DESTIN, Fla. -- Even when he was being ridiculed for hiring a guy with a 5-19 career head coaching record, Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs knew he’d hired the right guy.
More precisely, he knew he’d hired the right guy for Auburn.
The momentum in Auburn’s program right now is pretty obvious as Gene Chizik gets set to enter his second season. The Tigers are coming off a top-5 recruiting class nationally and won eight games a year ago, including an Outback Bowl victory over Northwestern, in Chizik’s debut season as the head man.
But there was a time when some on the Plains wanted Jacobs’ head for hiring Chizik in the first place.
Who could ever forget the footage of that obnoxious fan booing as Jacobs returned to the airport after completing the deal with Jacobs in December 2008?
And if you’ll remember, Charles Barkley wasn’t too kind to his alma mater, either.
Jacobs flashed an easy smile this week at the SEC spring meetings when asked if there were an extra sense of satisfaction for him to see the program prospering under Chizik.
“From the outside looking in, I can see how some people might think there’s extra satisfaction,” Jacobs said. “But from the beginning, I knew he had a plan and knew what it was. He’s just working the plan he submitted to me back in the very beginning. So ‘satisfaction’ is not the right word. He’s just working his plan to build us back to where we need to be.”
In other words, if you think Jacobs is going to be one of those guys to say, “I told you so,” think again.
That’s not his style.
What’s more, he knows it’s way too early to be making any hard and fast evaluations on the program after just one season.
“We’re still two signing classes away from having a team like we had in 2004,” said Jacobs, who was already plenty familiar with Chizik when he started his search because Chizik was the defensive coordinator on that unbeaten 2004 Auburn team.
Still, Jacobs knew Chizik would be a tough sell initially to the fans, and he was. But Jacobs never wavered in his belief that Chizik’s character traits made him an ideal fit for Auburn.
“The thing was that we were here to win football games, not to win press conferences,” Jacobs said. “There’s a fine line there because you can lose your fans. The Auburn people are passionate people, and their passion came to the top ... which it should.”
Many of those people who voiced their displeasure over the hire, including Barkley, have changed their tune.
Well, just like Jacobs wasn’t keeping count when he was being told how bad a hire he’d just made, he’s not keeping count now when people applaud the hire.
“I’m just here as a steward to this athletic department and am going to do what’s right,” Jacobs said. “That’s how it’s going to be, but I appreciate the passion of the Auburn people and appreciate how this coaching staff has come in and ignited the Auburn people.
“The Auburn people have come together, and we’re as unified now as we’ve ever been.”