Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Auburn's Rapid Fall Can Be Linked to Issues Both on and off the Field

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Auburn's Rapid Fall Can Be Linked to Issues Both on and off the Field

Article excerpt

Gene Chizik's Auburn Tigers had all the momentum from a national championship season and the accompanying exposure and had stockpiled highly rated recruits to keep the success going.

Still, things quickly went disastrously wrong on the Plains.

The Tigers had discipline problems on the field, serious issues between the lines and a collapse that led to Chizik's dismissal last Sunday after four seasons that brought glory and embarrassment alike.

Athletic director Jay Jacobs decided it was time to stop the roller coaster ride.

"It was just last year our inability to compete oftentimes and this year the losses, I began to get concerned," Jacobs said last Sunday.

He had reason to be concerned.

Many things led to the unprecedented two-year free fall by an Associated Press national champ.

Many of the highly touted prospects haven't panned out yet, attrition and off-the-field problems have taken their toll, and the quarterback play has been shaky since Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton's one season of domination.

The result was a 3-9 season when Auburn couldn't win a Southeastern Conference game or muster much of a fight in its last three league games against top-tier league opponents Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama.

The Tigers were outscored 150-21 in their last three games.

It seems sudden. But it wasn't.

The warning signs began to creep up last season when Auburn wasn't competitive against LSU, Georgia or Alabama -- teams the Tigers had beaten the previous season with Newton often lifting the team from deficits.

But those were top 10 teams.

Auburn couldn't beat anyone in the SEC this year.

And how they were losing became a major issue.

"The Mississippi State game, five turnovers, OK," Jacobs said. "But after the Arkansas game, I became very concerned in our fundamental approach to the game."

The Tigers were beaten 24-7 by a struggling Razorbacks team and then things got even worse.

"It was like the dam just broke," said J.C. Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247Sports.

Still, Jacobs believes there will be no shortage of quality candidates interested in the coaching vacancy.

"I think we're going to have the best pool we've possibly ever had to hire a head coach," Jacobs said. …

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