By BOB MARTIN
Sitting in the press box at Jordan-Hare Stadium last month as LSU invaded the Loveliest Village on the Plains, the place was abuzz with media from across the Nation. Not a seat was vacant. Anticipation was razor-sharp.
This past Saturday was quite a contrast, even though it was the first visit by Texas A&M as a new member of the SEC; empty seats were everywhere. By halftime, when they serve the ice cream and other goodies, the crowd in the press box was even slimmer. So was the crowd everywhere. You could have grabbed an empty seat most anywhere in the 87,471 capacity arena as the visiting Aggies were rolling toward a 63-21 thrashing of the “Warless Eagles.”
The buzz about the tenure of the head coach grows louder by the day, eliciting a recent noncommittal comment by Auburn President Jay Gogue.
“In the past few weeks, many of you have contacted me, and I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to share your thoughts about the football program. I know your concerns are sincere and heartfelt, and I share many of them. As is done every year, the football program will be evaluated in an objective, thorough and professional process,” Gouge said last week.
The issue continued in the media this week. A headline in the sports section of one daily read: “Time’s up for Chizik.” In the event you’re not a sports fan, Gene Chizik is the head football coach at Auburn.
What a contrast to 18 months ago when Auburn was the Toast of Alabama after winning the National Collegiate Football Championship over the Oregon Ducks. I suppose this is why the job of a head football coach demands such high pay. And Chizik’s pay package is one of the highest in the land.
After that National Championship Chizik got an increase that made him one of the nation’s highest-paid coaches; $3.5 million annually through 2015. His salary in 2011 while leading the Auburn to the national title was $2.2 million.
“We believe that we have the best coach in college football,” athletic director Jay Jacobs said in a statement announcing the new deal. “More importantly, Coach Chizik is a great mentor to our student-athletes. He represents Auburn with class and integrity in all that he does.”
With incentives, Chizik could earn up to $4.5 million with the new deal. He cashed in on incentives and bonuses in 2011, earning an extra $1.3 million for winning the national title and National Coach of the Year honors. The win against Oregon, his second bowl win, also triggered bonuses for a 14th win and a Top 5 finish in the final Associated Press poll. He had already earned an additional $500,000 for a 13th win, an SEC title, a BCS bowl appearance and his first AP SEC Coach of the Year award.
After his new pay grade became effective in 2011, Chizik was ranked fourth among SEC coaches in annual salary. Nick Saban topped the list at that time with almost $5 million after signing a new deal and was followed by Les Miles at $3.75 million and Bobby Petrino at $3.56 million. Under the terms of the deal, Chizik got a $770,000 loan to pay for the buyout of his contract at Iowa State. That loan is being forgiven by Auburn at $150,000 for every year Chizik coaches and will be paid off entirely if he stays five years.
The Oregon win in the BCS also provided bonuses for the national title, a 14th win and a Top 5 finish in the final Associated Press poll. Chizik had already earned an additional $500,000 for a 13th win, an SEC title, a BCS bowl appearance and his first AP SEC Coach of the Year award. He also receives $150,000 if the team obtains a score of 1,000 in the annual NCAA academic progress measurement or $50,000 if the team reaches 950.
My observation about this issue is this: Why don’t we evaluate and remove politicians the same way we do football coaches?
Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at email@example.com.
Views expressed by Mr. Martin are not necessarily those of the staff of Atmore News.