Chizik leaves Longhorns staff to coach Iowa State
AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State put forth its best recruiting pitch to Gene Chizik, and succeeded in hiring one of the nation's hottest young assistants as its next coach.
Chizik, who had served as the assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator at Texas for the past two seasons, was introduced Monday night as Iowa State's football coach.
He wasted little time vowing to revive a program that finished 4-8 in 2006 and 1-7 in the Big 12.
"I think the level of commitment is demonstrated," said Chizik, who won the 2004 Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant at Auburn. "They want to make this football program one of the strongest in the country."
Chizik, 44, will replace Dan McCarney, who resigned this month after 12 seasons. Chizik agreed to a six-year deal worth $6.75 million, with incentives that could push his total package to more than $10 million. In addition, Iowa State has earmarked $1.5 million plus incentives for Chizik's assistant coaches.
This will be Chizik's first head coaching job at any level. He will not coach for Texas in the Longhorns' bowl game.
"To me, it's important for me for people to want you to be there, that they target you as their guy," Chizik said. "I really feel like I was recruited."
Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard interviewed Chizik in Dallas on Saturday, the day after Texas lost to Texas A&M. He was offered the job later that night, and accepted it during a phone call with Pollard on Sunday morning.
"Gene just kept coming up as the hottest prospect out here, if you can get him," Pollard said. "The more we drilled down, we found traits about him that really -- we thought he got it."
It was reported on ESPN.com Sunday evening that Brian Kelly, the head coach at Central Michigan, was expected to become the Cyclones' new coach. That report proved to be incorrect.
Chizik came to the Longhorns before the 2005 season, and the school won a national championship in his first season. By the end of the 2005 season, Chizik's teams had won 28 straight games dating to his years in Auburn, where he was defensive coordinator for three seasons.
In 2004, the Tigers went 13-0 and finished the season ranked No. 2. Auburn had the nation's top scoring defense and ranked fifth in total defense that season.
"He brought some fresh ideas, great energy and enthusiasm and a tireless work ethic to our program," Texas coach Mack Brown said in a statement released Monday. "You won't find anyone in our program that has anything but great things to say about Gene. He's a bright, young coach who has a tremendous future ahead of him. He'll do a terrific job for Iowa State."
Pollard, who said Chizik was his top choice from the first day of the search, breathed a sigh of relief when Chizik agreed to terms, given the current number of coaching vacancies around the country.
North Carolina State fired Chuck Amato over the weekend, Alabama dismissed Mike Shula on Monday and Mark Dantonio left the University of Cincinnati for Michigan State.
"I knew from speaking with [Texas athletic director DeLoss] Dodds that there were other schools that had contacted him to say, 'If we make a change, would he be interested?' " Pollard said. "I'm ecstatic. I told [Chizik] on the car ride over here, 'I don't know if you heard, but there were a lot of changes today. I'm glad you're signed.'
"We're excited he's here because any one of those jobs, those institutions would have loved to have a shot at him."
Chizik's arrival was heralded by Pollard as a new era in Cyclones football, and the school pulled out all the stops in welcoming him to Ames. He emerged from a smoke-filled inflatable tunnel to a pep rally that included cheerleaders, about 2,500 fans and the entire marching band inside Hilton Coliseum.
"I'm still expecting a rock star or somebody to come out behind me," Chizik said. "This is truly a blessing."
Iowa State was 56-84 under McCarney. The Cyclones were picked to finish second in the Big 12 North in the preseason coaches poll, but stumbled through a six-game losing streak that included a 37-14 loss to Texas.
The hiring of Chizik is Pollard's third major move since taking over on Oct. 1, 2005. Pollard hired former Northern Iowa coach Greg McDermott to take over the basketball program in March, and he promoted Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson to head wrestling coach later that month.
Chizik met with Iowa State's players for about 30 minutes on Monday. Many of them were very upset about McCarney's resignation, saying they thought he deserved a shot to rebuild the program.
But wide receiver Todd Blythe said Chizik made a strong first impression with the players.
"You can tell he's a no nonsense guy. That's something we need in this program," Blythe said. "He told us he's not a guy that's going to be content with five, six, seven wins, and that's exactly how we feel as players."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.