Chizik addresses media for first time since shooting

By Andrew Yawn

The Auburn Plainsman, Auburn U. via UWIRE

Chizik addresses media for first time since shooting
 In Auburn coach Gene Chizik’s first press conference since the deaths of Demario Pitts and former Auburn football players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips, he emphasized one thing above all else: this is not about football.

A stoic Chizik took the podium Tuesday afternoon at the Auburn Athletic Complex auditorium and spoke measuredly about the tumult of emotions gripping the friends and families of the victims and his role in communicating with the families in what he described as “an incredibly difficult 72 hours.”

“It is hard to put into words the difficulty that a lot of people are facing right now,” Chizik said. “It is a tough period of time, there are not a lot of answers right now, but we are going to continue day-by-day.”

However, in the face of numerous questions attempting to relate the tragedy to the status of the football team as a whole, Chizik had a blunt reminder for the media in attendance.

“I am not worried about football, I don’t care about the football season,” Chizik said. “This meeting is about young guys who are trying to get past a very tragic thing … (and) I have got one goal, and that is to provide anything we can to anybody that was affected.”

“I want everybody to be mindful that there were six victims,” Chizik said.

Immediately after the shooting occurred, Chizik said, “social media got things out quick,” and he and his staff tried to quickly warn the players.

“At that moment, my first concern was that everyone on the football team along with anybody else that was anywhere near the incident was safe,” Chizik said.

He declined to comment on whether or not he was the first to contact the parents of the deceased, but said that they did communicate throughout the weekend.

A few of Auburn’s current players were scheduled to speak at the press conference, but were not ready to speak openly about the incident, according to Chizik.

“It wasn’t the right time,” Chizik said. “Several young men that we have are not ready to do this, and I’m not ready to do this, but that is part of my job.”

Chizik did say that the players were utilizing the university’s counseling services in an attempt to “come to some kind of better place.”

Of the emotional players and coaches meeting Sunday morning, Chizik described a cathartic group session in which the players were allowed to speak and grieve openly.

“It was a very difficult meeting, and there were a lot of emotions that spilled out,” Chizik said. “At the end it was a good meeting simply because we needed to all be on the same page of where we were at and how we felt.”

Eric Mack, the third Auburn player shot Saturday, is expected to make a full recovery and is currently able to walk around, according to Chizik.

Chizik also took a moment to commend the Auburn Police Department and Chief Tommy Dawson for their dedication and communication throughout the investigation.

“We were on top of it when it began and communication was flawless in terms of us staying abreast with everything that happened,” Chizik said. “I’m very appreciative of the way that was unfolded.”

Phillips’s funeral services will be held Friday at 1 p.m. at Handley High School in Roanoke, Ala. and Chrstian’s will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday at the J.E. Mathis Municipal Auditorium in Valdosta, Ga.

Pitts’s funeral services will take place Friday at 1 p.m. as well, but the location has not been announced.

Visitation for Pitts will take place Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Harris Funeral Home in Opelika.

Chizik said transportation will be provided to the services.

“We are going to … provide transportation for everybody, and not just football team-wise, but for everybody in the athletic department,” Chizik said.

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