The search for a new head coach of the Auburn Tigers has officially begun.
Auburn's Athletic Director Jay Jacobs discussed the firing of head football coach Gene Chizik and the search for his replacement in a news conference held this afternoon at the university.
Chizik lost his job Sunday after closing out Auburn's 3-9 season with a 49-0 loss to Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
"It was a decision that had to be made sooner rather than later," Jacobs said. "It's always difficult when you have to fire somebody, and all the families it impacts. It's difficult. But that's the business we're in. Doesn't make it any easier," he added.
Jacobs recommended that Auburn not retain Chizik, and Auburn President Jay Gogue accepted the recommendation. Chizik was informed of the decision early Sunday morning, and the Auburn football players were told in a 1 p.m. meeting.
"We support our athletic programs at the highest level and we expect success at the highest level," Jacobs said.
The athletic director said he had been speaking with Chizik for several weeks, almost daily, about how the disappointing 2012 season would impact the coach's future.
"He's a class guy, he knows the business. He knows that if you don't win enough, you don't get to stay," Jacobs said of Chizik.
Chizik released a statement Sunday saying he understood the reason for his dismissal.
"I'm extremely disappointed with the way this season turned out and I apologize to the Auburn family and our team for what they have had to endure," Chizik said in the release. "In my 27 years of coaching, I have gained an understanding of the high expectations in this profession. When expectations are not met, I understand changes must be made."
With only a few days of school left in the semester, an interim coach will not be named, Jacobs said. The assistant coaches have been given the option to either stay or leave.
When asked who will lead the football program during the search for a new head coach, Jacobs said he will have a more clear idea after he finds out which assistant coaches decide to stay and continue to work for Auburn. He said he believes some will stay with the program.
Dismissing Chizik and his staff will not be cheap for Auburn. The total buyout for Coach Gene Chizik and his nine full-time assistants is set at $11.09 million.
The search committee for a new head coach will be comprised of Mac Crawford, Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Jay Jacobs. The athletic director said they are looking for a candidate with "a track record as a proven winner, a commitment to playing within the rules and student-athlete academic success."
Jacobs said he has "utmost confidence" in Auburn's NCAA rules compliance, and doesn't believe the news of another NCAA investigation into Auburn's recruiting practices will affect their search for a head coach. He says the fact that Chizik took Auburn to a national championship in 2010 proves that it can be done at Auburn, and should be one of the factors in attracting someone with a personality to win another national championship.
"We're gonna find the best coach we possibly can for Auburn," Jacobs said.
Jacobs didn't give many details about how the Auburn players took the news of Chizik's dismissal, but called them a "class group" and said they all lined up to shake their coach's hand after finding out the news today.
Jacobs added that one player came up to him and said, "We're all gonna stick together, we all love Auburn and we're gonna stay here."
Jacobs said that when Chizik was hired in 2008, if someone had told them during the next four years they would win three bowl games and their first national championship in 53 years, then have one bad season, many people would have taken the deal.
"I just regret the way it ended," Jacobs said.
Jacobs said in the news conference that he would not respond to rumors or speculation about who is being considered during the search process.
He added that he looks forward to announcing Auburn's next head coach once the search is complete.
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