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Auburn search needs delicate balance

Published 9:06am Wednesday, November 28, 2012

By Andy Graham | Sportz Blitz

The 2012 Auburn football season (a season which will live in infamy) mercifully came to an end last Saturday in Tuscaloosa and so did the career of Gene Chizik as the head football coach.
In the most humiliating yet of a season of humiliations, the Tigers provided no resistance whatsoever to anything the mighty Crimson Tide had in mind to do.
It was such a degrading performance that even the worst of the worst Alabama fans felt a little sorry for the orange and blue.  I wasn’t totally convinced before kickoff that the Auburn administration would pull the trigger on Chizik, but after going 0-8 in the SEC and losing a combined 87-0 to your two biggest rivals, there was no other alternative.
Jay Gogue had no choice but to tell Gene, “there’s a train leaving tomorrow… you be under it.”
Now the search is on to find the next head football coach at Auburn University.
I was so glad the administration didn’t drag things out and went ahead and made the announcement as soon as they did.
There are a number of factors that indicate Auburn must not only make the right hire; it must also handle this process in an expedient manner.
The search needs to be quick, but not rushed.
As of today, the landscape of the SEC is in flux. Hugh Freeze has done an excellent job at Ole Miss this year and the Rebel program would have to be considered on the rise.  The same could most certainly be said of James Franklin at Vanderbilt.
It remains to be seen, of course, how much success either program will achieve and if an SEC title is truly a legitimate goal; however, these two teams are now on a higher level than Auburn at the moment.
Texas A&M also appears to be a legitimate contender in the SEC West with Johnny Manziel only a freshman.  Mississippi State struggled down the stretch, but has established themselves as a perennial eight win team at least.
The Tigers have to take enough time to make the right decision for Auburn University because the SEC is only becoming more competitive top to bottom and right now Auburn is looking up at everyone else.
If the Tigers don’t take enough time to find the right man for the job, they’ll find themselves in the same position four years from now.
On the other hand, the search committee needs to have a sense of urgency because of all the competition and the cutthroat world of recruiting.
As I write this, there are eight quality NCAA head-coaching positions available (Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Colorado, Boston College, NC State and Purdue).
I would consider only three of the jobs to be elite (Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas), but the rest are good jobs that would be attractive to the right coach.  With so many positions available, Auburn cannot be as deliberate as it might like simply because the marketplace is flooded with opportunity.
Another reason (and maybe more importantly) to expedite the process would be to try and salvage the Tigers outstanding 2013 recruiting class.
The quicker a top-notch coaching staff is in place and some order is restored, the better chance Auburn will have holding on to their top prospects.  It will be almost impossible for there not to be some defections, but the right man given enough time could make all the difference.
Graham is a columnist for Sportz Blitz.