"Good afternoon. I am excited and proud to stand before you today and announce Gene Chizik as our next head football coach here at Auburn University. We know we brought the best man back to Auburn who is fit for the job. To Gene and Jonna, Kennedy, Landry, and Callie Chizik, welcome back to Auburn. You're right where you belong.
"Let me reiterate a couple of guiding principles that we had to lead us through the search for this job. One, we had to find the best fit for Auburn. Second, was to find a man whose body of work is indicative of what he can accomplish. As we moved throughout the process and visited with Gene, he impressed upon us his blueprint to move Auburn into the future. Not only did he demonstrate what he could do here, but he was very candid with us about the plan that he had at Iowa State. Once he visited with us and told us about that process and the challenges that he faced, I became confident in the plan that he had for us to move Auburn into the future and the plan that he had at Iowa State to turn that team around in a positive way.
"That being said, the thing that impressed me the most about Gene Chizik is his work ethic and his desire to succeed. He is a relentless recruiter and he will re-energize the Auburn community with his tough, hard-nosed style of football that us as Auburn fans are accustomed to watching. Gene is a man who is dedicated to his family and his faith. He and Jonna, Kennedy, Landry and Callie will be great additions to this program, to this university, and to this community. And, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you our 26th head football coach, Gene Chizik."
"War Eagle. Jay, thank you very much. I appreciate it. I want to thank Jay Jacobs and Dr. Gougue. This is very special day in my life. And Jay, I want to tell you that you hired the right guy. There is no doubt in my mind. This is a dream. When you go into coaching and you travel around for 23 different years, you always want to know, ‘where is my final destination?'. The coaching profession is kind of a transient world, you move here and you move there. But my beautiful wife Jonna and my family, we always have the conversation about where we are going to end up and where we want to be. As the years traveled on and certainly after we left Auburn we always wanted to come back.
"This is a blessing for me, a very special day. As Jay and I visited through this whole process, it was amazing how we were both on the same page. When I look at a football program and how to move it forward, you always look for a vision. There is a saying, ‘Poor is the man that has sight but no vision,' and Auburn has a vision.
As we visited right now and discussed where this place has gone, it is amazing, as I come back now after leaving in 2004 and I see the progress and the things that have been done in the short years that I have been gone. It is not just the athletic facility. If you go across campus you will see a new student union and so many different buildings that have come up since I was last here. As I look out of my office window, I can see new student housing and the new basketball arena. So many things right now indicate that Auburn has a vision and more importantly that Jay Jacobs and Dr. Gogue have a vision.
"I have been in the Big 12 and the SEC and arguably these are two of the best conferences in the country, if not the best. I have had a chance to go to a lot of different venues on game day. The excitement that I have in coming back to Auburn, is not just because of the vision, but I get the Auburn people and the Auburn way. I have been to a lot of different places and different venues, but not one matches the passion, energy, and the excitement of Auburn University and these people. I am blessed because I am standing up here, four years after I left, at the best place I have ever been. I feel that way, my wife feels that way, and my kids are excited. And, you know you have to keep your wife and kids happy.
"I do want to say this, I do understand football and I understand what is important here. I sit here and I see some of the former players and it is important that as their careers go on that you have relationships with those players, and that is one thing that is very important to me. It is another thing to win championships and we are going to get to that, but it is very important to me to get the right kind of Auburn guy in here. I look at Carlos Rogers who played for me in 2004 and these guys epitomize Auburn football and also what Auburn stands for: community, people on and off the field and graduating people. It is not just about championships, it's the whole thing. It's what you are going to do when you get a player at 18 years old and after four years he doesn't have a chance to play in the NFL.
"Auburn has had so many players, some have gone on and played and some haven't, but you have to ask if they are going to be a productive part of society when they leave here, and are they going to be representative of what this school stands for. So many great people have come through here, and I want to say thank you to the past players. My relationship with those players is very important.
"When you talk about winning championships I have certainly been around long enough to understand that you have to recruit. I would say that shortly after this (press conference) is over you will not see me because that is where I will be today. Not only are we going to recruit, we are going to recruit what will be the best thing for Auburn: both the best player and the best mark of a man. We are going to recruit tirelessly, 24/7 and we are going to work. Recruiting is the life blood of any program and we know that.
"What is really neat for me, because I have never coached anywhere where I have returned, is that I have an opportunity to go back to the people that I already know. So when we hit this recruiting trail, I understand the importance of football in the state of Alabama, both at the high school and college level. I saw some of the best football in the state of Alabama that I have seen in all of my travels, and I have gone to just about every state in the country, except for Hawaii. I know the passion for football in this state and I have made many great friendships with a lot of high school coaches in this state, and it is neat for me to be able to come back and rekindle some of those relationships, because that is what it is all about. So we are going to start in the great state Alabama where football is very important, and we're going to start with these high school coaches who should know that this is a wide open door because there are no secrets in football. You usually hit them harder than the other guy, and you tackle harder than the other guy, and all of the stuff in the middle doesn't really matter, so we have no secrets here. This is going to be an open door to every high school coach in the country, but certainly here in the state of Alabama and we are going to start working on that today.
"Last but not least, as I talked about some of the former players, whether you played here in 1957 on a championship team or played in 2007 and graduated last year, I want them to feel like they are back into an Auburn family, some may feel it and some may not. I am opening the door and I want everyone to know that if they put in four or five years of their life, and they can walk around and tell people that they are proud to be an Auburn Tiger, that they are welcome to come back. Again to my former players, I appreciate it and I love you guys And, to the players that are going to come here and play at Auburn, we're going to have the same thing going and we are going to move this program forward in the right direction. Our goal is to win championships and to produce some great men out of this university.
"My wife and my family and I are all blessed. I want to thank you guys and, Jay you have the right guy."
On the assistant staff situation…
"I don't want to go into a lot of detail with it. Here is my overlying theme for the staff that we are going to put in place here: I have one goal and that is to bring in the absolute best football coach, the best person, and the best recruiter that can be around these young guys. I want all three of those things in one guy. I am going to do everything that I can to make sure that we bring the right people in here to be around these special people in this special place. I feel comfortable without going into further detail because that is my commitment and that's where I'm at with that."
On the offensive style you are looking for…
"I think it is 200 years old to be honest with you. I think on offense right now you have to be able to run the football and I don't think that has changed since forever. That doesn't mean that we aren't going to throw the ball, but in my opinion, in order to win you have to be able to run the ball. You have to be very physical and you have to be able to run the ball as well as throw it, but it all comes back to being physical. That shouldn't hold me to any particular type of offense, but you have to be able to run and if I am a receiver out there it doesn't mean that we aren't going to throw you the ball, that just means that in this league and in my 23 years of experience you have to be able to run the football and be very physical on offense. Offenses are not one dimensional anymore, but our commitment is to be very physical, and that I can promise you."
On struggling last season at Iowa State…
"I'm going to back up a little bit on that question and give you a little bit of insight into the whole situation. Two years ago when I took that job, I was ready to be a head coach. To be honest with you, I'd really done everything I could do as an assistant. I went back-to-back undefeated seasons, I'd been a part of a national championship, and I was really blessed to win the Broyles Award my last year here at Auburn. I was ready. When you decide to venture out when you're ready to be a head coach, some jobs are more challenging than others. So it's not like I walked into Iowa State and I knew it wasn't a challenge – it was a challenge. However, I had a blueprint in place for what we were going to do, and I knew it was going to take time. I put that blueprint into effect, and I never deviated off it one bit. We played 11 true freshmen this past year, and that was part of the plan. So that being said, those two years that I gained as a head coach were invaluable. I wouldn't change it or do it over again any different. If it was exactly the way it was ordained, those are the same steps I would take over again today.
Do you think you left them in better shape than you found them (at Iowa
"I don't think there's any question. The hardest thing about me moving on from that job was having to face that football team yesterday, because there were relationships there. I recruited some really good players there, and it's hard to say goodbye. That was hard. But unequivocally, two years removed from the day I got there, it was a better place."
How challenging will it be to get the fan-base on board, due to the
negative reaction caused by your record at Iowa State?
"I think that answer is really easy. You have to win. There is going to be skepticism no matter who you hire, in a lot of cases right now, whether your record is 6-6 or 7-5 or 4-8. There are going to be people that agree with it, and there are going to be people who don't agree with it. I'm smart enough to know that. At the end of the day, right now, what I do know is that this was the right hire for Auburn. What I do know, at the end of the day, is that this is a job that is a dream job for me because I understand this place. I understand these people, I understand how to recruit it, and I understand the importance and passion and energy of this place. The people that are going to be negative, I can't control. That's out there for everybody to mull over themselves. But at the end of the day, when you win, I think all of that goes away."
Why did you leave four years ago, and did you make a mistake in
"That's a great question, and absolutely a fair question. When I left four years ago, I was a defensive coordinator here and we came off a really good season being 13-0. My desire was to be a head coach. That's what I wanted to be, and I felt like four years ago, I was ready. As you go into this profession you try to gauge, ‘What is the best thing for me to get to my ultimate goal?' My ultimate goal at the time was to be a head coach. I had been a defensive coordinator at that time for ten or eleven years. At the time, the University of Texas, where I went, had a great track record of moving guys on to be a head coach. As you make business decisions about your career, just like any of you that are in the business world know, you have to make decisions about what is best for you and your family to get you to the ultimate goal. So I made the move. If you go back four years right now, and I didn't make that move, I don't know, maybe I wouldn't be standing here in front of you today. Would I do it again the exact same way? Yes, I would. Not because I wanted to leave Auburn, but ultimately, if you really look at it, it's because I wanted to get back to Auburn."
Do you have any timetable for announcing the staff, and who, besides
you, will be recruiting?
"The timetable is something that I've looked at, and I have a plan in place. I have a really good sense of where we're going. Timetables can really get a bit unclear; some of them are still coaching. Without going into a lot of detail, I want to make sure that the timetable doesn't override that we have to get the right guys in here. You definitely don't want to rush, but you also know that recruiting is at stake. I've taken some great Auburn people that have great ties in this state, and we're going to hit the road recruiting after this. We're going to continue to evaluate the commitments that we have, and it's going to be a whirlwind. But as fast as I can get the right people – and I think ‘right people' are the key two words – in here to coach these young men, then that's how fast we'll do it."
When were you offered the job, and what was your initial reaction?
"My initial reaction was ‘War Eagle!' I believe it was this weekend, sometime early on Friday was when we really started talking about the whole deal, and it happened fast. With the meeting that we had, everybody had to be on the same page. We separated from the meeting and re-connected the next day, and I said ‘War Eagle, I'm in.'"
After the first meeting, did you have a feeling you were going to get
the job offer?
"I can't tell you that. I didn't know, to be honest with you. I did know I was the right guy. I don't even know who else was in the mix, but I knew I was the best guy. That, I did know. But I wasn't sure (it would be offered)."
Who, specifically, will be helping you recruit?
"We've got Joe Whitt Sr. I worked with Joe here for three years, and I trust him with my life. We're going to put Joe on the road. Phillip Lolley and Jimmy Perry are going to be on the road. They're two great former high school coaches in this state. And then myself, to start out. That'll be kind of a nucleus until we get moving further ahead."
On the challenge of only six weeks until signing day…
"It will be very challenging, simply because it's a whirlwind right now. This is a little different of a situation than I've experienced before, because of how many commitments are on board. There is a lot of evaluation that has to go into so many things, but you've got twenty-plus commitments who are wondering what is going on right now. There are a lot of things that need to be addressed. The first thing that needs to be addressed is going out in this state and making sure that the high school coaches understand that this is a huge priority for us in this state. Simultaneously, we will be in touch with the commitments, in making sure that they understand that we need to meet and talk. Every individual meeting will be different, and we just need to sit and talk. In regards to the commitments, there is a lot of work to be done there, too. The next six weeks will be very challenging, trying to get caught up. We'll have a little bit of time right now, after these first four or five days before the dead period starts to kind of sit back and do some more evaluations. But right now, it's go, go, go, and we'll do it 24/7."
Will you honor every commitment?
"Right now, that's the plan. I don't know where all of these commitments are at, themselves. I think that's what's going to be unique to each individual. I've read stuff, I've heard stuff, but I won't really know what the truth of anything is until I sit down with these guys face-to-face or at least talk to them on the phone. That's going to be my first and foremost plan."
On coaching in the SEC and against Nick Saban and Alabama…
"I think you said it really well the first time – it's the whole league. Obviously, any in-state rivalry is always big, wherever you go. I've been a part of some really great ones, obviously, this one as well. But it's not just Alabama, it's the whole league. I'm looking forward to it. I love recruiting. I can't wait. We're going to get out there and throw it around. All of that's the exciting part of the job. That's the part you gotta love. But it's everybody in this league. Because this league, from top to bottom, everybody knows that it's the best out there. It'll be a challenge for the whole league, and Alabama is always in that challenge."
Have you talked to Tommy and what was your relationship with him like
when you were here?
"I have not talked to Tommy. I had a great three years here. I was very appreciative of Tommy letting me do my job. That's what I've asked everywhere I've been; just let me do my job, and I'll get that job done. I think I did that here."
Will you take that same approach with your coordinators?
"Absolutely. I think there's a fine line between coaching and meddling with your coaches, and I know how I work best. That's not to say that I won't know what's going on and I won't have a hand and have some say in all phases of the game, because I will. But I don't plan on micromanaging coordinators. That's why they get hired, and we're going to bring the best ones in here that we can get."
As a secondary coach, do you think you'll be on the field helping
with that at all?
"I'll coach on the field and everything. I might be out there coaching offense or defense. I'm going to be out there and I'm going to be coaching. It's really hard for me to stand out there and not, so I'll be involved in everything. I'll have a very big hand in special teams. But yes, I will be on the field coaching."
Some of the current players that you recruited have talked about you
being a good coach. Do you think that helps you with the other guys on
"It certainly beats the alternative. There are few players left on this football team that I actually had a hand in recruiting. Jerraud Powers and Walter McFadden are two that I did. To get their endorsement, even though neither have ever played for me, is big because they're going on a relationship that was purely off the field. But that's who I am. I'm not changing. They know that's who I am, and for me to get an endorsement from them is very appreciated. But if you take those two, and the former players, this is a player-coach game, and I'm going to be involved and we're going to have relationships, and that's how you get guys to play hard all the time.
Where do you think this program is, and how soon can it be achieving
some of those goals you've discussed?
"Right now I think it would be a little bit premature for me to discuss that. I had my hands full, obviously, up until two weeks ago with the football season, and I really haven't had a chance to see Auburn play, simply because we were playing at the same time. There is a lot of evaluation that needs to be done. For me to answer that question would probably be unfair at this time because I don't know. But I do know what the expectations are of the people. And the expectations of the people are not any higher than mine, I can promise you that. My expectations are very high. To know where the team is right now, to know where the talent level and things of that nature are right now, I don't think that I could really accurately tell you that."
What did you learn about yourself this season, and particularly in the
last ten games?
"Last year was a situation that I had never really experienced. What I learned was perseverance and to keep the kids playing hard, and let them always know what the goal is for every week. We were playing with eleven true freshmen and they played hard every week. But we kept persevering and we stuck it in there. We grew a lot, I grew a lot, and it was tough managing a football team that was under those circumstances because I had never done that before. I wouldn't trade those two years for anything I've done. I did it right, and I enjoyed those two years, but learned a lot."
On importance of head coach being involved in the recruiting process…
"That's who I am. That's what I have to do and who I have to be. One more important thing when you are talking about winning, I have to be involved in recruiting. And as I have said before as soon as (this conference) is over, I'm heading out to recruit. I will be the spearhead of this at all times whether it is on the phone or in person."
On informing offensive recruits on the type of offense he plans to
"Offensive linemen block, running backs run the ball and receivers catch the ball, what I want them to know is that my goal is for our offensive to be physical. You can be physical as a wide out and still catch 10 balls a game because I have seen it done. You can be physical at running back, and that doesn't mean just running people over. You also have to dig your cleat in and take someone on in blocking, that is being physical. For offensive line there is no other way to be good except to be physical. I also want them to know that they will be a physical and productive offense."
On working with players recruited by other coaches…
"We had a great (team) meeting last night and the purpose of it was for me to introduce myself to them and let them understand that their leader is a guy who loves Auburn. If you are going to play on this team, you have to love football. It's that simple. Because I love this place, you need to love this game and we are going to get things rolling. I want them to know that this is an Auburn family and they are a part of it, and as long as I'm here it will stay that way. It doesn't mean that there will not be hard work because we will work our tails off. We are going to be a family, for how long I don't know."
On the pressures of winning in the SEC…
"When you get into coaching, you develop a philosophy over the years and I don't think that changes wherever you're at. You have to win. Different coaches have different ways of doing it, but if you don't have a plan for where you are going it would make it difficult. But I don't think you have to change plans from school to school. You have to stay on track and keep grinding it out and do the same things you know work from past experiences. And that is what I am going to do here."
On qualifications for the Auburn head coaching position… "I know Auburn, and I love Auburn. I can assure you that everyone who plays for me is going to love Auburn. I know the people and coaches of this state. I know the importance of football in Auburn and the state of Alabama. I think all the coaches that know me in this state and out of state know my Auburn ties. They know that this is a place I loved when I was here and I am thrilled to be back."
On having to prove yourself to the fans because of your record at Iowa
"Nobody's expectation as an Auburn fan are higher than mine, that sums it up. My expectations are very high. I understand that the people here, including myself, want championships. So, that is what I take with me to sleep every night."
Athletics Director Jay Jacobs
On his feeling about the fans' reaction to the Chizik decision…
"One great thing about Auburn is the fans' passion for football. I know that as the Auburn fans get to hear Chizik's vision and his character and integrity as well as his relentlessness as a recruiter and his love for Auburn and the way his players feel about him, they will come together and know that he is the right man for the job."
On if it was a choice between Chizik and Turner Gill…
"It came down to a choice where Chizik was the best fit for Auburn. We interviewed several great candidates but in the end (Chizik) was the best candidate."
On the timeline of the hire…
"We visited with Chizik on Thursday and with one of the other candidates on Friday. On Friday afternoon I called Chizik and told him I wanted him to meet the president. We went to Memphis on Saturday and met with the president and talked to Chizik very seriously about what was happening at Auburn. Not long after I got back to Auburn, Chizik called to accept the job."
On Jacobs' feeling after meeting with Chizik the first time…
"He presented us with a blueprint of Auburn football and part of that blueprint was that he shared our goal of competing and winning championships. He also shared our goal of developing these young men academically, spiritually and socially. That fits perfectly with the goals of the people here at Auburn."
On the importance of Chizik having coached in the SEC before…
"The high school coaching relationships that he has and how much they think about him influenced my decision. I also worked with him for three years."
On Chizik being an initial candidate…
"We knew that there were certain candidates that we wanted to get to and he was one of them."
On convincing fans Chizik was the right hire…
"Time will definitely tell. I think the mix of Auburn fans' passion and (Chizik's) integrity, smash mouth style of football, how his former players talk about him, his success here and at Texas, winning a national championship, will speak for themselves."
On terms of Chizik's contract…
"We have agreed to the terms in principle. Once we do finalize it we will let everyone know."
On working with Carr and Associates… "The thing that we found in using an outside consultant is that when you have candidates involved with your institution, it takes away from the objectivity of the search. (Carr and Associates) was very helpful in finding out information about some of the candidates. As part of that, in this process we did not compromise our integrity. We went through the front door of every institution and talked to every Athletic Director. That is how we will do all of our coaching decisions. We won't go through agents or any other sources, always through the front door."
On previous record at Iowa State being a factor in the decision…
"When (Chizik) described the blueprint he had for Iowa State he was very frank about it. He was up front about the progress he had made there and that they even offered him a two year extension. I knew that after meeting with him he was on the right track to turning that program around. That goes back to the goal that we have here and how he matched up with those."
On the level of involvement from Carr and Associates…
"We had a list of six candidates and they also added some additional names through other searches. They logistically helped set those meetings up. Then, once we talked to the AD we turned them coach over to (Carr and Associates) to work out all of the different intricacies."
On the number of coaches interviewed and who had a second interview…
"We interviewed a few great coaches but Chizik was the only one I introduced the president to."
On the front door approach making hiring harder…
"There were certain people that declined the interview but if you are going to work for this program you have to have integrity like Chizik does."
On looking for a coach with a more physical style or spread offensive…
"We were just looking for the best fit for Auburn, and all of the characteristics Chizik has make him the best fit."
On the explanation of "best fit"…
"We wanted somebody who was a relentless recruiter, because it is the name of the game, a guy with unbelievable character and integrity, someone who has been successful in the SEC, someone who has the respect and admiration of coaches in the southeast and someone who has an unmatched passion for Auburn football as well as his family."
On budget being a factor in hiring assistant coaches…
"We are going to go out and hire the best coaches we possibly can. Chizik has been given the green light to do whatever is necessary to hire the best coaches. It is the cost of doing business."