FROM 'SHIP TO SLIP: GENE CHIZIK GOES FOR THE RECORD

A national championship is not necessarily a defense against an eventual firing. What are Gene Chizik's chances of making history?

On May 8, 1945, Winston Churchill appeared before a cheering crowd in Whitehall to announce that the Allies had defeated Nazi Germany and ended World War II in Europe. Fifty-eight days later, the British electorate issued perhaps the swiftest and most resounding kthxbai in the history of British politics, drumming Churchill out of the prime ministership and sweeping the Labour Party back into control of Parliament in a landslide. There are two lesson here, and they are these: People are ungrateful, and nobody really likes you.

If one of history's greatest statesmen can get the boot that soon after helping to keep the Western world safe from the specter of fascism, then even the greatest football coaches aren't safe. And if the greatest football coaches aren't safe, then Auburn head coach Gene Chizik is already almost assuredly boned, having led the Tigers to a 1-5 record at the halfway point of 2012 and sporting a 22-34 career record in seasons not graced with the presence of Cam Newton.

Would Auburn really give Chizik the pink slip less than two years removed from a 14-0 season and a national championship, though? For comparison's sake, let's dig through the archives and see how many coaches have been fired despite having at least one national title on their résumés. For the purposes of this study, yes, a forced resignation counts as a firing; as phrases go, "get the fuck out" is pretty hard to misinterpret, even when they let you tell everyone it was your idea.

Coach Team

'Ship date
(most recent)

Slip date

Time elapsed
(days)

Larry Coker Miami Jan. 3, 2002 Nov. 24, 2006 1,786
Jim Tressel Ohio State Jan. 3, 2003 May 30, 2011 3,069
Phil Fulmer Tennessee Jan. 4, 1999 Nov. 2, 2008 3,590
Lloyd Carr Michigan Jan. 1, 1998 Nov. 19, 2007 3,610
Bobby Bowden Florida State Jan. 4, 2000 Dec. 1, 2009 3,619
Woody Hayes Ohio State Jan. 1, 1969 Dec. 30, 1978 3,650
Joe Paterno Penn State Jan. 2, 1987 Nov. 8, 2011 9,076

Now, if I'd asked you "Which conference has pulled the plug on the most national-title-winning coaches," you would've said the SEC, right? Nope! Turns out the Big Ten, of all conferences, has the itchiest trigger finger in that regard. Of course, the sample size here is quite small; it's extremely rare for any coach to get fired if he's sporting a national championship ring on his hand.

But it does happen, and the present holder of the 'Ship-to-Slip Land Speed Record is Larry Coker, whacked less than four full seasons after winning a crystal football with the Miami Hurricanes. It's not even close, either, which is odd considering that his firing wasn't precipitated by a specific horrendous incident the way Tressel's, Hayes' or Paterno's were; he just lost a bunch of games and made Miami fans sad. ("Sad" in Miami fans' case only means "made them even more determined not to show up at any home games," but we'd remind you it's all relative.)

What does this mean for Chizik, though? Well, Coker lasted 1,786 days before getting the heave-ho in Coral Gables; Chizik, hired Dec. 13, 2008, hasn't even been in Auburn that long. But for Coker to hold on to the 'Ship-to-Slip record, Chizik would have to still be employed at Auburn on Dec. 2, 2015 — more than three years from now.

Does anybody in Auburn think this is going to happen? For that matter, does anybody outside Auburn think it will?

The answer to both questions is "No, sillypants," and for that reason we're officially putting Gene Chizik on the EDSBS 'Ship-to-Slip World Speed Record Watch List. That's ESS-EEE-SEE SPEEEED for you, Gene, and we offer you both our heartfelt congratulations and deep condolences. But look on the bright side, Coach C: Winston Churchill was back in 10 Downing by 1951, so six years from now, when the Lee County Sheriff's Department discovers Bobby Petrino's secret sex dungeon and he's taken away from the Plains in shackles, Auburn will come crawling back.

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