Phillip Marshall: Malzahn doesn't play the shell game

Dec. 19, 2013

You see it every year at this time. College football coaches’ agents have created a system that often leaves athletics directors and university presidents scrambling to keep coaches who might not even have anywhere to go.

Here’s how it works:

You make sure your client’s name is mentioned in speculation about as many jobs as possible. You rush to contact his athletics director and tell him that he’d better come up with more millions if he wants to keep his coach. And, amazingly often, athletics directors take the bait and fork out ever more money.

We’ll never know, for instance, if Nick Saban really had any interest in going to Texas. But speculation that he might resulted in a raise of some $2 million.

Kevin Sumlin, in two seasons at Texas A&M, has had a two-loss season and a four-loss season. He did that well mainly because he inherited a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback that no one, not even he, knew anything about. He won no championships.

Yet, Sumlin’s name is mentioned in connection with the opening at Southern California, and just like that he has a guaranteed contract paying him more than $5 million per year.

Hey, it’s great work if you can get it.

That brings us to Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, whose name surfaced in speculation about the Texas job as soon as Mack Brown resigned. Two weeks ago, Malzahn walked into Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs’ office and, in less than half an hour, agreed to a contract extension. Malzahn didn’t unleash his agent. He did it on his own. He signed a letter of agreement the next day.

Malzahn is Auburn’s kind of coach and Auburn is Malzahn’s kind of town. He’s preparing his first Auburn team to go play Florida State for the national championship. He’s twice said publicly that he doesn’t want to be anywhere else. Privately, he ridicules the report quoting “sources” that he said Texas is his “dream job.”



For those who know Malzahn, it’s not surprising that he didn’t play the shell game that agents have created for the enrichment of their clients and themselves. Malzahn is a ball coach. He recognizes the other responsibilities that come with the job, but he gets his joy coaching football.

Texas is widely considered one of the top jobs in the country because of the resources and recruiting base. But the truth is, based on results, Texas is not a better job than Auburn, which has won three SEC championships in 10 seasons with three different coaches and will play in the BCS Championship Game for the second time in four seasons.

Some have raised questions about why no new buyout was included in the letter of agreement. That’s kind of interesting, since no one even expected a contract extension at that point in time. No buyout would likely deter Texas anyway.

Jacobs says he’s not concerned about Texas or about Malzahn having a wandering eye. And he shouldn’t be. Malzahn has made it clear he wants to be at Auburn. Are agents whispering that Malzahn should have gotten more than $3.85 million year? Maybe. I don’t know.

What I know is that Texas, whose good ol’ boy ways put anything that was ever at Auburn to shame, is not Malzahn’s kind of place. He’s not a schmoozer or a glad-hander. He can win as much at Auburn as he could at Texas. At Auburn, he can focus on coaching football and not on making wealthy boosters and regents feel like they are part of the program. He can make lots of money, coach his team, win lots of games and live his life the way he wants.

And that’s really all he’s ever wanted.


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