Whatever happened to former Auburn coach Gene Chizik? He’s still living in Auburn, for one. He doesn’t have any regrets, per se, about how his Tigers seemingly imploded following their 2010 championship. But if he could travel back in time he would do one thing differently, he tells me for the following piece in the The Classical:
Some myths belong to everyone, and so of course there is a Finnish Icarus, another optimist cursed with fatal ambition who nearly touched the pale arctic sun. He didn’t, because he couldn’t, and so he fell, headlong through the clouds, down and down, a lesson from the gods writ in flame and fearful velocity. You likely already know a tale along these lines.
It ends strangely, though, differently than you might expect. Our Icarus lands not on earth or sea but into the freezing steel belly of Gary Patterson’s man-making fortress, on the campus of Texas Christian University. This is a place Kobe Bryant has visited and—we can safely assume—so has/will LL Cool J. Yes, the ancient Finns predicted the wonder that is the body rejuvenator housed in TCU’s athletic department. The Finns had discerned, in reindeer entrails sprawled on snow, a great and improbable renewal.
In reality, there was nowhere for Gene Chizik to go but down after his 2010 season as Auburn’s head football coach. How swift and how vast the descent would be, though, was less easy to predict. Chizik’s Tigers won the 2010 national title, with much help from defensive tackle Nick Fairley and quarterback Cam Newton; both were juniors, both played far better than anyone had expected in that magnificent season, and both entered the NFL Draft and became first-round picks. From there, it took about a year and a half for things to fall apart.
Last fall, Auburn lost all eight of its SEC games, including the last three by scores of 21-63, 0-38 and 0-49. The day after that 49-point shutout loss to Alabama, Chizik was fired, concluding one of the most wildly disparate ten-year major college coaching runs on record. In that span, Chizik, as a defensive coordinator, coached undefeated teams at Auburn and Texas. Then, as a head coach, he bookended a 5-19 stretch at Iowa State and a 3-9 season at Auburn with the most successful three-year run in more than 120 years of Auburn football history, and the school’s second National Championship.
That rollercoaster ride is over, and Chizik is not currently working in college football. Which is how, in late September, Chizik found himself alone with me and a glass of water, 30 minutes before giving a speech to Arkansas’ largest touchdown club. This is one of the few public appearances he’s made since the firing, but he felt like he owed the event’s founder, David Bazzel. Chizik had also visited Little Rock nine years ago, that time to receive an award for the nation’s best college football assistant coach; it was another one of Bazzel’s projects. Now, he’s back, which is nice as far as favors go and all. But Chizik knows he wouldn’t be talking to me had he just done a few things differently in the last few years at Auburn.
“I think that 90 percent of everything we did was right on,” he says. There were plenty successes and “not a lot of failure but enough to have me sitting here with you today,” he said with a chuckle. “I would go back and really make sure I would never get caught in a position where I don’t have a quarterback that can, you know, grow and win and become your championship caliber quarterback.” In hindsight, then, more time should have gone into recruiting and developing successors to Newton. “We just couldn’t find a quarterback who could really compete in [the SEC]. We ended up going with a true freshman at the end of the year.”
Although his speciality is defense, Chizik knows a team ultimately goes as far as its quarterback. Every top team has a standout, he tells the Little Rock crowd: “Let me give you the case in points. We can go down the list right now. Where do you want to start? Oregon? Mariota. Wanna go to Clemson? Tajh Boyd. Want to go to Ohio State? Braxton Miller. I could go on and on.
“Want to go to A&M? Johnny Manziel.
“Want to go to Alabama? A.J. McCarron.
“I could go down the list,” he says, jabbing the podium three times with his index finger.
“I’ve had the best quarterbacks in college football history on my teams—Daunte Culpepper, Vince Young, Jason Campbell, Colt McCoy, Cam,” Chizik later tells The Buzz 103.7 FM. While their pro careers have gone in varying directions, each of those players were extraordinarily talented and, with the exception of McCoy, future NFL first-rounders. Superstars aren’t necessary to win championships, is Chizik’s point. But “you have to have a man in that position who can handle all the ups and downs and ebbs and flows that come with that position when you’re at a high profile place.” None of the Tiger quarterbacks who immediately succeeded Newton—Barrett Trotter, Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier—flourished at the position. Trotter and Moseley ended up quitting the team in consecutive offseasons. Frazier later switched to wide receiver.
So this is all true, as far as it goes, but quarterbacking woes don’t explain Auburn’s disintegration, or Chizik’s long tumble from zenith.
For the rest of this piece, visit The Classical where it originally published.
Alabama is Bruce Willis walking away in slow motion from the SEC exploding behind them.
— tommy tomlinson (@tommytomlinson) October 20, 2013
On Saturday, Arkansas lost to Alabama 52-0. That’s pretty bad. Last year, Arkansas also lost to Alabama 52-0. Which is also pretty bad.
But neither of those losses by themselves were as bad as both of those losses combined. Granted, Division I teams shut out other teams all the time by 50+ points. It’s very rare that the feat happens two years in a row, though. In fact, it’s so rare that it’s never happened before in the SEC.
Below are the worst back-to-back shutouts suffered by each current SEC team dating back to 1933, when the SEC began.
Score Opponent Year
0-52 Alabama 2013
0-52 Alabama 2012
Total point differential: 104
0-52 Tennessee 1994
0-48 Tennessee 1993
Total point differential: 100
0-39 Duke 1946
0-60 Duke 1945
Total point differential: 99
0-62 Nebraska 1972
0-36 Nebraska 1971
Total point differential: 98
0-35 Ole Miss 1962
0-47 Ole Miss 1961
Total point differential: 82
On October 31 and November 1, Texans will honor and celebrate the legacy of their all black high school sports and activities league with an event at the University of Texas. Why shouldn’t Arkansas do the same?
Yes, Texas has more people than Arkansas. A lot more people. But that doesn’t make its history any more significant. Look at the promotional poster below. It notes the event will involve discussion of the role high school athletics had in the desegregation of Texas society. The exact same dynamic was playing out in the all-black Arkansas State Athletic Association during the same decades. You’ll also notice famous Texas high school alumni such as David Lattin and Joe Washington. Well, Arkansas black sports had the likes of Eddie Miles and civil rights leader Sonny Walker, who in the 1950s reported on black high school sports in Little Rock for Daisy Bates’ newspaper the Arkansas State Press.
We, as Arkansans, should organize such an event as an opportunity to gather surviving coaches and players from this era and learn about their experiences playing in a different era. Oliver Elders, who coached at the all-black Horace Mann High School before he coached Sidney Moncrief at LR Hall, is in his 80s but is still sharp. So is North Little Rock great Eddie Miles, who’s in his 70s. These guys won’t be around forever, though. We need to learn more from them now.
Who would have interest in sponsoring such an event? Possibilities include the UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, the UA’s Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History and maybe the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute (Walker was appointed by Governor Winthrop Rockefeller as the first African-American in the South to hold a cabinet level position)? I could see an event like this being hosted by the Butler Center, Clinton Center, Mosaic Templars or the UA Department of Journalism. I am sure the cause would get good publicity from the likes of the Arkansas Times, Sporting Life Arkansas, ArkansasFight.com, KUAR 89.1 FM and KUAF 91.3 FM.
What’s stopping us from making this happen?
It’s one thing to ignore the records of long-ago all-black prep sports leagues. Some of those numbers still live on microfilm, which will still be around for future generations to peruse. But it’s an entirely different matter to let stories of the leagues’ survivors – the stories that should matter to all Arkansans, white or black – keep going untold. Once we close that door, there’s no opening it again.
For the last few months, I’ve been working on a piece for SB Nation Longform on the new Hendrix football program and how it reflects a larger nationwide trend. It published this week. Here’s a man-sized excerpt:
In recent years, more and smaller colleges and universities are starting football programs or restarting those shuttered long ago. In an era when many major colleges are grappling with increasingly bloated athletic budgets, between 2008 and 2012, 29 smaller colleges started lower-level football programs. And in 2013, despite the fact that mounting medical evidence concerning brain damage has placed the future of an entire sport at risk, 12 more colleges started football programs this fall. In Division III alone, 10 schools have started football programs in the past five years.
To understand the reason so many small college administrators find football to be a lucrative proposition, take a visit to Hendrix’s season opener on Sept. 7 against Westminster University. Pay no mind to the “Undefeated since 1960″ orange T-shirts worn by Warrior fans filling the metal bleachers of the brand new Young-Wise Memorial Stadium, or the concession table covered by Hendrix Warrior seat cushions, pennants, umbrellas and replica jerseys. Note that not a single ticket stub litters the ground. At Hendrix, all games are free. Ticket sales and merchandising are insignificant to the financial benefits of fielding a football team.
Instead, look to the alumni in the stands, and the players in their brand new uniforms. In the stadium are about 30 representatives of the old guard – players from the 1950s and the 1960 team who have come to cheer on the torchbearers they never expected to see. During a pregame ceremony, an announcer said, “After a 53-year timeout, we’ll now start the clock over on Hendrix football,” and the captains of Hendrix’s 1960 team took the field and handed a ball used in their last game to Caton and Hunter Lawler – captains of the 2013 edition. Many from the 1960 team are on the Hendrix booster club, which recently raised more than $50,000 for athletic facilities and equipment.
But the real money is on the field. Focus on the 6’2 Caton, who strides onto the field for the first game with authority, one of only a handful of Warriors who have actually played in a college game before. Then look at his 53 teammates, mostly true freshmen, as they take the field on this blistering hot afternoon.
Only a couple hundred feet to the north sits a glistening new field house, including a locker room with 93 player lockers. Long before they were stuffed with mouth guards and sweaty helmets, each of these climate-controlled spaces held a promise. Every new player gives future Hendrix teams the depth to one day be a serious contender on the field. At the same time, each of those players also provides Hendrix College an influx of the cash it needs to remain relevant in a world where pure liberal arts education is increasingly becoming an endangered species.
To the surprise of many, the Razorbacks only lost to Texas A&M 33-45 on Saturday night. A big reason for this slimmer-than-expected margin was the stellar play of some of their freshmen – guys like Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams, Hunter Henry and Korliss Marshall.
Less conspicuous on the final boxscore but far more conspicuous in person were two true freshmen who made their first career starts against the Aggies. Guards Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper started the game with left tackle David Hurd, center Travis Swanson and right tackle Grady Ollison. But Brey Cook subbed in for Ollison during the course of the game.
When I saw this Tweet, I knew Bielema ball was here for good.
Here we have an enormous line totaling 1,625 pounds. That would qualified as the heaviest offensive line in the SEC last season, beating out LSU by 11 pounds. With an average of 325 pounds per player, it would have also ranked as the second-heaviest line in college football last season.
Here’s the breakdown:
David Hurd (senior) 6’6″, 318 pounds
Dan Skipper (freshman) 6’10″, 317 pounds
Travis Swanson (senior) 6’5″, 315 pounds
Denver Kirkland (freshman) 6’5″, 345 pounds
Brey Cook (junior) 6’7″, 330 pounds
Height isn’t as important as strength, balance and agility on the offensive line, but still – you won’t find many lines that tower over their opponents like this one.
Curious as to how this line stacks up size-wise against Arkansas’ two best O-lines from the last ten years?
First to the 2003 line, which featured 6’5″, 353-pound All-American Shawn Andrews. The image below right is from a preview of that season’s LSU game. Click on it to see the size of the players.
Another sterling line emerged in 2007. Here’s the starting roster by the late part of that season:
Tackle Jose Valdez (junior) 6’5″, 313 pounds
Guard Mitch Petrus (junior) 6’4″, 315 pounds
Center Jonathan Luigs (junior) 6’4″, 314 pounds
Guard Robert Felton (senior) 6’4″, 328 pounds
Tackle Nate Garner (senior) 6’7, 318 pounds
These biggins still pale to their 2013 counterparts. If you can find a bigger 5-man offensive line in Arkansas history that went serious minutes together, let me know. I doubt there has been one that weighed more than 325 pounds with an average height of more than 6’6″, as the one which battered Texas A&M did.
Let’s also look at the size of Bret Bielema’s best offensive line when he was at Wisconsin. The following o-linemen from the 2011 season were the cornerstone of a Wisconsin offense that shattered numerous school records:
Ricky Wagner 6’6″, 320
Travis Frederick 6’4″, 330
Peter Konz 6’5″, 315
Kevin Zeitler 6’4″, 315
Rob Havenstein 6’8″, 345
That’s an average of 322 pounds, which these Hogs have already passed. Becoming as good will be another matter altogether – three of these Badgers racked up first team All-American honors and a first-team Big Ten selection. Good start so far, though. Arkansas racked up 201 yards rushing, protected quarterback Brandon Allen long enough for him to throw for nearly 300 yards and helped limit the Hogs to only one penalty for five yards.
I repeat: one penalty, five yards, for a team that started two true freshmen in what would have been the most electric atmosphere of their careers. Skipper and Kirkland have impressive bodies, but it’s this kind of mental discipline which will help make them great.
Over the years, Keith Jackson has made a lot of good memories with his friend Anthony Chambers.
When they were kids growing up in south Little Rock near Roosevelt street in the 1970s, they’d often walk a couple miles to LR Central’s stadium to sneak into Tiger football games. In little league football, Chambers was always one of the players who was quick to offer help to teammates and take leadership responsibilities,” said Jackson, former NFL player and head of Little Rock’s Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids organization.
The good times kept rolling when as teenagers Jackson and Chambers – a 5-11 fullback – teamed up on powerful Parkview Patriot football teams. Along with the likes of Rickey Williams (another childhood friend), Bill Ingram and James Rouse, they formed one of the talent-laden teams of the modern era in 1983.
Throughout the regular season and the first three games of the playoffs, those Patriots did not win a game by less than 12 points. They were upset by fourth-seed Fort Smith Southside 9-6 in the AAAA Finals.
Jackson attended the University of Oklahoma, where he became an All-American tight end. Chambers, like Ingram, Williams and Rouse, became Razorbacks. Chambers added depth at fullback on some of Ken Hatfield’s powerful flexbone/wishbone offenses. He practiced with and against the likes of Barry Foster, JuJu Harshaw and Joe Johnson (no, not that Joe Johnson) and graduated in spring 1989 with a degree in industrial education.
By 2003, Chambers had parlayed that degree into a job as head football coach at McClellan High School. Through the next nine years, he, like so many other LRSD head coaches – was on the front lines of trying to bring the glory back to football in the metro area.
From 2006 through 2011, Chambers averaged one win a season. On August 24, 2012, a week before the season opener, Chambers resigned, citing differences with school administration, according to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Two days later this happened, as reported by this Fox16.com account:.
One person is dead and several others injured following an accident early Sunday morning…
The accident report identifies the fatality as 50 year old Timothy Hester of Little Rock, who was in the rear passenger-side seat of the vehicle. 45 year old Ricky Franklin, of Little Rock, who was also in the rear passenger seat, was seriously injured. Three other people were also injured in the one vehicle accident….
Pulaski County investigators say the driver of the 2005 Mustang convertible, 48 year old Anthony Chambers of Little Rock, apparently lost control and slammed into a power pole, just before 4:00 a.m. The accident report indicates that Chambers admitting to drinking prior to the accident and told the investigating officer his last drink was just before the accident happened.
“He’s a really good guy, one of my good friends – I will say that – and always has been, who made a horrible mistake,” Keith Jackson said. ”It’s just one incident. It doesn’t define who you are. He’s helped a lot of kids and he loves being a coach. It’s his calling. “
For now, that calling is on ice. Chamber still teaches at McClellan, which was 3-7 last season, but has legal issues to deal with.
Here’s part Part 2 of my feature which originally ran in Arkansas Life magazine.
Years Lettered: 1970-72
Ranks with Mitch Mustain as the most highly touted high school quarterback to ever sign with Arkansas. The record-setting dropback specialist also went on the most successful pro career of any Razorback QB.
After College: After an 18-year NFL career, worked in real estate before a 1997-2000 stint as Arkansas’ quarterbacks coach. Then re-entered real estate, becoming a vice president for Lindsey & Associates.
Residence: Bella Vista, Ark.
Years Lettered: 1972-74
Led Hogs to a 10-1 record in 1975 and, in the Cotton Bowl, triggered a 31-point second half to rout Georgia 31-10.
After College: Played three seasons with San Francisco 49ers. Since 1979, has been the CEO of Pace Industries, LLC, the leading die cast manufacturer in North America.
Years Lettered: 1975-78
First quarterback of the Lou Holtz era, Calcagni led Arkansas to an 11-1 record including a stunning 31-6 upset of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Heading into the season, the Hogs were been picked to finish sixth.
After College: Played in the Canadian Football League for three years, then started a coaching career that has included stops at high school, CFL and college levels (including a 1983-86 stint as QB/wide receivers coach at Arkansas State University). Has coached Pulaski Heights Middle School in Little Rock since 2009.
Current Residence: Conway, Ark.
Years Lettered: 1978-79
Led Arkansas to a 10-2 record in 1979 for a share of the SWC championship as conference offensive player of the year. His 66.2% completion rate that year remains an all-time record.
After College: Worked as an aide on ex governor Bill Clinton’s staff. Then entered finance industry, joining Stephens, Inc. in 1987 to oversee now-defunct Stephens Sports Management. Rose ranks to become executive vice president and director of Stephens’ private client group, overseeing 225 employees across eight states.
Residence: Little Rock
Years Lettered: 1979-82
His tenure wasn’t as successful as predecessors’ but did help lead the Hogs to a mid-season 42-11 romp of No. 1 Texas in 1981. It was the program’s largest win ever over Texas.
After College: Moved to Little Rock and worked for a general contractor until 1987, when he returned to his hometown of Ruston, La. There, he took ownership of Triad Builders, a mainly commercial construction business, from his father “Dub” Jones. He still works in the same building as his 88-year-old father, a former Tulane All-American football player who later coached Hall of Famer Jim Brown at Cleveland.
Current Residence: Ruston, La.
Years Lettered: 1981-84
Shared time with Jones early on, then took reins to become Arkansas’ all-time leading passer, finishing with 4,802 yards.
After College: Worked for Chambers Bank in his hometown of Danville until a few years ago. On his Yell Country farm, has raised cattle and pigs – up up to 2,500 at one time.
Current Residence: Belleville, Ark.