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November 25, 2012

Chizik dismissed


AUBURN -- The Gene Chizik era has ended.

Auburn on Sunday dismissed its head coach after one of the program's worst seasons in history. The Tigers were outscored 272-81 in their eight games against Southeastern Conference opponents, which includes a 49-0 loss at Alabama last weekend.

Chizik's time on the Plains yielded some of the program's highest points. The Tigers' 2010 team yielded a national championship, a Heisman Trophy for quarterback Cam Newton, a Lombardi Award for defensive tackle Nick Fairley and the adoration of a long-suffering fan base.

The championship appeared to wash away doubts about Chizik's ability to thrive. He went 5-19 at Iowa State's coach prior to taking the Auburn job, but an undefeated season in the nation's most challenging conference convinced athletic director Jay Jacobs that his coach had become a phenom.

Jacobs rewarded Chizik in June 2011 with a re-worked contract that included a $1.5 million-per-season raise and remarkable buyout protection. Chizik released his first book, "All In: What It Takes to Be the Best," a month later.

He was on top of the college football world.

Still, Auburn quickly lost ground to conference rivals. The Tigers descended back into mediocrity during an 8-5 season in 2011, which prompted Chizik to fire defensive coordinator Ted Roof and allow offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to leave for Arkansas State.

Malzahn accepted a $500,000 pay cut in the process.

The Tigers' new coordinators didn't provide much assistance. Brian VanGorder's defense allowed 415 yards and 26 points per game - on par with the Tigers' 2011 numbers - while offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler's group cracked the two-touchdown threshold twice in eight league games.

A slow start turned into something more sinister when the Tigers lost consecutive games to Arkansas, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. It was just the third time since 1950 that Auburn failed to win a single game in October.

Speculation about Chizik's future became an everyday topic after the A&M game, which saw the visitors move ahead 42-7 at halftime. Auburn later lost by 42 points - its worst home loss since 1980.

Chizik, who just finished his fourth season on the Plains, won't walk away empty-handed. Auburn contractually is obligated to pay the coach $208,333 per month through the end of 2015.

Any money he earns outside those payments, which includes work as an analyst or author, will be subtracted from the amount Auburn owes him. The contract requires Chizik "to use reasonable efforts to obtain other employment and/or income from third parties."

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