March 2, 2014
Bobby Bowden, left, and Gus Malzahn sign their good names Sunday night on the way to Auburn's coach receiving a national award (Charles Goldberg photo)
By Charles Goldberg
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- This wasn't just any guy talking about Auburn football. This was a former Auburn quarterback, a former Auburn assistant coach and one of the most respected football coaches in college football history.
Vince Dooley, why did Gus Malzahn deserve the Bobby Bowden national coach of the year award that he received Sunday night?
"It's pretty obvious to everyone that it was one of the greatest turnarounds that there's ever been," said Dooley, the legendary former Georgia football coach who won a national title and six SEC championships, too.
"I left 50 years ago from Auburn to go to Georgia. I told my wife at the time don't unpack because you never know how long you're going to be somewhere," he joked.
Alas, alum Vince Dooley said Auburn's previous 2012 team, the one before Malzahn, "was about as poor a football team as I've ever seen in this league." Malzahn took virtually the same players and almost won the national title.
Vince Dooley. Bachelor of Arts 1954. Masters 1963. National coach of the year twice.
Dooley knows football, and watched as Auburn, in Malzahn's first year as the Tigers' head coach, beat Georgia and Alabama late in the season with stunning, last-minute plays on the way to a 12-2 record and a spot in the BCS title game.
"Anytime you have a year like that you have to have good things fall out of the heavens. I've seen it once. I had never seen it back to back," Dooley said. "No question in mind he did the best coaching job in the country."
Old-school Dooley even said he liked Malzahn's fast-paced offense.
"The history of the game has always been a new offense, a new style," Dooley said. "I'm very much in favor of it."
Malzahn won seven national coach of the year awards in 2013. Sunday, he accepted the last from the Over the Mountain Touchdown Club.
"I'm very humbled sitting between these two guys, two legends here," Malzahn said.
On hand were Bowden, of course; and Dooley, who was on hand to receive a lifetime achievement award.
Malzahn said he was happy to win an award named for Bowden.
"When I was a young coach, you're looking for a role models. I kind of picked people out," Malzahn said. "Coach Bowden was used to winning. He was on television. I told him on the way over here the thing stood out to me was his professionalism whether he won or got beat. He very rarely got beat. He handled himself with true class.
"I was a high school coach for 15 years and I never thought in my wildest dreams I'd be getting an award named after Coach Bowden."
Malzahn said his players and assistant were the reasons he won the award.
"People say, 'how did you go from three wins to almost winning the national championship?' It was our relationship with our players."
Now, Auburn turns to another season. Spring practice begins March 18. You think Malzahn has been ready?
"As a coach, as soon of that last game is over, your mind starts thinking about next year."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: