AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn coach Gene Chizik was fired Sunday after the Tigers' rapid fall from a national champion to a winless Southeastern Conference season.
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 some $3.5 million annually through 2015 with a hefty buyout.
"After careful consideration and a thorough evaluation of our football program, I have recommended that Coach Chizik not be retained," Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said in a statement. "President (Jay) Gogue has accepted my recommendation. Earlier this morning, I informed Gene that he will not return as head coach."
The players were informed in a team meeting Sunday. Jacobs scheduled a news conference for later in the afternoon.
"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 said. "In my 27 years of coaching, I have gained an understanding of the high expectations in this profession. When expectations are not met, I understand changes must be made.
The Tigers went from 14-0 with a perfect SEC record with Cam Newton leading the offense in 2010 to 3-9 and 0-8, losing their final three league games by a combined 150-21. Auburn was blown out by Texas A&M (63-21) and Georgia (38-0) but the finale was even more painful for Tigers fans.
No. 2 Alabama cruised to a six-touchdown halftime lead en route to a 49-0 demolition Saturday that could easily have been much worse. It was still the second-most lopsided Iron Bowl in history, behind only the Tide's 55-0 win in 1948.
"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," Chizik said.
He was 33-19 in four seasons and 15-17 in SEC games.
Auburn said the total buyout for Chizik and his assistant coaches is $11.09 million. Chizik's buyout will total $7.5 million and be paid in monthly installments for the next four years.
The deal calls for Chizik to make "reasonable" efforts to land a new job, with that salary deducted from the buyout.
Chizik had sandwiched two 8-5 seasons around the national title, but never approached the success of 2010, when Newton won the Heisman Trophy. The Tigers were 7-17 in SEC games outside of 2010 during his tenure.
His hiring was criticized by some fans after Chizik went 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State and lost the last 10 games of his first head coaching job.
Jacobs was heckled at the airport after making the hire.
A search committee comprised of former Heisman Trophy winners Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson and former Tigers fullback Mac Crawford will assist Jacobs, the school said.