“Here’s hoping Auburn is at a similar point of purge and lands a similar superstar hire—with a certain bothersome trustee’s testicles in a mason jar waiting on his desk for him on day one. Coach should be Coach, folks. Get him in and stay the hell out of his way.” – Bo Williams, December 3, 2008
Wow, they are slow studies down on the Plains.
(Now lest you forget, they don’t have a corner on that. Alabama paid dearly and repeatedly while it learned to stop overvaluing connections to the program when hiring head coaches. But today isn’t about Alabama.)
Auburn’s current malaise started when the Powers That Be decided that running off journeyman-plus coach Tommy Tuberville was in Auburn’s best interest. And it may well have been, depending on what the next steps were. (See above.)
But Gene Chizik was a horrible blunder. (And don’t talk to me about 2010. A lightning-in-a-bottle, once-in-a-lifetime athlete nearly single-handedly delivering a national championship was an anomaly.) Without Cam Newton under center, Chizik was 19-19 at Auburn. The huge red warning lights in 2011, and the 2012 disaster, are his accurate legacy.
So, fired. Then, Gus Malzahn. I said at the time it felt a little small to me, but maybe it would be all right. Well, now we know it was a little small. He came within a minute or so of winning the 2013 title, mostly because no one knew what to do with athletes of Auburn’s caliber running his gimmicky offense.
But now everyone knows his gimmicky offense, and though he won the Iron Bowl and the West last year, he promptly went to pieces in Atlanta, and then dropped the Peach Bowl for good measure.
Auburn’s response? Extend his contract. Increase his buyout.
And here he sits. Auburn will finish either 8-5 or 7-6, and that was pretty clear when athletic director Allen Greene gave him a vote of confidence after he somehow won the Texas A&M game. So, he’ll be back.
Except—wow—apparently there has been enough scurrying about post-Iron Bowl to generate rumors about scraping together the buyout, or possibly an I not dotted or T not crossed to invalidate a lot of it. Let’s get rid of him and get a big star—maybe Bob Stoops.
And now reliable Auburn beatmaster Phillip Marshall writes that Malzahn is close to accepting a deal to reduce his buyout and put other restrictions in place, such as on what he can or can’t do with his assistants.
What does it say about Gus Malzahn that he’s apparently entertaining this deal? Hasn’t he the spine to stand up and say no, you fire me and pay me, or you leave me to my work? Were I in a similar position, those would be the terms.
What does it say about Auburn that it’s apparently entertaining this deal? Malzahn is now primed to be eaten alive on the recruiting trail, with such an obvious and humiliating short leash. And what does it do to him, and by extension his team, at the first sign of adversity in 2019?
Auburn apparently has the inclination to blow it up and make it A Thing, but it never finds the chutzpah to finish it. If Auburn’s confidence in Malzahn is significantly damaged, and clearly it is, then the superstar hire, with a gigantic paycheck and a hand-him-the-keys level of control over the program, is the right step now.
Instead, Auburn appears on the verge of all-but-guaranteeing itself a similar predicament next year.