AUBURN, Ala. — Gene Chizik led Auburn to perhaps the greatest season in the program's history, and two years later to maybe its worst.
The rapid fall from a national championship to 3-9 and the SEC doormat led to Chizik's firing Sunday, the day after a 49-0 loss to rival Alabama.
The Tigers endured the worst slide within two years of winning a national championship of any team since the Associated Press poll started in 1936 and hadn't lost this many games since going 0-10 in 1950. The decision came 17 months after Auburn gave Chizik a contract worth $3.5 million annually through 2015 with a hefty buyout.
Athletic director Jay Jacobs said he informed Chizik on Saturday night that he would recommend to president Jay Gogue that Chizik not be retained.
Jacobs said he had concerns with lopsided losses in 2011 but grew "very concerned in our fundamental approach to the game" after the Arkansas game.
Auburn is the first team in the Football Bowl Subdivision era (1978) to go from unbeaten in conference play (2010) to winless in conference play (2012) within a three-season span.
"I had hoped our team would show some improvement this season," Jacobs said. "Unfortunately it didn't. The competition in our league is fierce. I decided we could not risk falling further behind by waiting for another year and hoping for improvement."
"I'm extremely disappointed with the way this season turned out, and I apologize to the Auburn family and our team for what they have had to endure," Chizik, 50, a Clearwater High graduate, said in a statement. "While we experienced a tremendous low in 2012, I will always be proud of the incredible highs that we achieved, including three bowl victories, an SEC championship and a national championship.''
He was 33-19 in four seasons and 15-17 in SEC games.
Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said players gave Chizik a standing ovation after a team meeting.
Chizik's buyout is expected to be $7.5 million and his nine assistants will also get buyouts, with a total cost of $11.09 million.
Jacobs said he wants a proven winner — not necessarily an experienced head coach — who follows the rules and stresses academics.
More firings: N.C. State fired coach Tom O'Brien after six up-and-down seasons that included four bowl appearances but no ACC Championship Game appearances. He gets a $1.2 million buyout after going 40-35. … Boston College fired Frank Spaziani after four years of progressively worse records and two straight seasons without a bowl appearance. He was 22-29. … One day after former Plant High QB Robert Marve expressed strong support for Purdue coach Danny Hope and thanked him for allowing him to play with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Hope was fired. He was 22-27 in four injury-ravaged seasons. … Colorado fired Jon Embree after the worst season (1-11) in its 123 years. Embree was 4-21 in two seasons.
FSU loses Carradine
TALLAHASSEE — FSU defensive end Tank Carradine, the team's leading tackler, will miss the final two games with a torn knee ligament sustained in Saturday's loss to Florida.
"He's sad. He's down," coach Jimbo Fisher said of the senior who has 80 tackles and 11 sacks.
Fisher said starting options include freshmen Giorgio Newberry and Mario Edwards.
Carradine has been projected as a likely first-round NFL pick. Fisher said the injury should not affect that projection.
Obituary: Billy Smith, who provided security for FSU coaches Bill Peterson, Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher from 1964-2010, died Saturday in Tallahassee at age 81. Services are Tuesday.