Auburn's search for a head football coach seems to be in its final hours, and depending on who you believe, either Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart or Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn is about to take the job.
Jay G. Tate of AuburnSports.com reported ($) Tuesday morning that Auburn's search committee contacted former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino, and that he is out of the running for the job. Petrino's candidacy has been waning for a few days now, so this news doesn't come as a huge surprise.
With Petrino out of it, Smart and Malzahn look to be the the last men standing. Both candidates reportedly interviewed over the last couple of days, and FootballScoop.com, which is usually pretty solid, despite its ridiculous name, reports that the Tigers are working on a deal with Smart:
Multiple sources tell us Auburn is working on an agreement with Kirby. Will update...
That would match up with all the rumors that have been swirling over the last 24 hours or so, as Smart's name has elevated to the top of the perceived list. In addition to FootballScoop's report, other media outlets have passed along similar information.
But wait! Auburn Undercover's Phillip Marshall is reporting the exact opposite ($)! Marshall says that no offer has been made or is expected to be made to Smart, and it is Malzahn who has moved to the top of the list. However, he didn't say whether or not an offer has been made to the Arkansas State head coach:
"It looks like Gus," a source close to the process said. "Unless they (search committee) are talking to someone else, that's the way it's headed. He was much better in the interview."
Who's right? At this point, anybody's guess is as good as ours.
Of course, this does feel a bit like the 2008 coaching search, when there were reports that a deal was in place to hire then-Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, and Gene Chizik was hired out of nowhere. Is there an unmentioned candidate that will surprise everyone and take the job? If you listen to CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman, maybe so.
Names I heard that Auburn had a lot of interest in as part of "A" group: Rich Rodriguez & Jim Mora.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) December 4, 2012
We've all heard Mora's name mentioned recently, and according to FOX Sports' Alex Marvez and Jay Glazer, he turned down the chance to interview for the Tigers' job. A name we haven't heard is Rodriguez's. He would certainly fit the bill as an out-of-left-field hire.
Rodriguez is in his first season at Arizona after a disastrous three-year stint at Michigan from 2007 to '10. He made his name at his alma mater, West Virginia, where he was 60-26 in seven seasons. He is considered to be one of the pioneers of the spread-option offense, so if Auburn wanted to go back in that direction but didn't want to go with Malzahn, Rodriguez would make sense as a candidate.
One thing most everyone agrees on is that the hiring will be announced Wednesday. In the immortal words of Ray Arnold, hold onto your butts.