Too many times a coach has said he wants “to spend more time with my family” to get out of a bad contract or avoid a possible firing. That’s not true for former Auburn coach Gene Chizik.
Chizik explained what family means to him to Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel on the Feb. 14 edition of “The Audible” podcast.
Chizik abruptly left a successful run as North Carolina’s defensive coordinator in February to be closer to his family living in Auburn, Ala. The family had stayed in Auburn when Chizik was at North Carolina because he said he made a promise to kids.
“When we moved to Auburn the second time (Chizik also was a defensive coordinator at Auburn from 2002-04), I promised them this would be the last move they would make,” Chizik said.
Chizik, who led Auburn to a national championship after the 2010 season, was fired after the 2012 season. He returned to coaching in 2015 as the Tar Heels defensive coordinator after a brief stint with ESPN.
Making it work
During football season at Chapel Hill, N.C., there was no chance for Chizik to get home, but “they did the best they could.” In the offseason, Chizik would fly home for the weekends and to be with the family and be back at work on Monday. But even those trips were cut back when UNC would have recruiting weekends and “things of that nature.”
How did Chizik and his family try to make it work for his two seasons at UNC?
“… Pretty much every waking moment where I wasn’t gonna be consumed with either game planning or recruiting or spring practice or the season,” Chizik said, “I was home or they were here.”
After two years, he decided it was enough. Chizik said that it was a challenging decision but “my family is always going to come first.”
For all the fathers
On the podcast, he also gave some simple-yet-sound advice to young coaches — or any fathers with busy lives — on how to succeed in your career without falling behind at home.
“When you’ve got three hours off, don’t go play golf. Go be with your kids,” he said.
“I tell young coaches that all the time. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to put food on your table, to be great at your craft. But that’s not 24/7. There’s windows in there where you have opportunities — don’t go blow those opportunities. Make sure your heart’s right and you go do the things that (are) right, and that is be with your family whenever you can and be present whenever you can. Don’t go home and pick up the clicker, sit down in front of your TV and not pay attention to anybody. You’re home but you’re not home.”
Well worth it
Some might argue that Chizik, 55, could afford to do this because he still is getting paid a large salary (his buyout from the Auburn firing was a reported $7.5 million alone). But he has an answer for that.
“The guys that I’m closest with have called or texted me and said, ‘I can’t wait until I’m in the position to make the same decision.’… I try to tell people all the time: There’s a huge distinction between who you are and what you do,” Chizik said. “I spoke to the team in a team meeting the other night and I wanted to address them and tell them why I was not going to be at North Carolina next year and I said, ‘Guys, I want you to understand this about me, you’ve been around me for two years and you probably have figured it out, but coaching football is what I do, it’s not who I am.’ I said, I’m a husband and a father.
Know who you are
“Look, there’s nobody out there that’s going to be more competitive, there’s nobody in this profession where football is more important to them than it is to me. There was nobody that wanted to be better at what they did than me. There were people that wanted to be as good, but there was nobody better. But at some point you draw the line between what you do and who you are. And I know who I am.’”
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