HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Local sports airwaves were abuzz Sunday as Auburn fans reacted to the firing of head football coach Gene Chizik.
Just hours after Chizik's removal was made official, the phone lines at 97.7 "The Zone" were jam-packed with both Auburn and Alabama fans weighing in. Former Auburn football player Cole Cubelic is the main sports talk host at the station, which was inundated with calls for much of Sunday afternoon.
Cubelic said he was saddened but not surprised by the rapid demise of his alma mater, a program that was the nation's best just two years ago. The former offensive lineman said the signs of decay which couldn't be seen started long before the losses on the field piled up.
"I can tell you there's no excuse for this, I can't defend not winning a conference game," said Cubelic, who made note of Auburn's 0-8 mark in the SEC and humiliating defeat to archrival Alabama. "I think departures is where maybe some things began to go wrong. A lot of people still have question marks over Gus Malzahn, how and why he left...And then obviously with the way Mike Dyer departs, the guy who was MVP of your national championship game. Then other players and coaches. When there's question marks over why people leave a program, I think that opens some eyes."
Most callers defended Auburn's decision to fire Chizik, even though he is one of only two Tiger coaches who have led the program to a national championship.
"I think when it comes down to it, this was the best business decision for Auburn University," said one caller, who noted that the cost of Chizik's $7.5 million buyout could be dwarfed by lost revenue if he continued to lead the team to losing seasons.
"The team was not competitive," added another caller who identified himself as an Auburn graduate. "Somebody has to go. Somebody has to take the heat for it."
Cubelic said hiring a brand-name coach should be a priority for Auburn, which has lost fertile recruiting ground to Alabama in the last few years. Bobby Petrino, Gus Malzahn, Kirby Smart and Jimbo Fisher were just some of the early names being tossed around on a short-list.
"The fact that Alabama has an opportunity to win their third national title in four years, it absolutely has something to do with the fact that this change took place," said Cubelic. "Auburn should and I believe will target a big-name coach."