The unthinkable happened. No, not that Auburn is 1-4, 0-3 in the Southeastern Conference. In fact, more than a few level-headed observers predicted this unproven group of Tigers to be sitting at the same place way back in July. It's how they've arrived here that has everyone in a tizzy, and justifiably so.
With a new starting quarterback, offensive line and coordinators on both sides of the ball, there was a reason Auburn was an underdog in each loss it suffered except to Louisiana-Monroe. And to be honest, while Gene Chizik is apologizing to the Auburn nation for the bumbling loss to hapless Arkansas, he should hand one out to ULM. They deserved to win, and we all know it.
But direction, not the fine line between 1-4 and 0-5 is what everything is all about at Auburn. As I've said about mediocre basketball programs in this state many times, the respective fan bases can put up with a .500 record and beating your arch rival every other year. But don't embarrass us. Especially when it comes to football.
Officially, Chizik's program has reached that status. Once more, my sources insisted Monday Chizik will last this year, but if he doesn't do some major re-shuffling of the staff, he'll get one more year, if that. His buyout would be $5 after next season, and the collection of frustrated Tiger backers who called my show Monday appeared ready to raise that at the drop of a bucket.
I've been critical of Chizik's choice for offensive coordinator before. Scot Loeffler, for all his resume fluff about being around Tom Brady, Chad Henne and Tim Tebow, had called plays exactly one season prior to this one, at Temple. A couple of tidbits you may have forgotten about the archaic Big 10-style attack he seems determined to run despite his personnel; He got turned down by one Nick Saban when Saban hired the unproven Jim McElwain at Alabama. It took an interminable 40 days for Chizik to hire him following the departure of Gus Malzahn, which surely Chizik had to know was inevitable. Forty days? Think he was the only one who interviewed?
Does Chizik not have contacts on the offensive side of the ball? Did he not realize Loeffler's approach was as diabolically different from Malzahn's as the wishbone and the run-and-shoot?
Speaking of the wishbone, things have gotten so desperate, I swear during Auburn's Monday off-day (you read right,) I'd have loaded up the offensive coaches minus Loeffler and drove to Atlanta and begged Paul Johnson into showing me a half-dozen triple-option plays. No, Georgia Tech can't stop a cold, but they move the ball, which is a lot more than you can say about the players and coaches trying to save Chizik's job.
Look, I've mellowed down through the years. I'm not going to call for anyone to uproot their family and be jobless over the way college kids play a game 12 Saturday afternoons per year. Now back in the day, well, you remember what would've filled this space.
But something has to be done for the sake of a proud people who've often been treated like second-rate citizens by members of rival camps. Auburn people deserve better than what Chizik has put on the field thus far. And whether he gets the inevitable "official endorsement" from athletics director Jay Jacobs in the days that come or not, Jacobs, Chizik and Loeffler are all about to find out Auburn is much bigger than one person, far bigger than one measly win with the apparent total thrashings still to come. They deserve, and they will get, a better product. One way or another.
Phil Paramore's column appears Tuesday and Saturday in The Dothan Eagle. He can also be heard weekdays from noon until 2 on AM 560 WOOF, 100.1 FM or www.woofradio.com He can be reached at the same website.