Auburn Coaching Search Coming To An End

The search for Auburn's next head football coach could be ending soon.

Auburn, Ala.--A name that has moved up in a hurry on the Auburn radar in the search to replace Tommy Tuberville as head football coach is a familiar one to Auburn fans.

Former AU defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, who is the head coach at Iowa State, is believed to be one of the leading candidates for Auburn's vacant head coaching position.

When AU officials made their trip to Texas on Thursday to speak with TCU's Gary Patterson they also spoke to former Auburn defensive coordinator Chizik about the job. Chizik left Auburn to become defensive coordinator at Texas before moving to his first head coaching job at Iowa State.

Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard confirmed that Auburn's athletic director contacted him for permission to discuss the Auburn job with Chizik.

"Auburn's interest in Gene speaks to his reputation," Pollard said. "We saw that same potential in Gene two years ago. He is an outstanding football coach, tremendous recruiter and inspiring leader. When your organization has talented staff members, other schools express interest in their services."

Chizik served as defensive coordinator for three seasons at Auburn, including in 2004 as the Tigers went undefeated. He left after that season to coach at Texas as defensive coordinator. In his two seasons as head coach in Ames his Iowa State teams have won five games and lost 19.

The coach, who spent three seasons at Auburn, will turn 47 years old on Dec. 28th.

Gene Chizik hugs former Auburn safety Junior Rosegreen after Auburn's 2004 road win vs. the Tennessee Volunteers.

Chizik served as defensive coordinator at Auburn under Tommy Tuberville from 2002-2004. Auburn's 2004 team finished as the SEC champions and closed the season with a 13-0 record. The Tigers led the nation in scoring defense, allowing 11.3 points per contest that season.

His Iowa State coaching staff features assistants with Auburn connections. Defensive line coach Mike Pelton played for the Tigers. Jeff Koontz, who coaches defensive backs, earned a degree at Auburn while a student assistant coach and made the moves with Chizik to Texas and Iowa State. Wayne Bolt, who coaches linebackers, was an assistant under Pat Dye at Auburn.

While working for the Tigers, Chizik won the Frank Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant football coach.

TCU's Gary Patterson, who has built an impressive resume coaching the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, talked with Kansas State and Clemson about job openings earlier this year. Add Auburn to that list as the Tigers look for a replacement for head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Patterson, who has posted a 72-27 mark since taking over as head coach at TCU for the bowl game in 2000, will lead his team into a Dec. 23rd Poinsettia Bowl date vs. Boise State at San Diego. TCU has a 10-2 record this season with the losses coming to once-beaten Oklahoma and unbeaten Utah.

Gary Patterson

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs was in Texas on Thursday to meet with Patterson, continuing a search that has kept Jacobs on the move around the country in the past week. Another possible coach who could be interviewed is Wake Forest's Jim Grobe. He is credited with taking Atlantic Coast Conference doormate Wake Forest and making the program very competitive in the ACC.

Jim Grobe

Grobe, who will be 57 in February, revitalized programs at Ohio University and Wake Forest that were traditional losers. He posted a 33-33-1 mark at Ohio from 1995-2000 after taking over a team that was winless when he arrived and has a 53-44 mark at Wake Forest.

His Demon Deacons posted a 7-5 mark this year including victories over two SEC teams that defeated Auburn--Ole Miss and Vandy.

Wake Forest will wrap up its season on Dec. 20th at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., in the new EagleBank Bowl where they will face Navy. It is a third straight bowl trip for the Demon Deacons.

Grobe, a 1975 University of Virginia graduate, spent 10 years as an assistant at Air Force before becoming head coach at Ohio. Going into the 2008 season, he was the first Wake Forest coach to have taken his team to three bowl games and the first in a half century to have won seven more games than he lost for the Demon Deacons.

Patterson's 72.7 percent winning percentage is the best of any coach in TCU history after coaching 99 games. Patterson, a two-time conference coach of the year at TCU, won 50 games more quickly than any coach in TCU history by winning 50 of his first 70 games.

Patterson was believed to be the leading candidate to return to his alma mater, Kansas State, after Coach Ron Prince was fired. However, no deal materialized and former K-State coach Bill Snyder came out of retirement to take the job in Manhattan.

Among the other head coaches still believed to be in the mix for the Auburn job are Turner Gill from the University of Buffalo, Derek Dooley from Louisiana Tech, Tulsa's Todd Graham and Ball State's Brady Hoke. Former Auburn assistant coaches Patrick Nix, who is offensive coordinator at Miami, and Rodney Garner, defensive line coach and assistant head coach at Georgia, have also met with AU officials about the job.

Both Garner and Nix played for the Tigers. Garner was a lineman for Coach Pat Dye in the 1980s and later worked as an assistant coach for AU. Nix was recruited to Auburn by Dye and the quarterback finished his career at AU playing for Terry Bowden.

Two other coaches with Auburn connections, Jimbo Fisher at Florida State and Will Muschamp at Texas, are head-coaches-in-waiting. Neither man has said that he has been contacted by Auburn regarding the head coaching vacancy. A Mobile television station on Thursday night claimed that Muschamp will be announced as Auburn's new head coach, but Muschamp told coaches and friends on Thursday night that he is staying at Texas.

On Friday morning Muschamp issued a statement saying, "I have not interviewed for any jobs. I'm not interested in any jobs. I'm happy here, my family loves Austin and I'm going to be at Texas."

Head coach Steve Spurrier of South Carolina issued a statement on the Auburn job on Thursday after hearing persistent rumors that he is going to be the next head coach of the Tigers. "Yeah, I heard that," Spurrier said. "There's nothing to that. Amazing how some of this stuff gets started.

"That one jumped out of nowhere," the 63-year-old coach added. "I know where my future in coaching is, and that's South Carolina."

Steve Spurrier

A recent name added to the mix is Tulsa head coach Todd Graham, whose 10-3 team is putting up huge offensive numbers. Tulsa will close the season in the GMAC Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile on Jan. 6th vs. Ball State. Ball State is coached by Brady Hoke, another coach Auburn has shown interest in during this search.

At the GMAC coaches press conference in Mobile, Hoke confirmed he had been interviewed by the Tigers and said he was flattered to be considered by a program of Auburn's caliber.

Graham didn't deny he had been interviewed by Auburn, but noted he didn't want to discuss the job vacancy.

One of the first coaches to interview with the Tigers was Gill, who led his Buffalo Bulls to a surprising upset win in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game over previously unbeaten Ball State. He interviewed on Monday with Jacobs, who was in New York City for the College Football Foundation's annual meetings and award ceremonies this week. The meetings normally attract a large number of head football coaches from around the country.

Gill, a former star football player and an assistant coach at Nebraska, brought his first Buffalo team to Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2006 where the Bulls fell 38-7, but kept the game close in the first half, trailing just 10-0. He is credited with turning what was considered perhaps the weakest team in major college football into a league champion in three seasons.

Brady Hoke of Ball State led his team to a 12-0 regular season mark and the first Top 25 ranking in Ball State history, but saw the dream of a perfect season ended as Buffalo defeated the Cardinals 42-24 in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game. Hoke has also coached at Jordan-Hare Stadium. His 2005 team was routed 63-3 by the Tigers. Ball State is scheduled to visit Auburn for the 2009 season.

A popular name with Auburn fans is Paul Johnson, a successful head coach at Georgia Southern and Navy before taking over at Georgia Tech this season. Johnson is widely respected in the college coaching community. After doing an impressive job with the Yellow Jackets this year, including a victory over Georgia to close the regular season, look for Tech to try to fend of advances of potential suitors. Johnson is taking his team to Chick-fil-A Bowl where Auburn defeated Clemson last year. At the bowl's press conference, Johnson refused to discuss the Auburn job opening.

Another first-year coach at his school, Houston Nutt of Ole Miss, has already capitalized on speculation he was a candidate for the Auburn job by landing an improved contract in Oxford. A coach farther west, Texas Tech's Mike Leach, has expressed an interest in Auburn while renegotiating his contract with the Red Raiders. It is not certain if he will return to Lubbock, but his next stop isn't expected to be in Auburn.

Among the many names mentioned as possibilities for the job is the son of a College Football Hall of Fame coach with Auburn connections.

Derek Dooley posted a 5-7 and 7-5 record in his first two seasons at Louisiana Tech.

Derek Dooley of Louisiana Tech is the son of former Auburn multi-sport athlete and assistant coach, Vince Dooley, who was one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Georgia. The younger Dooley has taken his name out of consideration for the Auburn job.

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