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Chip Kelly is Coach of the Year but Chizik Proves to be a Winner

Category: College Football Coaching News, Editorial

The Football Writers Association made their pick. But a few other coaches deserve recognition this year.

Chip Kelly was certainly a deserving winner with what the Oregon team was able to do this year.  The Ducks are undefeated and have been an offensive juggernaut.Oregon had it’s own troubles in recent years with off the field issues including losing some of it’s best players such as Jeremiah Masoli. So Kelly deserves all the credit for keeping this team focused.

Jim Harbaugh was done something few though was possible at Stanford: make them not just a winner, but a power. Harbaugh took over a team in 2007 that had finished 1-11 the year before. He improved that win total to 4 wins his first year, 5 his second, and then 8 wins in 2009. That 2009 season included the schools first bowl bid since 2001 and a close Heisman runner-up in player Toby Gerhart. Despite losing Gerhart to the NFL, Stanford came back in 2010 with an 11-1 season, it’s only loss to BCS Championship game participant Oregon. In most years, Harbaugh would have won the coach of the year. It took a magical season by rival Oregon to keep the award away from Harabaugh this year…and perhaps the turnaround and redemption by one other coach…

Perhaps the coach that deserves the most credit this year has to be Gene Chizik at Auburn. To say the Cam Newton situation could have been an exaggeration is an understatement. And the reality is that Cam Newton being eligible to even play for Chizik is something many question. But the accolades for Chizik can be for another reason: for being a better coach than anyone other than Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs. When Chizik, a former Auburn assistant and then coach at a failing Iowa St. program was hired, few people gave him any credit. Many saw the trend of hiring the “hot name” assistant coaches or rising head coaches at other schools who would love the opportunity to coach in the SEC.

Few thought Chizik was the the right fit when so many other candidates were available. But Jacobs wanted someone familiar with the Auburn culture, and risked his own job in hiring Chizik.

Even worse for Chizik, is that many in the media opposed the hiring of Chizik simply because of the color of his skin. Some in the media crusaded against Auburn because they hiring a white coach from a fledging Iowa St. program rather than an “up and comer” coach like Turner Gill, then the head coach at Buffalo.

Fast forward a year and Chizik clearly has shown he was the right pick, with the Cam Newton eligibility the only potential blemish to his tenure. Meanwhile, Turner Gill has a rough season at his new job, as head coach at Kansas. The Jayhawks had only 1 Big 12 win this year and even lost at home to FCS school North Dakota St. and Southern Mississippi. After just one season, there were already rumblings that Kansas might fire Gill after 1 season.

Coaching is a big part skill and a big part of luck. Turner Gill or any other coach might also have Auburn in the BCS Championship Game this season. But that is something we don’t know. What we do know is that Chizik is 21-5 as coach at Auburn, 13-0 this year and 8-5 in his first season, an improvement from the 5-8 season the year before Chizik arrived.

Chip Kelly is your coach of the year. But Gene Chizik, even without a BCS championship win next month, has won something much better than an award: he’s won the respect of his community and can tell all those that opposed his hiring that he “told them so”. But you’ll never hear those words from his mouth.

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