Add another topic to Gene Chizik’s no-comment list.
For more than a month now, Auburn’s coach has declined to talk about the off-field story swirling around Heisman Trophy contending quarterback Cam Newton. On Sunday, as the No. 2 Tigers get ready to face No. 18 South Carolina for the SEC title on Saturday in Atlanta, Chizik added coaching searches to his off-limits list.
“I will open it up for questions. As I have said before, as long they pertain to Cameron Newton and the previous 12 games and this particular game coming up, and, again, I don’t want to address any particular rumors or coaching issues that are flying around,” Chizik said to begin the teleconference. “I would like to address only the things that have to do with this football game coming up Saturday. That is our focus.”
Tigers offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who guides the SEC’s No. 1 scoring offense, is a target of Vanderbilt for its head coaching job, according to an ESPN.com report.
Newton has been the subject of media reports regarding an alleged pay-for-play plan at Mississippi State. One report also tied Auburn to potential improprieties. The NCAA, SEC and FBI all are investigating the situation.
Chizik did have plenty to say about South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.
“I think he is a tremendous football coach, there is no question,” he said. “He’s one of the coaches that is going to be considered one of the great ones of all time, I don’t think there is any question about that. He does a great job, and he’s the reason South Carolina is where they are right now. That’s a hard thing to be able to do it at two different schools. It certainly says a great deal about him as a football coach.”
South Carolina’s victory over Clemson gave it three wins in the month of November for the first time since the 1984 “Black Magic” season. The Gamecocks beat Florida, Troy and the Tigers in what historically has been a wretched month for the team. Since 1984, USC has had 10 Novembers in which it didn’t win a single game.
“Usually in November, we sort of sputter,” Gamecocks kicker and captain Spencer Lanning said.
After losing 41-20 to Arkansas on Nov. 6, USC changed its usual Monday practice schedule to include only watching film and conditioning. In the first eight weeks of the season, the Gamecocks held a short practice as well. South Carolina also pushed back all of its game planning for the next opponent until Tuesday.
“We have only changed it a little bit,” Spurrier said. “After we played so poorly against Arkansas, we tried to do something different. We played pretty well (the next week against Florida) so we have sort of left it like that, but we will talk a little bit about Auburn when we meet up Monday.”
Chizik is one of eight finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award, which is given by the Football Writers Association of America. Chizik, Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh, Oregon’s Chip Kelly, TCU’s Gary Patterson and Boise State’s Chris Petersen all are finalists. The winner will be announced Dec. 6.
SEC title game teleconference: Gene Chizik