AMES, Iowa | Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said that twice last week, Gene Chizik assured him that he wouldn't dump the Cyclones for Auburn.
That's just one of the many reasons Chizik's departure was such a kick in the gut for Iowa State — which once again finds itself trying to pick its football program off the ground.
An emotional Pollard addressed the media Monday for the first time since confirming that Chizik was leaving to coach the Tigers, despite a 5-19 record in two years with the Cyclones.
Pollard said that Iowa State's fans, staff and players "deserved better," and even called Chizik's character and values into question. He said he had a hard time coming to terms with Chizik's recent actions in light of what he displayed in his two years at Iowa State.
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"He's got to reconcile in himself what he told all these players and what he told our administration and what he's doing now. And if he can live with that, more power to him. I know Jamie Pollard couldn't have done that to this place."
Pollard, who was largely lauded for luring Chizik away from Texas in 2006, got choked up when he brought up the fans who had contacted him to offer their support. But he refused to address any questions about his search for Chizik's replacement.
Chizik, a former defensive coordinator at Auburn, was introduced as the Tigers coach Monday.
Those two years that I gained as a head coach, invaluable. I ouldn't chnage it, I wouldn't do it over again any different. Exactly the way things were done, those were the same steps that I'd take again today.
Pollard said Chizik — who had verbally accepted his offer of a two-year contract extension through 2014 a week before the season finale against Kansas State on Nov. 22 — interviewed at Auburn last Thursday. He said Chizik left him a voicemail Thursday night saying he wasn't leaving for Auburn, and that Chizik reiterated his stance in a phone conversation between the two on Friday morning.
But Pollard said that neither he nor assistant athletic director Steve Malchow could get Chizik to return their calls or text messages on Friday afternoon, leading Pollard to believe that "something had gone awry."
Chizik told Pollard on Friday night that Auburn had offered him the job and that he and his wife, Jonna, were flying to Auburn on Saturday, to decide whether or not to accept it.
"I told him Friday night 'You can go do that. You don't maybe ever have to talk to Jamie Pollard again or think about Iowa State again. But I thought, based on what I know about you, that you couldn't do that.' For whatever reason, he chose to do that — and that's his choice — and, am I mad about it, disappointed, do I feel he betrayed me? I don't know. At this point I don't really care, because he can't help me win or lose another football game," Pollard said.
Pollard has had meetings with Iowa State's players since Chizik's departure. He said that several of the current players have told him they're "100 percent" behind the school, while others are weighing their options.
Pollard said that no players have yet told him they plan to transfer.
"They're hurt, they're disillusioned, they don't understand. But time will heal them," Pollard said.
Iowa State has seen a lot more lows than highs since it started playing football way back in the 1890s. But even for a program used to heartbreak, this one stings.
Chizik was regarded as one of the nation's brightest young coaches when he took over before the 2007 season. Iowa State's fan base largely rallied around his arrival, buying into the hope that Chizik could, eventually, lead the Cyclones to prominence in the Big 12.
Though Iowa State regressed to 2-10 this season, Pollard saw enough from Chizik to offer him an extension. In the end, it wasn't enough.
"The hardest thing about me moving on from that job was having to face that football team yesterday, because there were relationships there and I recruited some really, really good players there," Chizik said about Iowa State on Monday during his introductory press conference at Auburn. "It was hard to say goodbye."
In the end, the buzz generated by the hiring of Chizik will be the lasting legacy of his extraordinarily brief tenure at Iowa State. The Cyclones significantly increased their ticket sales and donations during Chizik's stay in Ames, which allowed the school to spend $19.5 million on renovations to Trice Stadium.
"The reality is that, without the excitement caused by his hiring, we couldn't have done that. We couldn't have made that investment," Pollard said. "We're in a much better position financially and structurally for whomever is leading our football team in the future."
Chizik follows in the footsteps of former Iowa State coaches Johnny Majors and Earle Bruce, both of whom left the Cyclones in the 1970s for Pittsburgh and Ohio State respectively.
Of course, Majors and Bruce stayed longer than two years — and both lead the Cyclones to bowl bids in their final seasons.
Chizik never even won a road game, yet still landed a job at an upper-echelon Southeastern Conference school.
"I give them credit for hiring a 5-19 coach," Pollard said.
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Auburn, Ala., contributed to this report.