AUBURN — Auburn University President Jay Gogue issued a statement via the university’s website regarding the football team Thursday afternoon.
“In the past few weeks, many of you have contacted me, and I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to share your thoughts about the football program,” Gogue said in the online statement. “I know your concerns are sincere and heartfelt, and I share many of them. As we do every year, the football program will be evaluated in an objective, thorough and professional process.
“For everything there is a time, and now is the time to support.”
Auburn coach Gene Chizik and Athletic Director Jay Jacobs have been heavily scrutinized as the Tigers are 1-6 and 0-5 in the SEC, the worst start for the program since 1952.
Gogue made no mention of either Chizik or Jacobs in his statement to the “Auburn Family” in which he asked students and the community to gather and support the team during its practice Thursday evening.
“I was wondering why this hasn’t been done earlier considering as soon as we started losing multiple games in a row we should have had some support behind our team,” said Reid Knight, a 20-year-old junior majoring in psychology at Auburn. “I think desperate times call for desperate measures and I think this is a good way to bring that around. This was much needed.”
The Auburn Student Government Association sent a mass email to leaders of student organizations on Wednesday asking students to gather and support the team and “Be Auburn for Auburn.”
After losing to Vanderbilt last weekend, Chizik said accountability for the team’s poor play and repeated errors fell on him and in order to correct the mistakes he was “going to keep working on it.”
“I feel a very, very high sense of responsibility,” Chizik said on Sunday. “This is not where any of us wanted to be, but I also know that the only way you can continue to drive forward and forge forward is keep working at it.
“Do I feel good about the start? Absolutely not. But I also know that there’s highs and lows that come in the game, and we’ve had a lot of highs and we’re hitting some lows and we’ve got to work through them.”
Chizik, who coached Auburn to the 2010 BCS National Championship, is under contract through 2015 with an annual salary of $3.5 million. He has a buyout which began at $10 million and will depreciate to $7.5 million on Dec. 1.
The buyout is prorated and paid out monthly over the remaining term of the contract. Should Chizik be bought out, any pay he receives will offset against what Auburn would have to pay him.
Calls and email from the Montgomery Advertiser to Chizik’s agent Russ Campbell have not been returned.
Auburn ranks at or near the bottom of the SEC and nationally in nearly every offensive statistic. The Tigers are averaging an SEC-worst 15.7 points and 276.7 yards of total offense a game.
On Sunday, Chizik said he remains confident in his assistant coaches to try and turn around the worst season in 60 years for Auburn, which hosts Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2) Saturday night.
“At the end of every year we go back and we evaluate everything that everybody does, just like we’ve done every year that I’ve been here,” said Chizik, who is 31-16 in his fourth year at Auburn and 36-35 as a head coach. “We’ve got five games left. Our one focus for the next five weeks is nothing but trying to win a game, and that’s it. At the end of every year, just like we do, we go out and evaluate everybody as I get evaluated.”
Following Auburn’s loss to Arkansas on Oct. 6, Chizik apologized for his team’s performance but when asked about his own job security said he was not concerned.
“I’m never concerned about my job security,” Chizik said. “I’m very comfortable with myself. I’m working really hard and I plan on being at Auburn next year.”
Repeated requests by the Montgomery Advertiser to speak with Jacobs have been unmet. The Montgomery Advertiser also requested to speak with Gogue and has not heard back.