The 2012 season disaster Part 4: The accidental season, the accidental team

The 2012 season disaster Part 4: The accidental season, the accidental team

We continue with this white paper in the profile of a prominent football coach who reached the pinnacle of success only to retreat at a record pace.

Already we have seen how Chizik’s inconsistent behavior and lack of discipline underscored the ongoing saga of his final disastrous season in 2012.  To fully appreciate how specifically Chizik predicted his Auburn squad’s dismal performance due to his discipline failures we must return to a previously mentioned speech. Because he delivered this talk to a prominent quarterback club at the peak of his success in September of 2011 (see previous article “A coach retreats from success”), the importance of his statement cannot be overstressed.  At the time his team had barely won its first two games but still boasted the longest winning streak in the country.

He provides a rich story—as his unconscious super intelligence speaks—which we can only fully appreciate in retrospect.

‘Blue’ makes a mess
You won’t believe this story. In a memorable humorous anecdote he told his audience about his kids’ new puppy named Blue. Chizik described how the new dog was peeing and pooping everywhere and that he had announced to the family that he wasn’t going to clean up Blue’s mess.  Remember, these are his thoughts which originated from his own deeper mind quick-reading him in the blink of an eye.

Get the big picture—Chizik was not going to discipline some young family “member.” In other words, he could see deep down that he was not going to bother to discipline his team even when they had accidents and made tons of mistakes.

Indeed the team and its fans would soon be blue exactly like the color of their jerseys. As though to emphasize the point, Chizik unconsciously told a similar story in his book recently released at the time in which he described his kids bringing another family pet to a practice. This dog, too, ended up pooping on the football field.

Chizik was confessing that he would soil Auburn’s long tradition on its own field, that in a nutshell the next two seasons would be “one big accident” and he would unconsciously be dogging it. The story would truly be funny if it weren’t so sad.

You can readily see how the right-brain language of imagery creates the real power in a story versus the weaker literal version from the left brain. After it’s all over Chizik can say “I didn’t meet expectations” (left brain) or he can unconsciously paint the right-brain word picture in the story of the pet puppy, Blue.

How perfectly these two canine capers fit Chizik’s behavior over his last two seasons.  The former disciplinarian became progressively undisciplined himself and failed to discipline his players. Secretly Auburn had a new coach and didn’t know it. Indeed, the second Gene Chizik had appeared.

From that point in September 2011 following his story about Blue, Chizik’s record over the remaining two years would be 9 and 14. Increasingly fans and sportswriters and even his players could see his lack of discipline. Everyone could see it except for Chizik who had a huge blind spot around the messes he continually created.

Secret passions involving success
Again he unconsciously blames the culprit success  as the reason for his disregard for discipline and his eventual retreat  into failure. Remember in the same speech he told another story in which, he said it clearly, “success meant destruction.” If you succeeded, your opponent would try and drown you (see previous article “A coach retreats from success”). The unconscious mind, as Chizik demonstrated there, sees the full power behind the killer instinct which competition secretly engenders.

Simultaneously in this story Chizik implied that, in order to win, you had to drown the person trying to drown you. Indirectly Chizik pointed to his own killer instinct which competition mobilized—drown or be drowned.  To win, you must dominate others. It’s a fixed universal idea about intense competition in the deeper mind, what we call an “archetype” of the psyche.

The passionate deeper mind is what it is.

Success goes to his head—“Winning is all about me”
To continue to understand his last two seasons, especially 2012, we turn to another key idea in the back of Gene Chizik’s mind—a concept which explains his central problem. He could not handle success and had to get out of Dodge as secretly as possible without anyone recognizing why. He had to obscure the real story with classic denial. While his failure was painful, there was a much deeper, more painful story and two more truckloads of fear. But he actually shows us how to see past his frequent denials.

In the same quarterback club speech in September 2011 as Chizik reviewed Auburn’s success, he insisted that “it is not about me.” Often to hear unconscious secret confessions we read through denials and pay attention to the key idea particularly when something goes wrong. The message now: Auburn’s success “is all about me.” The natural self-centered way imperfect human beings unconsciously look at life and try to deny it at the same time. Of course we all comprehend how such thinking originates in childhood. We try to fight it but deep down the idea lives on. Chizik’s super-intelligence had thus informed him that indeed he had experienced great success as “all about me”—that success had gone to his head

Furthermore success had seduced him into the self-idealization that he was above such a human foible.

Chizik underscores how success swells our pride and distorts our mind. The question is not can success go to our heads, it’s how much and how to recognize it. Control it. We first must own it and constantly look for its hidden effects.  It’s painful to see our heroes like this—but look we must because nobody is above their own humanity.

Chizik’s story represents the human dilemma in which we all find ourselves and it well illustrates why success can be so difficult to handle.

Yes, we are surrounded by many people who succeed, and don’t forget that not so long ago Chizik himself had been one of those success stories. We are looking at a man who got to the top of the heap. His experience on the way up that hill reveals the secret struggles less-prominent folks have as we all try to get the best out of ourselves. Humility doesn’t come easily.

Constant reinforcement for the ‘big-head’
We wonder could Gene Chizik really deny such thoughts completely—in the vast unconscious mind where we are free to expand our thinking? Think of how often he was reminded that he was the one responsible for the success. He had just won the national championship—and had achieved the greatest comeback in Iron Bowl history. He was the National Coach of the Year.  As he recounted in his book All In, along with the governor and Nick Saban at Alabama he was one of the three most prominent people in the state. And, in an attempt to educate Cam Newton about the pressures of success, he included the two quarterbacks at both schools in his top five.

Constantly catered to, being paid millions of dollars, ever reminded of just how important he was—how could he possibly escape thinking, “You know, it really is all about me?” Yet his strong denial and self-idealization reveals that Chizek suffered serious secret guilt over his ego trip. He will remind of this enormous burden at the end of his self-sabotaging journey in 2012.

A major personal clue – His deep pain
Chizik revealed a personal reason for his vulnerability to a retreat from success in that same key speech in 2011. For the only time I know of, he publicly mentioned how he came from a broken family as did his wife. They both had been severely traumatized by divorce and pledged they would not put their kids through the pain they’d felt after their parents’ separation. Whatever it took, Chizik and his wife would make their marriage work. He was putting down a crucial personal marker of unfinished business. It was a brief glimpse into his life, and he quickly closed the window. Later we will explore what this had to do with his shifting roles from a leader to an absent leader. 

Now we return to the end of the 2012 season and pick up on Chizik’s comments and mindset as his career at Auburn came to a “blue blue” end.
(To be continued.)

Dr. Andrew Hodges