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A Case For Malzahn’s Departure

Following the news that Gus Malzahn would leave Auburn for the head coaching job at Arkansas State, it took mere nanoseconds for the internet/talk radio world to start suggesting big troubles on The Plains.

In my car for much of Wednesday, I can tell you that the national talk radio shows had a common theme yesterday and it went a little something like this: “With Malzahn and Ted Roof both leaving for lesser schools, you have to wonder if something bad is going on behind the scenes at Auburn.”

Apparently, most of those folks haven’t spoken to anyone at Auburn.  I have.  And the Roof and Malzahn departures should not be lumped together in any way, shape or form.  Roof saw the writing on the wall after three consecutive years of unimpressive defensive numbers and jumped at a chance to work with an old colleague, doing the same job at UCF.  His move saved his own neck.

Malzahn — it appears — is simply trying to further his career.  As we suggested yesterday, he might see that his offense needs a top-flight quarterback to really work in the SEC.  (Urban Meyer learned the same thing at Florida.)  So maybe he felt it was better to leave now than wait another year and possibly see his stock drop further.

Perhaps he simply wanted to get back to familiar surroundings.  We never know what role family issues play into these types of moves. 

And speaking of family issues, Malzahn’s wife’s viral video moment might have played some role in preventing him from landing a bigger gig this year, but to be fair, his wife could have shot a bird at Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler following last year’s BCS title game and it would have had zero impact on her husband’s job search.  Malzahn was hot last January.  Now, he’s not.  His wife’s video only became an issue because Malzahn’s stock had already dropped.

In the end, perhaps Malzahn simply made what he believes to be the best move to land himself a better head coaching job down the road.

Think about it.

Malzahn was mentioned as a potential candidate at Ole Miss.  Instead of getting a serious look from UM, he saw Arkansas State’s Hugh Freeze land that job after just two years in Jonesboro… and only one as the school’s head coach.  Granted, Freeze had been on the Rebel staff under Ed Orgeron and had made some Oxford contacts, but it’s not hard to imagine Malzahn reaching the conclusion that it’s easier to land a head coaching job when you already have a head coaching job.

If Malzahn had stayed at Auburn, he would be in control of the offense and at the mercy of his team’s defense.  Gene Chizik would make the big picture decisions. 

At Arkansas State, Malzahn will run the show.  In effect, he’ll control his own destiny.  Entirely.  In an area he knows.

Push through the smoke stirred up by messageboards and talk show hosts yesterday and Malzahn’s decision — especially considering the fact that he erred by turning down Vanderbilt last year — actually seems to make some sense.



As a StAte grad I was thrilled to hear the news and not terribly surprised. Gus moves to his own beat- not what everyone else thinks he should do. StAte is trying to step up a notch and now has better financial footings to do so. Gus gets out of the pressure cooker of the SEC, goes home, gets too refine his offense and HC skills. If gets the itch to step up he will have the opportunity. But he may decide he is having too much fun. He will recruit some better athletes that would have gone to bigger schools with his reputation.


Malzahn will be at ASU for two years and then move on, as with Auburn.


I think you're right, and I also think that if you look at the Maryland and Vanderbilt jobs objectively, they were both much higher risk than taking a mid-major job in his home state. He needs to be succesful in his first stint as HC if he's ever going to have other, bigger opportunities.


Didnt seem to see this one coming two days ago, makes sense now to you guys but not then. lol 20/20 and all. Now if you would have wrote all this on 12/13 I would be really impressed.


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