Gene Chizik, who previously worked as UNC's defensive coordinator and coached at Texas under Mack Brown, is returning to the position next season.
Despite such struggles, the defensive players never turned on their coaches — even after a demoralizing thrashing by the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26.
“Throughout the year, our coaches have been doing their best to energize us for the games — doing what they need to do,” said senior safety Tim Scott following the 40-21 defeat. “They’ve prepared us for these games. But they can’t play for us.”
But after surrendering the most points in a single season in school history, the Tar Heels will have a new coach on the sideline and at the helm of the defensive unit. And that coach might be none other than former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik.
ESPN first reported Thursday that Chizik will take the reins of the UNC defense and fill the opening left by Vic Koenning, who didn’t coach in the bowl game after parting ways with the team.
Chizik led Auburn to an unblemished 14-0 season and BCS national championship victory over Oregon in 2010 with Heisman Trophy winner and current Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Following his fourth season at Auburn in 2012, he agreed to a contract buyout with the university after a 3-9 finish.
Chizik was the Iowa State head coach for two seasons prior to accepting the job at Auburn and led the Cyclones to a 5-19 record during his tenure. Before that, he was a defensive coordinator at Central Florida, Auburn and under former UNC head coach Mack Brown at Texas — where he helped win a national title in 2005.
The supposed new leader of the Tar Heel defense will have a stiff challenge presented to him in rebuilding a group that allowed at least 40 points in six of the team’s 13 games. But it might take a little while longer before Chizik can get started.
Neither the University nor the team has yet to release a statement officially declaring Chizik the new defensive coordinator. And as Chapelboro.com reported Tuesday, the hiring has been delayed as the University conducts an extensive background check on Chizik.
Rick White, a spokesman for the University, deferred requests for comment to the department of athletics. Kevin Best, the spokesman for the football team, declined to comment for this story.
In 2012, AL.com reported the Auburn football program was plagued with problems — with several arrests and players skipping classes.
With the University still in the midst of an ongoing NCAA investigation, Chapelboro.com reported Chancellor Carol Folt is working alongside a group of advisers as well as Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham to dig into Chizik’s past.