Jamie Pollard said he was disappointed with former ISU football coach Gene Chizik’s decision to take the head coaching job at Auburn, but said it was time to move on.
“I want to say how extremely disappointed I am for our fans, for all our staff, and even more importantly our student-athletes,” Pollard said, addressing the media on Monday for the first time since Chizik’s decision. “They deserve better than this, they really did. That doesn’t matter now. We’ve got to move on.”
Pollard said Chizik interviewed with Auburn on Thursday, and sent Pollard a voicemail Thursday night saying he wouldn’t take the job. The two also talked on Friday morning, when Chizik reiterated he was staying at Iowa State. Then, on Friday afternoon, everything changed.
“Between 1 o’clock and 5 o’clock on Friday afternoon, I couldn’t get a return phone call or return text, neither could Steve Malchow, so I’m smart enough to know what was going on — that he had had a change of heart,” Pollard said.
On Saturday, Chizik flew back to Auburn to take the job. On Sunday, he had a meeting with players, many of whom had already expressed disappointment.
Pollard spent much of Sunday meeting with players and trying to help them make sense of the situation.
“They’re hurt, they’re disillusioned. They don’t understand,” Pollard said. “But time will heal them. Time will heal them.”
While Pollard’s message was clear — it is time to move on — he said he was “having a hard time reconciling those actions with what I’ve seen for the last two years.”
“He’s got reconcile in himself what he told all these players, what he told our administration and what he’s doing now,” Pollard said. “And if he can live with that then more power to him. I know Jamie Pollard couldn’t have done that to this place.”
Chizik, who was the defensive coordinator at Auburn 2002-04, also addressed the media Monday when he was introduced as Auburn’s new coach. He said he’s always seen Auburn as a potential final destination.
“As the years traveled on, and certainly since we left Auburn, we kept coming back to, ‘Boy, we would love to get back to Auburn,’” Chizik said of himself and his family. “And this is a blessing for me. This is a very very special day.”
Chizik said he had a plan of what he was going to do at Iowa State, and called the two years of head coaching experience as a Cyclone “invaluable.”
“Some jobs are more challenging than others. It’s not like I walked into that thing and I knew it wasn’t a challenge. It was a challenge,” Chizik said. “And let me tell you this: I had a blueprint in place of what we were going to do, and I knew it was going to take time. I put that blueprint into affect. I never deviated off it one bit.”
Iowa State players feel he did.
Wide receiver Darius Darks told the Daily on Sunday that Chizik had met with the team before Thanksgiving Break to dispel any rumors that he was looking for coaching jobs. Hours after the news broke about Chizik’s hiring at Auburn, Dark was one of the first players to express anger, posting videos on Facebook denouncing the coach for his decision. Darks later apologized for the videos, which were removed from his profile only a few hours after being posted.
When Chizik met with players on Sunday, it was reported that the meeting lasted less than two minutes. Players remained upset a day later.
“We’re frustrated,” junior linebacker Fred Garrin said on Monday. “We’re disappointed. We didn’t see it coming.”
In addressing players on Sunday, Chizik said leaving wasn’t easy.
“The hardest part of moving out from that job was having to face that football team yesterday, because there were relationships made, and I recruited some really really good players, and it was hard to say goodbye,” Chizik said.
Pollard refused to go in-depth on the search for Chizik’s replacement, saying he will not discuss it until a decision is announced. He did acknowledge he had a list of possible candidates.
“You can’t be in the role that I’m in and not have a short list at all times,” he said.
In the meantime, the team will be led by senior associate athletic director David Harris, and Pollard said all the assistant coaches were still on staff.
Whoever takes over, Chizik and Pollard agreed that the program was improved in Chizik’s two-year tenure.
Pollard pointed to renovations to Jack Trice Stadium, a new basketball practice facility, rising salaries for assistant coaches and an increase in the athletics department’s revenue.
“We needed to do that whether we won or lost. Am I happy that a person that helped us get to that spot is no longer with us? Absolutely not,” Pollard said. “But I can now step back and say we’re better off in these last two years on that front, and we will use that to move forward.”
And with moving forward, the next step is eventually forgiving Chizik.
“You try to judge people’s character. I’m going to try to find it in myself to believe that he is still the person I though he was,” Pollard said. “That’s what I told the players. Find it in your heart to forgive him. It doesn’t help you any going forward to harbor any ill feelings.”