Examining “Plantation Mentality” and kneejerk perceptions
by Marty Mule’
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
Perception is reality… It really is.
So, that being said, let’s throw Auburn under the SEC West bus immediately.
The perception is, at best, Auburn made an idiotic mistake in choosing Gene Chizik as its next football coach. It was a mistake, some pundits pontificate, based on racist tendencies on the “Loveliest Little Village on the Plains.”
The hue and cry from the Heart of Dixie to America’s heartland and then to all ships at sea would indicate this was the biggest bonehead decision since Gen. Custer decided to gallop over to Little Big Horn.
It may or may not turn out to be the smartest move, since, in a state of panic over Nick Saban’s 2008 success at cross-state rival Alabama, Auburn fired its most successful coach in decades – Tommy Tuberville – after his team lost to the Crimson Tide for the first time in seven years.
There was a herd mentality - really a lunatic reaction - on to the hiring of Chizik, who was once an Auburn assistant. Both fans and the media in the state of Alabama, which often serves as sycophants instead of informed observers to the Tide program, all think alike. He’ll never be able to recruit against Saban; he’ll never be able to ever win a game against Alabama, the stories, columns and headlines read. One writer even said Saban would have Chizik for breakfast.
And maybe he will.
But I suspect part of the reason just might be the negative reaction by the media without giving Chizik a chance.
There should have been some pause over Chizik’s selection, given his 5-19 record in two seasons at Iowa State. Anything else wouldn’t have been natural. What you got, however, was over the top. After all, he was at Iowa State, historically a bottom-feeder without the resources and seemingly the will to be a football force in the Midwest.
Then there was the public admonition by former NBA player and current commentator Charles Barkley, an Auburn alum, that the choice was made on racial grounds. Turner Gill, the very successful African-American coach at the University of Buffalo, should have gotten the job, Barkley said.
Gill, who led the lowly Bulls to a MAC Championship in 2008, might well have been a sensational coach at Auburn. Someday, no doubt, he’ll get his shot at a high profile job.
But Auburn just may have seen something in Chizik they liked, and it wasn’t necessarily the color of his skin. He, after all, had success at the highest collegiate level before.
Chizik was Auburn’s defensive coordinator when the Tigers compiled a 30-9 record in four seasons. His unit led the nation in total defense when Auburn went 13-0 in 2004. He was also Texas’ defensive coordinator when the Longhorns won the national championship in 2005.
You can’t tell me the guy doesn’t know something about what he’s doing.
Of course, the hypocritical national media picked up on the story immediately, mostly due to the racial undertones. Auburn was then bashed from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon for it’s “plantation mentality” in not hiring a minority. That being said, it begs the question, why doesn’t anyone mention Syracuse? That program, which is located in the very same region where Gill coaches (and presumably recruits against him), also didn’t seem interested in him. What about the plantation mentality of the Orange?
I know. They hired a Syracuse alum, someone they felt most comfortable with. Well, Auburn hired a former Auburn assistant – with credentials they had seen up close.
And as far as that “plantation mentality,” why wasn’t anything made of the fact Nebraska, Gill’s own alma mater, passed on him to hire LSU assistant Bo Pelini following the 2007 season?
Six years ago a real case could have been made about race being a factor in hiring practices for head coaches. That was when Sylvester Croom, a man with impeccable NFL credentials was bypassed by the University of Alabama, where he played and coached under Bear Bryant. There were some minor rumblings when Mike Shula was hired instead of Croom, but Bama wasn’t burned at the stake the way Auburn has been in the wake of Chizik’s hiring.
Chizik may or may not be the right man for the job at Auburn. But his job – and the aspirations of Auburn fans – has been made infinitively more difficult than it had to be.
That’s the current reality of Auburn football, fueled in large part by knee-jerk perceptions.
TIGER BAIT: We haven’t taken a deep breath from the end of 2008 football season yet and 2009 is on the horizon. Mike Huguenin of Rivals.com already has a preseason list to ponder. SEC teams ranked in his top 25 include: 1. Florida; 5. LSU; 8. Alabama; 14. Ole Miss; and 18. Georgia. Others teams of interest are: 2. Texas; 3. Southern Cal; 4. Oklahoma; 17. Utah; 23. Notre Dame. . . Some things never change.
Two of Nick Saban’s Alabama assistants are headed elsewhere, which isn’t anything new. Saban’s staff tended to have a revolving door during his days at Michigan State and LSU. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is going to Clemson, and defensive line coach Lance Thompson is on his way to Tennessee. Both, especially Thompson, were regarded as first-class recruiters.
Jerry Stovall, an LSU All-American halfback/defensive back from 1962, is one of only three Heisman Trophy runners-up between 1935 and 1975 not inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame.
In the nine years of the Saban/Miles era, LSU has won two national championships, one by each coach. The two men also coached LSU to a combined three SEC titles and both Saban and Miles each had an 8-5 seasons. The Tigers have an overall 88-27 record (.774) and a 7-2 bowl record (.78.5) over the past nine seasons.
Marty Mule’ can be reached at MJM981two@Charter.net.