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Jay Jacobs Addressing Media on Firing Chizik

Opening Statement…

Good afternoon. Thanks to all of you for being here on short notice.

As you know, we announced a decision earlier today that we are moving in a new direction with our football program.

Earlier this morning, I made a recommendation to Dr. Gogue that Coach Chizik not be retained as head coach. He accepted my recommendation, and Coach Chizik was informed of our decision shortly thereafter.

As expected, Coach Chizik handled the news with dignity and class. He knows this is a tough business that often requires tough decisions. Coach Chizik expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to lead our football program for the past four years.

I want to thank Coach Chizik for being an outstanding ambassador for Auburn University. He has exemplified the ideals of the Auburn Creed and has represented the Auburn Family with class throughout his tenure.

While I am disappointed that Coach Chizik’s career here has come to an end we will long cherish the memories of our first National Championship in 53 years. Gene and his staff will always be a part of the Auburn Family, and we wish them and their families the best.

I wanted to quickly share what led me to the decision to recommend a change. My primary consideration was doing what is in the best interest of our current student-athletes and the future of our football program.

After some tough losses in a transition year in 2011, I had hoped our team would show improvement this season. Unfortunately, it did not.

As we all know, the competition in our league is fierce. In the final analysis, I decided that we cannot risk falling further behind by waiting another year and hoping for improvement. That is why we decided it was time for a change.

We will move as quickly as possible in the search for our next head coach and will do so consistent with the expectations set by Dr. Gogue.

We will be guided by the benchmarks we expect in the leader of our program. Those benchmarks are a track record as a proven winner, a commitment to playing within the rules, and student-athlete academic success.

I am pleased to announce that we have put together an outstanding search committee to find our next head coach. The committee consists of several great Auburn leaders who share our commitment to competing at the highest level and who understand what it takes to succeed at Auburn.

I am honored that Mac Crawford, Bo Jackson and Pat Sullivan have agreed to join our efforts to find the best coach possible for our student-athletes, the students of Auburn University and the Auburn Family.

This is a real, working committee and I’m proud to be part of this distinguished group.

Thank you again for being with us today. At this time, I am happy to answer your questions.

On his own job security…

What I’m worried about is making sure I do my job. My main concern right now is doing what’s best for this football team and these student-athletes. Like I’ve always done, I’m going to continue to keep my head down and make the best decisions I possibly can for Auburn athletics and particularly, for these student-athletes.

On time frame…

No, we don’t have a time frame in mind. We are going to take the time that is necessary to find someone with those three things we mentioned: a proven track record, someone who plays by the rules, and someone that will continue to build on the student-athlete success academically.

On when he decided to make a change…

I’ve been thinking about it all year. Last night, I visited with Gene [Chizik]. I told him that I was going to talk to the president this morning and recommend that he not be retained. That’s what I did. I called Dr. Gouge this morning and we talked. I made the recommendation and he accepted it. I followed up with Gene and talked to him again this morning. I had a chance to meet with the assistant coaches and I had a chance to meet with the team. It’s been going on the entire year, the evaluation.

On the status of Auburn’s assistant coaches…

The assistants have an option to stay. That’s where they are.

On an interim coach…

There is not [an interim coach]. The timing of this, one week left in school, a lot of our student-athletes will be gone after this week. Some have finals the next week. We don’t feel it’s necessary to have an interim.

On basis of decision…

As our standing policy, we aren’t going to talk about neither confirm or deny anything with the NCAA. I will tell you this, I’ve got the utmost confidence in our NCAA rules compliance. Basically, it boils down to winning and losing. Winning three games is unacceptable. We have high standards here at Auburn. We are going to keep those high and that’s what it boiled down to.

On the effect of Chizik buyout on search…

[The buyout] won’t affect the search whatsoever. That is paid out of four fiscal years. It’s paid out monthly and it’s mitigated. So, for Gene, if he never goes to work again, we would owe him all of that. Fortunately, for us it is mitigated and paid out monthly. Fortunately, because of the Auburn people and their support of Auburn athletics, it won’t put us in a poor situation moving forward.

On when firing takes effect…

[The firing] is effective today.

On concerns over job security for future coach…

I think it is an unusual situation. With the commitment we have to athletics, particularly the football program, 3-9 is just unacceptable. So, in this fierce environment that we are in with this league, this highly competitive environment, you have to win to be able to compete at this level, to be able to stay here and be a coach. We are in a position now, better than we’ve ever been in to hire a head coach. Everybody wants to win a national championship and it’s been proven it can be done here at Auburn. The resources and the effort we put into supporting our football program at the highest level, so I think we are going to have the best pool we have probably ever had to hire a head coach. I think that competing in the SEC, particularly the SEC west, people that want to win championships and people that have the personality we need to have to win championships; those are going to be at the front of the line. For those that are faint of heart, they need not get in line.

On will questions about security during interviews…

We anticipate everything when you interview candidates. If it is, we will certainly address it.

On importance of SEC and southern roots in next head coach…
That would be nice, but we are going to go out and find the best head coach that we can.

On why the team struggled…

It’s awful easy to second guess. When you go through a season like we did, there is a lot of that going on. We made a decision and we are moving forward. I will tell you this, anytime that you have a team like we do and the recruiting class that we did have the last couple of years, player development – where are we with that. Why aren’t we getting it done? Why didn’t the quality of the class transfer over to the field? That’s particularly of interest to me with this program, with this team. Why didn’t that happen? But overall, discipline is something that is always a foundational thing in any team that you have. You always look for those things, but player development is the one thing. We made this decision and we are moving forward.

On if the way the team lost had an effect…

Not really. Last year, our inability to compete often times and this year the losses, I began to get concerned. The Mississippi State game, five turnovers, okay. After the Arkansas game, I became very concerned in our fundamental approach to the game.

On if NCAA rumors will cause a coach to shy away…

Again, I have the utmost confidence in our NCAA rules compliance. I don’t think that anybody is going to shy away from an opportunity to coach at Auburn and in the SEC.

On if previous head coaching experience is required…

The first part is that we will consider someone that is not a head coach, but is a proven winner.

On Petrino speculation…

In fairness to all candidates, potential and otherwise, we are not going to talk about any candidates, potential or real.

On if he has reached out to any candidates…

I have not.

On if he will avoid a high buyout with this hire…

No. We won’t avoid candidates seeking a buyout if it’s the right candidate for Auburn. Talking about the buyout, you have to remember on our side, back when we negotiated Gene’s contract after the 2010 year, it was the first national championship in 53 years. He was 22-5. I believe at the time, he was in the top 15 in buyouts. This year’s buyout, I’m not sure it’s even in the top 20. That’s the market in which we are living. We are going to go out and get the best candidate possible. Whatever is necessary to make it work, we will make it work.

On any changes to administrative staff and why the changes were made…

Tim [Jackson] will no longer be a part of the football program. A lot of what Tim’s job has been has been in Tigers Unlimited, facilities, operations and it’s time for a change.

On if no interim, who is in charge…

I’ll no better tomorrow. As I mentioned earlier, what I told the assistant coaches is that they have the option to stay here and continue to work. My sense of it is that some of those guys are going to stay here and keep up with our current football players. That’s the same thing I told our football players as well. Some of those guys will be here and when we find out who that is, if not all of them, we’ll have a structure in place to make sure those guys are getting the things they need. That’s the commitment to our student-athletes.

On who is spearheading recruiting at this time…

It will depend on our coaches. If some of those guys stay here and want to continue to contact recruits, but any time you go through a change like this, recruiting is an issue. You are always concerned about it, but when we hire the right coach and he gets in here in due time. Auburn is such a great place to come and be a part of, he will be able to hit the ground running and get the recruits we need to build from our success from 2010.

On if discipline played a role…

The whole thing was my issue. All of that came into play.

On if improving structure will be a big focus…

We will certainly bring in a head coach and let him evaluate what he things the structure needs to be and we’ll support him in that.

On how players reacted…

I really don’t want to talk too much about my meeting with the players, because that is between us. I’ll tell you this, they are a class group. One of them came up to me afterwards and said ‘Mr. Jacobs, we love Auburn and we all are going to be here.’ They all lined up down the hall way after it was over to shake Gene’s hand.

On how the search committee came together…

Dr. Gouge and I sat and talked about who is should be, who it could be, what would put us in the best position to bring in the best coach for Auburn. I talked to all three of them today, no necessarily this morning. A couple weeks ago, you always have to be proactive and not reactive, I started formulating who would be on it and who would not. I reached out to a couple of these guys and if we were to go this direction, would you be a part of it, because it’s always easier to not have a search committee then to have one. So if we had gone a different direction, it would’ve been easy to disengage and it would’ve been more difficult to get them up and running.

On who is on the search committee…

Myself. It’s us four: Mac Crawford, Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and myself.

On how Mac Crawford got involved…

He is a CEO turnaround expert. We probably need a little turnaround here. He is very objective. He’s not an emotional guy. He’s every business oriented, with business sense and business savvy. He’s well respected by the Auburn football community. It’s really a blessing to have Mac a part of this. We all know Bo and Pat. Certainly, having Pat, who is a current head coach, is awful helpful when you are sitting with potential head coaches. Certainly, Bo brings something to the table, and Mac as well.

On how Chizik felt after the conversations…

We’ve been talking for several weeks. Almost daily. He’s a class guy. He knows the business and knows that if you don’t win enough, you don’t get to stay. He loves Auburn and wants to stay here until he gets another job. Just class and character, same as always.

On if a search firm will be used…

From time to time, we always reach out to experts. We will do that in this case as well.

On how he feels about the five goals of a head coach…

The five goals that we have are winning, rules compliance, game day experience, graduating our student-athletes and how we do financially. Fortunately, for the last 10 years we’ve been able to put money in the bank. As I’ve said repeatedly, I have the utmost confidence in our NCAA rules compliance. Winning, we’ve won 22 SEC championships and 12 national championships over the last eight years. I think 22 puts us at fourth in the league and 12 at top in the league. Graduating our student-athletes, 51 percent of our student-athletes have a 3.0 or better. But you have a bad season, things go bad. Everything gets questioned, as it should be. We have room for improvement, but we are committed to making those improvements and doing what is necessary to compete at the highest level.

Did empty stands cause concern…

The stands being empty and the score on the scoreboard, all that concerned me.

On if he believes a coaching change will improve the team…

Historically, when there was a change after the 80 season, two years later, three years later, we won the SEC championship. After a couple bad years in 91 and 92, we went undefeated in 93 with a change in coaches. After a 2003 year that some say wasn’t very good, we went undefeated in 2004 with the same coach. In 2008, we won five games and then two years later won a national championship. History, to some degree, dictates that change can be a catalyst to help you be more successful. The overall picture, the things that were mentioned, and the winning and the off the field things and fundamentals of football, it was a decision that had to be made sooner rather than later.

On the difficulty in parting with Chizik…

It’s always difficult when you have to fire somebody with all the families that it affects. That’s difficult. But that is the business that we are in. It doesn’t make it any less easy. It’s difficult. We support our athletic programs at the highest level and we expect success at the highest level. I’m grateful for what Gene has done. He won three bowls. He won a national championship. I just regret the way it ended. In 2008, if someone had said you were going to win three bowls and a national championship with one bad year, I think a lot of Auburn people would’ve taken it. I just regret the way it ended with a 3-9 season.

On Tim Jackson’s status…

Yes, he will still be with the athletics department.

On if new head coach will have say in the coaching staff…
No doubt about it. That is the new head coach’s decision.

On preference to style of play…

Not really. Just physical. Statistically speaking, the defensive teams get to the SEC championship. Now you see all the spread offenses and all the people scoring points, can you find a fine balance for that? We are going to find the best coach we possibly can for Auburn.

On importance of next coach understanding the Auburn culture…

I think it’s important, but I think there are people that can be fast learners.

On the amount of the buyout…

It’s spread out over the next four years. If he doesn’t ever go to work again, I believe its 7.2 million dollars.

On if he prefers and offensive or defensive minded coach…

We will probably talk to both and see who the best coach is for Auburn.


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