Gene Chizik on why he stepped away from coaching: 'I made a pact to them'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday February 14, 2017

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Gene Chizik says he had to leave his job as North Carolina defensive coordinator before it was too late with his son and family.

Chizik spent the last two years at UNC, but his family stayed back in Auburn. A coach’s family often has to move around a lot, and it takes a toll. From 2001-09, Chizik coached at UCF, Auburn, Texas, Iowa State and Auburn again.

When he became Auburn head coach in 2009, he told his kids they wouldn’t have to move again. But he was dismissed after four years.

“It’s been a commute for me. We don’t live in the same place,” Chizik said on SiriusXM College Sports Nation, where he worked between Auburn and UNC. “I agreed when I went to Auburn as head coach — we had moved around so much as a family that I was not going to move my children again. They could always tell me where they were born, but they could never tell me where they were from, because of all the moving. I made that pact to them.”

After two years out of coaching and spending some time in radio and TV, Chizik got back in at North Carolina. He said then that he didn’t need to be a coach again. He only did it because of quality of life and family. Last season, he finished as a finalist for the Broyles Award for the nation's top assistant coach.

Now stepping away, it’s because of his family again.

“When I took this job at North Carolina, it was because I wanted to coach. It wasn’t because I had to put food on the table,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to not have to do that. If you put everything into perspective, it was time for me to walk the walk. … Everything is about your family. If you put anything before that, you’re wrong. That’s how I see it.

I just didn’t see how I could go on and on coaching because I love it, yet I’m not there for my boy in his last two years of high school. Stepping away was definitely something difficult, because I’d grown up loving this game since I was 8 years old. I’ve got a great passion for it. But I love my son and my wife and my family more than I love all this stuff. In one regard, it was tough, but in another regard, it was a no-brainer.”

Chizik said he has no regrets about taking the UNC job, and he appreciated the time under Larry Fedora. As for what he plans to do next, all he knows is he’ll attend more high school games.

“There’s not one job, not one phase of my career I regret,” Chizik said. “I don’t regret accepting any jobs. I said, ‘You know what? I’d better sure never regret what I do with my family.’ I know that if I looked back and continued to coach for the next two years — because I love it, because I’m addicted to it, because it’s been part of my life for 30 years — and I let my son get away without being there for him and my family and my daughters, I would regret that.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to