Gene Chizik led Auburn to a historic season but couldn't keep the Tigers from descending to their lowest point in decades.
The rapid fall from a national championship to 3-9 and the Southeastern Conference doormat led to Chizik's firing Sunday, the day after a humbling 49-0 loss to No. 2 Alabama that showed just how far the program has fallen.
The Tigers endured the worst slide within two years of winning a national championship of any team since the Associated Press poll started in 1936 and hadn't lost this many games since going 0-10 in 1950. The decision came 17 months after Auburn gave Chizik a contract worth some $3.5 million annually through 2015 with a hefty buyout.
"After careful consideration and a thorough evaluation of our football program, I have recommended that Coach Chizik not be retained," Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said in a statement. "President (Jay) Gogue has accepted my recommendation. Earlier this morning, I informed Gene that he will not return as head coach."
The players were informed in a team meeting Sunday. Jacobs scheduled a news conference for later in the afternoon.
"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 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."
The Tigers went from 14-0 with a perfect SEC record with Cam Newton leading the offense in 2010 to 3-9 and 0-8, losing their final three league games by a combined 150-21. Auburn was blown out by Texas A&M (63-21) and Georgia (38-0) but the finale was even more painful for Tigers fans.
No. 2 Alabama cruised to a six-touchdown halftime lead en route to a 49-0 demolition Saturday that could easily have been much worse. It was still the second-most lopsided Iron Bowl in history, behind only the Tide's 55-0 win in 1948.
"While we experienced a tremendous low in 2012, I will always be proud of the incredible highs that we achieved, including three bowl victories, an SEC championship and a national championship," Chizik said.
He was 33-19 in four seasons and 15-17 in SEC games.
Auburn said the total buyout for Chizik and his assistant coaches is $11.09 million. Chizik's buyout will total $7.5 million and be paid in monthly installments of $208,334 for the next 36 months.
In doing so, Auburn is admitting that it is firing Chizik without cause, and that there are no violations that could have allowed the school to fire him without pay. If new violations arise stemming from his time as coach, the school would have to head to court to get the buyout money back from Chizik.
The deal calls for Chizik to make "reasonable" efforts to land a new job, with that salary deducted from the buyout.
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