Is Gene Chizik an exceptional coach or the luckiest man in the world?
It's nearly impossible to argue with success and today the second-year Auburn coach sits atop the college football world after his Tigers won the Bowl Championship Series title.
But only 758 days ago, Chizik was not held in such high regard. He was coach at Iowa State and had a two-year record of 5-19. His teams were undisciplined and the coaching staff disorganized. Against Kansas in 2008, the Cyclones blew a 20-0 halftime lead, a season in which the team failed to win a Big 12 game.
Nonetheless, there was a tinge of anger when Auburn hired Chizik away, but most Iowa State fans viewed it as a chance to right a wrong. Chizik simply wasn't going to get the job done and having him leave after two years would allow the Cyclones to move on sooner than later, which was rapidly approaching given the uncompetitive nature of his team.
Many Auburn fans were simply angry when word leaked that Chizik was athletic director Jay Jacobs' choice to replace the departed Tommy Tuberville. Jacobs was heckled by one fan when he arrived at Auburn-Opelika Robert G. Pitts Airport on Dec. 13, 2008. Others let their frustration be known in cyberspace. Check some of the 366 messages attached to this story.
Charles Barkley was outraged, feeling his former school passed on hiring Buffalo's Turner Gill because he was an African American.
But back in Ames, Chizik's departure left a bad aftertaste.
"It was weird," Bobby LaGesse, sports editor of the Ames Tribune, told the Kansas City Star. "He hadn’t delivered yet, but there was still a jilted-lover feeling about it."
Chizik had left athletic director Jamie Pollard a voicemail on the night of Dec. 11, 2008, saying he wouldn't take the Auburn job. The two talked the next morning, but within a matter of hours everything had changed.
"I couldn't get a return phone call or return text, neither could [assistant athletic director] Steve Malchow, so I'm smart enough to know what was going on — that he had had a change of heart," Pollard said.
When it came time to leave, Chizik met briefly with his Cyclone players, some of whom walked out on a meeting that reportedly lasted less than two minutes.
Pollard felt betrayed and let his feelings be known at the 4:42 mark of the above video.
"I understand that [Auburn] is a dream job for him, but the timing and the way it played out has been hurtful and disappointing," Pollard said.
But time heals. All has since been forgotten in Ames, where former Auburn assistant Paul Rhoads is coach. And any hard feelings among Auburn fans now seem like a lifetime ago, which in the college football world can be only 758 days. Just ask Gene Chizik.