he has assembled a talented staff that includes former Rivals.com offensive coordinator of the year Gus Malzahn, renowned recruiter Trooper Taylor, former Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award winner Tracy Rocker and former Duke coach Ted Roof. But I still can't quite understand the decision to hire Chizik in the first place after he posted a 5-19 record in two seasons at Iowa State. Chizik's backers can point out that his achievements as an assistant are every bit as impressive as anything new Washington coach Steve Sarkisian or new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin accomplished during their stints as USC assistants. Chizik was defensive coordinator at Auburn during the Tigers' unbeaten season of 2004, and he held the same post at Texas the following year when the Longhorns won the national championship. The difference is that we don't know how Sarkisian or Kiffin will fare as head coaches at the college level. We've already seen Chizik in that role at Iowa State, and the results weren't pretty. It's obviously much easier to win at Auburn, but Iowa State's not an impossible job. That was proved by Dan McCarney, who took the Cyclones to bowls in 2004 and '05 before getting fired a year later to make way for Chizik. The departure of Tommy Tuberville forced or not required Auburn to hire an accomplished coach who could compete on equal footing with Alabama's Nick Saban. Chizik doesn't seem like the answer.


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