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Phillip Marshall: Malzahn a different kind of coach

Dec. 14, 2013

On Thursday night, two days before Auburn beat Missouri 59-42 to win the Southeastern Conference championship, it took Tiger head coach Gus Malzahn and athletics director Jay Jacobs no more than a couple of hours to negotiate and agree to a new contract.

Unusual? Unheard of might be a better way of putting it.

Malzahn is a different kind of coach, and I mean that in a good way. He wanted to be a head coach, so he took a $500,000 pay cut to leave his position as Auburn offensive coordinator to become the Arkansas State head coach. You have to remember that, only eight years ago, he was the head coach Springdale (Ark.) High School, probably making somewhere around $100,000 a year. His new six-year deal at Auburn pays him 3.8 million the first year and goes up a quarter of million dollars every year thereafter. A letter of agreement has been signed by both parties.

That new deal has not stopped Malzahn from being prominent in speculation about who will replace Mack Brown as Texas’ head coach.

I’m not buying it.

I’ve not had a conversation with Malzahn about his interest any other job, including Texas. I know, however, he has told people that the report that he called Texas his “dream job” was bogus. Here’s what Malzahn said on Sunday after winning the SEC championship in his first Auburn season:

“This is where I want to be. I love Auburn. You start hearing rumors about this stuff. I didn’t want our players or coaches or fans to wonder how I felt. I want to be here, and I’m one blessed guy to be the head coach of the Auburn Tigers."

Malzahn doesn’t say something like that for effect. That’s not his style. If he says it, he means it.

Malzahn was the offensive coordinator when Auburn won the national championship in 2010. He’ll play for it again against Florida State on Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl. Saturday night, he was in New York City to support Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason. Malzahn doesn’t have to wonder if Auburn can win at the highest level. He knows it can.

Texas can turn almost any coach’s head. It has more resources and a bigger and better recruiting base than any program in the game. It has its own TV network. It also has lots of boosters with their hands in the pie. You can see from here the dysfunction that’s been on display in recent weeks.

The Texas job, according to those who know it best, is intensely political. Schmoozing with boosters is as important as signing lots of 5-star recruits. And that’s the furthest thing from what Malzahn likes about college football.

He loves the relationships and interactions with players and coaches. He loves coaching on the field, making gameplans, calling plays and even recruiting. He tolerates the rest of it. And he would intensely dislike circumstances like those at Texas.

Auburn is an ideal fit for Malzahn and for his family. And Malzahn and his family are an ideal fit for Auburn. I don’t believe Malzahn is in it for the money and I don’t believe he’s in it for the fame. I do believe that once he shook hands with Jacobs and signed his name, he had made a commitment.

Will he listen if Texas calls? I don’t know. Will he go if Texas offers? I’d be stunned if he did.


Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter:




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