I made a big mistake over Christmas break-I went and saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
I went-willing and excited. I saw a few previews and it looked like it had great potential-a guy actually ages backward. The possibilities were endless.
I went in expecting to see a movie that investigates the cause of a man aging in reverse. Maybe it was a medical miracle; maybe something supernatural. Regardless, I was ready to be entertained. What I got instead was three hours of The Notebook.
A lot of people love Benjamin Button. It was just not what I expected, so I had a terrible movie-going experience. No movie is immune to this clash of expectations and reality. If someone goes to see Dumb & Dumber expecting to see a romantic movie-one man traveling across the country to find the girl of his dreams-it might be disappointing to see Jim Carrey relieve himself in empty beer bottles.
This all leads me to one of the bigger controversies in college football this month-Auburn University’s decision to hire Gene Chizik to become the new head coach.
A university’s choice in head coach usually isn’t cause for concern. However, Auburn interviewed and passed over University of Buffalo head coach Turner Gill, an African-American.
When the news of Chizik’s hiring became public, there was the usual outcry. Charles Barkley accused his alma mater of racism and several of the talking heads followed suit.
One might believe that Chizik’s only hirable trait was the lack of pigmentation in his skin.
While the Tigers were floundering to a 5-7 record this year, the Crimson Tide was rolling to a 12-1 regular season record. Alabama had become to the talk of the Yellowhammer state, and Auburn wanted to send a clear message to fans that losing would not be tolerated.
Despite what Herm Edwards says, most coaches don’t coach to win the game-they coach to not lose the game. If coaches wanted to win the game there would be no punts on fourth and two, or fourth and inches. Yet every Saturday and Sunday, you see coaches send out the punt team instead of trying to push the ball forward two feet.
The punt is the safe play. If a team loses, a coach wants to be able to say to his athletic director, “Hey look, I played it by the book. I did what I could.” Taking chances decreases job security.
Athletic directors need safe picks too. The safer the pick, the safer his job. So when Auburn A.D. Jay Davis sat down and looked at Chizik’s resume and Gill’s resume, neither blew him away.
Gill went 15-23 in three seasons at Buffalo, but did lead the Bulls bowling for the first time in school history. Chizik went 5-19 in only two seasons at Iowa State. Gill was 7-17 after two years.
Gill was quarterbacks coach for the University of Nebraska during the 1990s, when Nebraska football was still winning championships. Chizik was defensive coordinator for Auburn when the Tigers went undefeated. The following year, he was defensive coordinator for the University of Texas when the Longhorns went undefeated.
Both are impressive jobs, but position coaches and coordinators are usually only as good as the players around them-just ask defensive “geniuses” Romeo Crennel and Marvin Lewis.
Davis’ choice came down to expectations. He knew what he was getting when he hired Chizik. The entire Auburn administration knew what it was getting. The man had coached at Auburn for three seasons. They knew his philosophy, they knew his ability to recruit and they knew his ability to coach college kids.
Gill may prove to be the better coach, but Auburn didn’t know what to expect with Gill. All they knew was that he was coaching effectively somewhere near Canada. If these were the final two candidates for the job at Nebraska, Gill would get the nod for the same reason.
If Chizik were black and Gill was white, there would have been no outcry.
In life we need to know what we are getting ourselves into. Auburn knew what to expect with Chizik. That’s why he was hired.