A year ago, the Auburn football program stood still. The school was coming under fire for the dismissal of Tommy Tuberville (and paying him $5.1 million to go away) and the hiring of Gene Chizik, a 5-19 coach from Iowa State. Most of the criticism centered on the obvious, Chizik’s slapdash record, while others came down on the snubbing of Turner Gill, an African-American head coach who had just won a league title at Buffalo.
The criticism came from academia and the media, but also from Auburn people — including Charles Barkley, perhaps the school’s most famous former athlete, who said race was the No. 1 factor in hiring Chizik over Gill.