New North Carolina defensive assistant Gene Chizik shot down the notion that he was hired back to the Tar Heels’ staff to serve as a head coach-in-waiting under Mack Brown. Chizik, who returns for his second stint on staff at North Carolina, said there was “zero discussion” about him potentially taking over should Brown retire.
“(There was) zero discussion about that,”Chizik told reporters, via Inside Carolina. “I’ve got this one mindset. And this mindset is I want to come back to the University of North Carolina. I want to enjoy myself. I want to have a blast. I want to put a great defense on the field for the University of North Carolina and Mack Brown. And that’s all I care about. That’s all I focus on. There’s been zero discussion about that. We will have zero discussions about that. I’m just blessed to be back here and I’ve got a singularly focused mind right now. And it is on that and that only.”
Brown, 70, is in his second run as North Carolina’s head football coach. He was previously at the helm from 1988-97 before being brought back in time for the 2019 season.
Chizik, 60, was named the Tar Heels’ assistant head coach for defense the first weekend of January. Chizik was previously the Tar Heels’ defensive coordinator from 2015-16 and was the head coach at Auburn during the team’s run to a national championship with Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton in 2010. News of the hire came one day after it was revealed that Jay Bateman would not return as the Tar Heels’ defensive coordinator. Bateman held the role since the 2019 season, when Brown returned for his second stint as the Tar Heels’ head coach.
This is Chizik’s first job in college football coaching since his previous run as the Tar Heels’ defensive coordinator. Chizik served as an analyst for the SEC Network in recent years. Chizik’s coaching resume dates back to 1986, highlighted by the aforementioned run as Auburn’s head coach form 2009-12. He also had a stop as the head coach at Iowa State from 2007-08. Other previous assistant stops for Chizik include Texas, UCF and Clemson, among other schools.
ESPN released a joint statement Saturday as Chizik left the SEC Network for his new role.
“Gene has been a valued member of our college football program since SEC Network’s inaugural season in 2014,” Lee Fitting, ESPN Senior Vice President of Production, said in a statement. “Over the past five seasons in his return to ESPN, ‘Coach Chiz’ has instilled a passion for the game in his colleagues and our viewers, and we’re all better for it. We wish him the very best in his newest chapter at UNC.”