University of Cellophane: Auburn's Unseen Leader at SEC Media Days

A human being's made of more than air
With all that bulk, you're bound to see him there
Unless that human bein' next to you
Is unimpressive, undistinguished
You know who

--"Mr. Cellophane," Chicago

It would be disingenuous to suggest that the tenure of new Auburn Tigers head coach Gene Chizik has been a quiet one. After all, there was the firestorm over the hiring of a 5-19 Big XII coach to take over on the Plains and the minor hubbub over "Big Cat Weekend."

But Chizik has also largely avoided the peculiar offseason limelight his colleagues seem to crave. He has not accused Urban Meyer of cheating, insinuated Meyer was headed to Notre Dame or suggested that a neutral-site rivalry game be moved because "it's hotter for us" than for the opponent. In an offseason of quote after incendiary quote, Chizik has seen few of his words printed beyond the media in Alabama.

For Auburn, though, that might not be a good thing. The Tigers had all but erased their "little brother" status in Alabama before missing a bowl in the same year their in-state rivals capped off a perfect regular season by annihilating the Tigers 36-0 and coming with a few agonizing minutes of winning the SEC championship and playing for a national title. If Lane Kiffin went too far in seeking publicity, you could argue that Chizik didn't go far enough.

"I've got three children and my wife," Chizik explained Friday at SEC Media Days. "I get plenty of attention when I go home."

As for football: "Over the years, when Auburn's gotten attention, it's because they've done something very positive, and that's what I want to do. So I don't care to draw a whole lot of attention to myself. It's just who I am. I care to draw attention to Auburn in a positive light."

While Chizik obviously wasn't suggesting that putting himself front and center might draw attention to Auburn in a not-positive light, he could be forgiven for shying away from the public stage after getting mercilessly mocked by fans of other SEC schools -- and even some Auburn fans -- as well as Iowa State partisans both angry at Chizik for leaving and somewhat glad to see him leave.

Auburn has taken some steps to publicize the program in other ways, including billboards in its home state to make sure that one 5-7 season in Opelika and a 12-2 campaign in Tuscaloosa doesn't wipe Auburn from the public consciousness.

"Everything we do will be in the direction of promoting Auburn," he said in response to a questiona bout the billboards. "Whatever you see out there, it will be because we think it was in the best interest of promoting our university, both our university and football."

In the meantime, Chizik is cooking up what he hopes to be the antidote to any fading of the Auburn mystique.

"The last time I was at Auburn, I was blessed to be part of an undefeated football season in 2004," he said. "That's the last memory of have of Auburn. It's a great memory. We'd like to try to get back to that point."

In part because memories like that are less likely to fade.

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