Gene Chizik was the man. From the moment Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard began a search for a new head football coach in 2006, Chizik was at the top of Pollard’s list of potential candidates. He wasn’t alone. Everyone wanted Gene Chizik. It was no surprise, then, that improvement of the Cyclone football program in its first year under Chizik was immediate. Chizik’s first ISU team beat rival Iowa and made steady progress throughout the season. Iowa State closed out the 2007 home season with wins over Kansas State and bowl-bound Colorado, affirming the major advances the Cyclones made on both sides of the ball. Iowa State fans embraced Chizik. Cyclone backers bought a school-record 36,000 season tickets in 2007 and posted the school’s best home game attendance average (49,462) since 1982. A school-record 56,795 fans packed Jack Trice Stadium for last season’s game against Northern Iowa.
Chizik’s first win, a 15-13 victory over intrastate rival Iowa, made him the first Iowa State coach since 1907 to beat the Hawkeyes in his initial season. The back-to-back wins over Kansas State and Colorado were the first consecutive Big 12 victories for the Iowa State program since 2005. The statistics tell the story. Iowa State ranked 102nd nationally in total defense in 2006. Under Chizik that ranking improved to 65th in the country last season. The improvement of the Cyclones against the rush was even more pronounced. A defense that had ranked 11th in the Big 12 Conference and 102nd nationally against the rush in 2006 improved under Chizik’s oversight to 44th in NCAA Division I and sixth in the Big 12 in 2007.
There was an offensive surge. Bret Meyer and Todd Blythe finished their careers as the Cyclones’ all-time leaders in passing and receiving, respectively. The Iowa State running game was back, despite a totally new offensive line. Two different ISU tailbacks, Alexander Robinson and J.J. Bass, had a pair of 100-yard rushing games, the first time that occurred in the Cyclone backfield since 2002. Running back Jason Scales was also a major contributor, rushing for 100-plus yards against Nebraska. When Robinson rushed for 127 yards and Blythe had 124 yards receiving against Colorado, it marked the first time Iowa State had a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver in a single game since 2005. Chizik’s ISU squad rallied from a 21-0 halftime deficit to beat CU, equaling the biggest comeback in school history.
Chizik knows about building programs. The Iowa State head coach has been to the mountaintop. He had been assistant head coach and defensive coordinator on Texas’ 2005 national championship team; before that, three years as defensive coordinator at Auburn, where in the midst of 30 wins in three seasons he earned the Frank Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach. He has been defensive coordinator on conference title teams in three different BCS conferences. Chizik’s track record of preparing players for college football and beyond is unassailable. Amazingly, the ISU head coach tutored three straight winners of the Jim Thorpe Award. The honor is given annually to the nation’s top collegiate defensive back. At Auburn, Chizik coached cornerback Carlos Rogers, who won the award in 2004 and now plays for the NFL’s Washington Redskins. At Texas, Chizik coached the 2005 Thorpe honoree, Michael Huff, who is now a strong safety for the Oakland Raiders. Aaron Ross received recognition as the 2006 Thorpe Award winner and is now a corner for the New York Giants.
It was Pollard’s challenge to bring Chizik to Ames. At the Iowa State athletics director’s disposal was his demonstrated commitment to excellence. Pollard’s plan for “The Next Big Step” in athletics at ISU affirmed that commitment. That vision sold Chizik, who wasn’t shy about his decision.
Iowa State’s commitment to Chizik and “The Next Big Step” are tangible. Phase I of the project is a $19.5 million effort that includes the construction of new suites, a remodeled donor club section and a necessary widening of the Jack Trice Stadium’s concourse that will debut in time for the 2008 season. These moves underscore the rising wave of enthusiasm for Chizik’s vision for the future of Iowa State football.
Chizik, as a defensive coordinator, learned from the best head coaches in the nation’s top collegiate programs while making tremendous contributions toward the enhancement of their national head coaching reputations. At one point, the new Iowa State head coach had a personal 29-game win streak in two-plus years as defensive coordinator at Auburn and Texas. The national championship won by Texas in 2005 was the school’s first since 1970. When Auburn won the 2004 SEC Championship game, it was the Tigers’ first league crown since 1989. Additionally, Chizik helped Middle Tennessee State win the Ohio Valley Conference title (1990). The Blue Raiders won 20 games in Chizik’s two seasons. Chizik was on the Clemson coaching staff when the Tigers captured the 1988 ACC championship.
Chizik’s defense loomed large in Texas’ 2005 national championship season under head coach Mack Brown. The Longhorns ranked eighth nationally in scoring defense, 10th in total defense and fourth in pass efficiency defense. UT allowed opponents to reach 300 yards of total offense only five times in 2005 and held the remaining eight opponents to less than 267 yards. Ten UT defenders were all-Big 12 Conference selections, including four who made the first team. In 2006, Chizik’s Texas defenders were second nationally against the rush (58.8 ypg.) after 12 games, including limiting No. 1 Ohio State to just 79 yards on the ground. His aggressive schemes resulted in 100 tackles for loss, 96 quarterback hurries and 30 takeaways during the 2006 regular season.
Chizik’s coaching path has harbored a long list of All-America achievers. At Texas, Huff, defensive tackle Rodrique Wright and linebacker Aaron Harris earned All-America honors. Huff and Wright were consensus All-Americans. At Auburn, Rogers was an All-American along with safety Junior Rosegreen.
At Auburn, Chizik’s defenses were unforgiving and set a standard for the rest of the country. In 2004, the Tigers gave up a national low 11.3 points per game en route to an undefeated season. Overall, the Tigers gave up an average of just 277.62 yards of total offense per contest, ranking fifth nationally for the second straight season. Rosegreen figured nationally with six interceptions, including four against No. 10 Tennessee in Knoxville. Rogers was the nation’s top pass defender despite the fact that teams did not throw to his side of the field often. Most incredibly, Chizik’s Tiger defenders did not allow a rushing touchdown until the eighth game of the season. Overall, opponents managed just four rushing touchdowns against Auburn all season.
Chizik was also defensive coordinator for four seasons (1998-2001) at Central Florida. He improved a unit that ranked 81st nationally in total defense before his arrival to one that rated 16th in 2001.
Chizik also coached at Stephen F. Austin University, tutoring linebackers (1992-94) and the secondary (1995-97). He was SFA’s defensive coordinator in 1996 and 1997. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Jeremiah Trotter was his star with the Lumberjacks. During Chizik’s tenure at Stephen F. Austin, the Lumberjacks made the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs twice, including a semifinal berth in 1995.
He started coaching as a defensive coordinator (1986-88) in his home state at Seminole High School in St. Petersburg, Fla. Chizik stepped into college coaching at Clemson University (1988-89) as a graduate assistant for a pair of 10-win teams and then worked at Middle Tennessee State (1990-91) as a full-time assistant. The Blue Raiders made the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs in both of his seasons and were conference champions in 1990.
Chizik earned his B.A. degree in education from Florida (1985) and his M.A. in guidance and counseling from Clemson (1991). Chizik, a native of Clearwater, Fla., and his wife (Jonna) have identical twin daughters (Landry Grace and Kennedy Danielle) and one son (Cally).
CHIZIK QUICK FACTS
Children: daughters, Landry Grace and Kennedy Danielle and son, Cally
Born: Dec. 28, 1961
Education: B.A. from
2007- : Iowa State, Head Coach
1996-97: Stephen F. Austin, Defensive Coordinator / Secondary
1995: Stephen F. Austin, Assistant Coach / Secondary
1992-94: Stephen F. Austin, Assistant Coach / Linebackers
1988-89: Clemson, Grad Assistant / Outside Linebackers
1986-87: Seminole (
2006 Rose Bowl (
2005 Sugar Bowl (Auburn defeated Virginia Tech, 16-13)
2003 Music City Bowl (Auburn defeated
2003 Capital One Bowl (Auburn defeated
1989 Gator Bowl (Clemson defeated
1988 Citrus Bowl (Clemson defeated
1981 Peach Bowl (