In 2010 he was the Coach of the Year. His team was undefeated and won a National Championship. His quarterback won a Heisman Trophy and one of his defensive linemen won the Lombardi trophy. Saturday his team lost 49-0 to its arch rival. As of yesterday, Gene Chizik, is no longer the Head Football Coach at Auburn University. He’s unemployed.
Chizik’s case isn’t all the unique, albeit he does now hold the record for being released as Head Coach in the shortest period of time after winning a National Championship. His case, regardless of how one feels about the Auburn Tigers, is worth some reflection about what makes a man or woman a “winner” or “loser.” It raises, or should raise, questions about the value of a man, not just the value of a football coach. It also raises some questions about ourselves as we respond to Chizek’s circumstances.
Chizek was hired to the dismay of many Auburn Football fans. His record as a Division I Head Coach was a losing one. Auburn fans booed when he stepped off the plane on his first trip to the University. Football fans openly wondered if Jay Jacobs and the Administration had gone mad. What made them make such a decision? It clearly wasn’t Chizik’s resume, his win-loss record. Left to evaluate that alone, surely the man was a “loser.”
Loser? Two years later he was on top of the world. He’d beaten the Crimson Tide. He won a National Championship. Loser? Impossible. Chizek is a winner. He signed a contract extension got a buy out provision in his contract and even wrote a book. All signs of a winner. And yet today he’s unemployed.
So what is the correct definition of “winner” or “loser?” In college football it seems to be easy to measure. Its wins versus losses; or at least that record over the last 24 months or so. If this is the measure of a man, of a woman, of a life, something has gone terribly wrong. Failure is a cheap measures of a man or woman. Yet resorting to it is far to commonplace. Fans will revel in the demise of a rival’s coach or team. Often the venom is disturbing.
Setting high goals and achieving them is a noble thing. One need not abandon achievement in reconsidering the definition of “winner” and “loser.” Indeed, those who would lead should never be exempt from either. Those who would lead would do well to remember that many “losers” rose from the events of failure to achieve remarkable things. Nixon. Churchill. Lincoln. Even Nick Saban, probably the best football Coach in College Football today, was a “failure” in the NFL.
How should leaders respond? They must see in themselves and in others more than their win-loss record. They must examine their own “losses” and those of their team members to see what role they have played in those experiences. Leaders must challenge the reduction of a man or women to nothing more than his or her resume or recent achievements. They must sort out their own parts in those losses and respond appropriately. Genuine leaders will see loss, in the presence of sincere effort and integrity, as “events,” not character. And they will challenge others to do the same. Only then are such leaders truly “winners.”
Keep the Faith.