AUBURN, Ala. – The office of Auburn coach Gene Chizik is covered with footballs, helmets, posters and a little bit of everything else just waiting to be signed.
Such is life when you’ve just engineered one of the more memorable football seasons in school history.
It’s the part of Chizik’s life that has changed the most, trying to meet all of the demands that are out there and autographing so many national championship items that he finds himself practicing his signature in his sleep.
Otherwise, Chizik says nothing has changed, and that’s the way he wants it.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of keeping everything status quo,” Chizik said.
That also goes for the way he responds to any of the allegations surrounding Cam Newton last season and those critics who say it’s just a matter of time before the NCAA lowers the boom on Auburn.
There has been no official word that the NCAA has closed its investigation into the Newton matter, and there were reports last month that NCAA investigators were in Thibodaux, La., looking into the recruitment of Auburn redshirt freshman Trovon Reed and Auburn 2011 signee Greg Robinson.
Chizik’s message to all the so-called haters is simple. In short, get a good look at the ring.
“Whatever people want to say or whatever somebody is comfortable talking about in terms of talk radio or other places, we have absolutely no control over that,” Chizik said. “But here’s what we know: We are the national champions, and we were the best football team in the United States last year. There’s nothing I have to do to defend our honor for that.
“They’re going to say what they’re going to say and discuss what they’re going to discuss, and you have absolutely no control over that. I call those energy vampires. They’re not going to suck my energy out worrying about that. That’s how we work.”
Chizik defends Newton as staunchly now as he did during the season when the NCAA and Auburn agreed that Newton’s father, Cecil Newton, had attempted to shop his son to Mississippi State for $180,000, thus violating NCAA rules.
“The kid was tarred and feathered for something he didn’t have anything to do with,” Chizik said.
And while there was much speculation during the final month of last season that Newton could be suspended for some games, Chizik never once felt it was heading in that direction.
“I was always confident it was going to unfold the way it did,” Chizik said. “Again, if you look and see how we proceeded during the year, it was evident that’s how I felt. I just never thought any differently.”
The same goes for any impending NCAA trouble that may or may not be looming for the Tigers. Chizik knows that chatter is out there, mainly because he hears it from prospects on the recruiting trail.
But until somebody tells him differently, he’s not buying any of it.
In fact, Chizik points out that only one assistant coach has left Auburn in the last two years, and several have had lucrative opportunities to go elsewhere, too. Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker was the only one to leave, and he took a job with the Tennessee Titans.
“There is so much negative recruiting going on,” Chizik said, "and when recruits are guided by other schools saying these things about us, I simply say, ‘If that were the case, and all these guys got all these different job offers, then why would I have this same staff? Why would all these guys have stayed if they felt like we’d done something to merit getting into trouble with the NCAA.’ ”
Chizik is pretty accomplished at insulating himself from all the negative chatter that’s out there concerning Auburn’s recruiting methods. But he’s also not oblivious.
He knows what’s being said, and he also knows that some of the Tigers’ rivals have flatly accused them of cheating.
“That’s the way the world is. That’s life,” Chizik said. “We were the national champions, and just like probably everybody else that won a national championship, there are always people out there who’re going to say, ‘Well, they only won it because they did this or that … where they really shouldn’t have.’
“So, this isn’t the first time that kind of thinking is out there. It doesn’t make me mad, because there are always going to be people who are negative. You can’t control that, but I can tell you we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
If anything, Chizik said all the adversity last season only strengthened the team’s bond, and he said that’s not going to change.
“What we asked our players to do was to envision this impenetrable type of circle,” Chizik said. “Nobody penetrates this family. Nobody penetrates that circle because we believe in each other and believe that the truth always wins and that we were not going to let anything penetrate what we were doing.
“That got really challenging, but our coaches and our seniors did a good job of directing that. Our players bought in, and that’s the reason we were able to get through everything last season.”