Auburn head coach Gene Chizik's final chance to avoid a winless SEC season comes next Saturday at No. 4 Alabama.
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn coach Gene Chizik said he understands the anger of fans over this season, but has also heard from some who are more supportive.
Chizik said Tuesday that he thinks both perspectives are fair given that the Tigers have fallen to 2-8 and have only one more chance to avoid a winless Southeastern Conference season — a visit to No. 4 Alabama following Saturday's game against FCS Alabama A&M.
"Fans are exactly what they are, they are fanatical," Chizik said. "And I think that's a good thing. I don't think you can throw an umbrella over every fan, and not just at Auburn but anywhere and say, 'This is the way they all are.' I've got hundreds of emails from a lot of great fans who are very supportive and understand that when you go through struggles, you continue on the path and you don't deviate off the path in terms of being who you are and pressing through those things.
"Then you have the other fans who are caught up in the winning and losing so much it's hard for them to see it that way. You know what? Both of those are fair. It depends on who you are. It depends on how you see things from a general perspective."
Chizik said Sunday he feels confident he can turn this program around. It remains to be seen if he'll get that chance.
Auburn President Jay Gogue issued a statement on Oct. 25 saying he shares fans' concerns about the football program and that it will be evaluated after the season.
The Tigers are coming off a 38-0 loss to No. 5 Georgia and also fell 63-21 to No. 9 Texas A&M two weeks ago, prompting thousands of fans to leave both games early. The only home sellout was a 12-10 loss to No. 8 LSU.
All that has put plenty of heat from fans on Chizik, who said criticism is part of the job.
"When you get into this business as a player or a coach, if that hurts your feelings and you can't handle that, then you shouldn't be a player or a coach because that's what comes with the territory," he said. "It's very simple — it's all about winning and losing. There are a lot of other things out there that really, really matter, but at the end of the day a lot of people see wins and losses."
Chizik said the 13 seniors who will be recognized before their final home game against Alabama A&M deserve "an outstanding" reception from fans.
That group includes leading tackler linebacker Daren Bates and top receiver Emory Blake, along with tailback Onterio McCalebb and injured tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen. They played on two 8-5 teams and for the 2010 national champions before this season's slide.
"After this last game, after we play Alabama, I believe I'm going to be able to forget about this year and move on," McCalebb said. "I have to move on with my life. I'll be a man and I'll be out there in the real world doing the things I want to do.
"I definitely didn't want to have a season like this, but you win some and you lose some. Ten years from now, I'm going to look back and say something a lot of people can't say: I won a national championship."