Chizik keeping his date with Macon Touchdown Club

sports@macon.comFebruary 25, 2013 

A Monday night tradition in Macon will make a special Thursday night appearance this week.

The Macon Touchdown Club will hold its annual jamboree meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Methodist Children’s Home on Pierce Avenue.

There will be the usual presentations honoring local gridiron stars, as well as the state’s Super Seven and the state player of the year, which this year is Dooly County’s Montravius Adams. In addition, the club will present scholarships to the top scholar-athletes in the city. Since the establishment of the Touchdown Club’s educational foundation in 1987, the club has awarded more than $150,000 to smart local football players.

The Thursday night meeting is believed to be a first in the long history of the club, which was established in 1946. The Touchdown Club normally meets on Monday nights. But when this year’s speaker, Gene Chizik, chose the date in September, Thursday was the best night for him to appear.

A lot has changed in Chizik’s life since he accepted the invitation to speak. He was fired as Auburn’s head coach following the 2012 season after the Tigers finished 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC.

With those results and his dismissal at Auburn, it would have been easy to cancel out on his appearance in Macon. But Chizik called Touchdown Club executive director King Kemper and said, “I want to honor my commitment to your club if you still want me.”

For Kemper, it was an easy decision to keep Chizik on the schedule.

I, as most other club members I am sure, will want to hear what Chizik has to say. The Auburn story during his tenure is one of the most compelling in the BCS era of college football. His hiring by athletics director Jay Jacobs in 2008 to replace Tommy Tuberville was not a popular decision among the Auburn faithful. Much of that disdain came from Tigers fans who were not impressed with his 5-19 record in two years as head coach at Iowa State, where he was coming from. Chizik apparently had impressed the Auburn administration with his skills while on Tuberville’s staff in 2003 and 2004 as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.

If you look at Chizik’s first three seasons at Auburn, you would have thought he might be a lifetime coach on the Plains. His first season saw Auburn finish 8-5 with a 38-35 overtime win over Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. Year Two was magical with the Tigers, led by Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, running the table by going 14-0 and beating Oregon 22-19 to win its first undisputed national championship and its second overall, the other coming in the 1957 season.

With Newton and defensive standout Nick Fairley having gone early to the NFL, an 8-5 season in 2011 with a 43-24 win over Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl was considered a transition season with brighter days ahead because of top-10 recruiting classes in each of Chizik’s first three seasons.

Then came 2012, and the wheels fell off the wagon. The 3-9 season could have been worse, as the Tigers needed overtime to beat Sun Belt foe Louisiana-Monroe. Chizik’s fate probably was sealed before his team’s 49-0 loss at Alabama, but that game certainly didn’t help his cause.

I am sure there are many reasons for the lack of success for Auburn in 2012, but most so-called experts point to a change in offensive philosophy, with the Tigers going from a no-huddle, hurry-up spread to more of a pro-style approach. They had employed the spread during Chizik’s first three seasons at Auburn with Gus Malzahn as offensive coordinator.

Malzahn left to become head coach at Arkansas State following the 2011 season, but he is now back at Auburn as the man replacing Chizik.

There is no question that Chizik is a good football coach and will be back on the sidelines soon, but with a $7.5 million buyout of his Auburn contract, he can take his time and pick and choose the right situation.

Tickets for the Touchdown Club jamboree, which is open to the public, are $30 each. Reservations can be made by calling Kemper at 750-7507.

Bobby Pope is the executive director of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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