North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Local Sports

October 25, 2012

Robert Carter: If Gene Chizik has to go, do we replace him with Bobby Petrino?

COMMENTARY — The verdict is in, and Gene Chizik is officially toast.

Who rendered this verdict? Why, the High and Exalted Order of Sports Scribes and Pontificators. Who else to you really need?

Well, it’s not just the rapidly diminishing ranks of sports columnists who are calling for Chizik’s head on a platter. A lot of the Auburn faithful are doing the same thing, especially since the Tigers tanked against lowly Vanderbilt last Saturday.

Even so, it seems bizarre to talk about firing a coach who was hoisting the coveted Crystal Football less than two years ago. We all know that coaching college sports is a case of what-have-you-done-for-us-lately writ large, but so soon after such success?

The counterpoint is that any warm body could have coached a team to a national championship with Cam Newton as quarterback. Maybe even a comatose body.

So now that we have summarily dismissed Chizik and consigned him to the bowels of mid-majors, or at least a color analyst gig with ESPNU, let us consider a worthy successor. One whose mere hiring will make Nick Saban choke on his Little Debbie snack cakes.

Hey, Bobby Petrino is available.

Oh wait, didn’t Auburn try to hire him once before?

Remember the saga of a Colonial Bank airplane (moreover, remember Colonial Bank?) which flew into the Clark County Airport in Sellersburg, Indiana, just across the Ohio River from the University of Louisville? Petrino was coaching the Cardinals at the time, and Tommy Tuberville was having a rough go of it on the Plains, having lost to — wait for it — Vanderbilt. Lowder, AU President William Walker and Athletic Director David Housel took a trip to the River City to see if Petrino might want the job.

Of course, someone tipped off a reporter for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, even down to the tail number on the plane, and the cover was blown. “JetGate,” as it came to be known.

Yeah, that worked out real well. (It did in part, actually: it was the beginning of the end of Lowder’s influence at Auburn, which is a good thing.)

We know that Petrino is one of the best minds in the game, and has proved to be a winning coach time and time again. The problem is that he is not a man of good character, and that’s the understatement of the day.

This is the same man who walked out on the Atlanta Falcons with three games left in the season, without as much as a fare-thee-well to players. This is a man who apparently had too close a relationship with a beautiful young woman, to whom he was not married, and then lied about it to the University of Arkansas.

And to think many Razorback fans want him back — but having John L. Smith around will make people think lots of crazy thoughts.

There are a lot of folks, many dressed in Auburn orange and blue, who don’t give two rips about what kind of man their coach is, as long as he wins games — particularly the last regular-season contest. I’m not one of them.

Chizik’s days running the Tigers may be few. On the other hand, current AD Jay Jacobs may be willing to give the coach one last shot next year. It would not surprise me either way.

But if Jacobs does hand Chizik his pink slip, I hope with all that his in me the school doesn’t go after Petrino. He’s a good coach, but not a good man.

And even today, that still makes a big difference.

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