The most fascinating coach in America seemed excited Tuesday. "It's one of those first games,"
No, Auburn's season opener against better-than-advertised Louisiana Tech will not prove anything definitive. It will, however, begin to answer the question that makes the Tigers' first-year coach so fascinating.
Is Chizik a Peter, or is he a Pete?
In 1969, a Canadian teacher named
Chizik's 5-19 record in two seasons as Iowa State head coach led many underwhelmed Auburn supporters to suggest he was the living embodiment of the Peter Principle. Maybe Chizik reached his ceiling as the defensive coordinator at Auburn and Texas. Maybe his next job, as Cyclones head coach from 2007-08, was above his level of competence.
But before anyone throws in the towel on the Chizik era, consider another possibility. Sometimes an employee doesn't fit in one job, but fits perfectly in a slightly different one. Let's call it the Pete Principle.
In 2000, USC fired
After failing to hire nearly every coach who had worked or would work in the state of Oregon, USC athletic director
The reaction to Carroll's hiring came swiftly and decisively. Writing for
"In the days leading up to Carroll's appointment, the athletic department was inundated with an estimated 2,500 similar phone calls and e-mails -- thanks to someone who posted Garrett's e-mail address on a variety of USC-linked Web sites -- mostly blasting Garrett's decision to hire Carroll," Carr wrote. "Some even went so far as to threaten to donate their money to academic programs rather than the football team."
If that sounds familiar to readers in Alabama, it should. The tone is nearly identical to the reaction from Auburn fans after the Chizik hiring. Only this time, the fans had blogs. At the Joe Cribbs Car Wash, author
One respected former Auburn player was equally mystified. "I have a lot of respect for the guy,"
We now know Carroll was the ideal hire for the Trojans. He has gone 88-15. His teams have won a BCS national title, an Associated Press national title and seven consecutive Pac-10 titles. While serving as the CEO of an NFL team was beyond Carroll's level of competence, coaching a major college team situated in one of the nation's recruiting hotbeds was right in his wheelhouse.
What's most peculiar is that, during the search that resulted in Chizik's hiring, fans and pundits alike professed Auburn would be best served hiring Texas defensive coordinator
The difference between post-2006 and post-2008 were the quality of the job openings and the applicant pools. When Chizik reigned as the trendy coordinator of the moment, the available BCS-conference head-coaching jobs were at Alabama, Arizona State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Louisville, Minnesota, Michigan State, NC State, North Carolina and Stanford. That list includes several quality jobs, but Chizik was underqualified for Alabama and Michigan State, and the jobs at Cincinnati (
In 2008, jobs opened at Auburn, Boston College, Clemson, Iowa State, Kansas State, Mississippi State, Purdue, Syracuse, Tennessee and Washington. Muschamp wasn't considered underqualified for any of these jobs because there were no
The pessimists on the Plains will argue that unlike Carroll in 2000, Chizik already has had his chance at the college level. But has he? Maybe the only thing his tenure in Ames taught us is that
Maybe any coach short of
Of course, if
If Chizik is indeed an example of the Pete Principle, it should show in his recruiting. Carroll made an immediate splash by signing quarterback
For all his early recruiting success, Carroll was not an immediate success on the field. His team lost four of its first five games. But the Trojans won five of their next six, and in spite of a loss to Utah in the 2000 Las Vegas Bowl, it was obvious Carroll was building something special.
Saturday, Chizik can start providing some answers in Auburn. Did his coaching mojo Peter out in Ames? For Pete's sake, the Tigers had better hope not.