UNC Football: Gene Chizik’s Coaching History


In January, Gene Chizik was brought on board to reconstruct UNC’s horrendous defense. And during the spring and summer months, he has worked to install a base 4-3 defense to replace the failing 4-2-5 scheme championed by previous coordinator Vic Koenning.

Most know Chizik as the head coach who led Heisman-winner Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers to a BCS National Championship five seasons ago. But his coaching history deserves more recognition. Chizik has coached in a variety of locations and defensive coaching capacities.

Let’s take a look at Chizik’s full history to get a sense of the man UNC hired….

Early Coaching History

For two seasons in the mid-1980s, Chizik’s first true coaching position came at Seminole High School in Seminole, Florida. The school is approximately two hours away from Florida’s campus, where Chizik went to school. For the Seminole Warhawks, he served as defensive coordinator and inside linebacker coach. The school currently has one alumnus in the NFL – Pro-Bowl linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who led the AFC in tackles last season.

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Next, Chizik traveled to Clemson to become a graduate assistant in the 1988 season. In his first year, the Tigers went 10-2 and defeated Oklahoma 13-6 in the Citrus Bowl. Chizik helped coach a defense that ranked fourth in the nation in points allowed, giving up  just 13.1 per game. And in 1989, Clemson again went 10-2 and defeated West Virginia 27-7 in the Gator Bowl. Clemson’s defense continued to be staunch, only allowing 11.5 points per game.

Defensive Coordinator

Then in 1990 and 1991, Chizik became defensive ends coach at Middle Tennessee State University. In his short time there, MTSU compiled a 20-6 record, and tied Eastern Kentucky for the Ohio Valley Conference title in ’90 and was runner-up in ’91. In the 1992 season, Chizik packed up and moved to Texas to become Stephen F. Austin’s linebacker coach. He was then promoted to defensive coordinator for the 1996 season.

Chizik returned to the state of Florida to become UCF’s defensive coordinator from 1998-2001. In his first year, the Knights finished 26th in the nation in total defense after finishing 81st the prior season.  In 1999, UCF’s defense finished the season ranked 19th in the nation in take-aways. The Knights also ranked 15th in interceptions and 25th in forced fumbles.

By 2002, Chizik had compiled an impressive resume, and accepted a job as defensive coordinator for Auburn.  The year before Chizik came to Auburn, The Tigers allowed 23.4 points per game, which ranked 42nd in the nation. But like UCF, his defensive mind made a noticeable impact – the Tigers allowed just 17.8 points in Chizik’s first season, ranking 13th in the nation. In 2003, they gave up just 16.3 points per game, ranking ninth.

In 2004, Auburn went 13-0 and defeated Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. And Chizik’s defense allowed just 11.3 points per game, ranking first in the nation. They allowed just 277.6 yards per game, which was good for fifth in the nation.

Chizik next moved to Texas as co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.  The 2005 Texas Longhorns went 13-0, winning the BCS National Title by defeating USC in the Rose Bowl. And for the third consecutive year, Chizik led a defense that ranked top-10 in points allowed – the Longhorns gave up 16.4 points per game, ranking eighth in the nation.

Head Coach

Not mentioned often is the fact that Chizik’s first role as a head coach did not come at Auburn. From 2007-08, Chizik coached Iowa State. For the first time in his career, Chizik did not have much success leading the defense. In his first year, he did help the total defense rise from 102nd in the nation to 66th, but in the following year, the ranking dropped back down to 111th.

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Despite the lackluster numbers, Chizik was hired to lead Auburn the following season. The highlight, of course, is the 2010 BCS National Championship and several ‘coach of the year’ awards. But in his other three seasons, the Tigers went a combined 19-19. The highest ranking for total defense was 60th, which was the national title season.

So, one thing to learn from Chizik’s coaching history is that he is an average head coach, but an above-average defensive coordinator. This is good news for UNC.

Fans should expect a noticeable change in the Tar Heel defense for the 2015 season. Chizik has a track record of improving schemes as a coordinator, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t continue.