Good Morning Coach!
I'm writing this the day after the 2017 Iron Bowl, where the Auburn Tigers beat the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide, so I want to start off by saying congratulations on yet another exceptional win! War Eagle!
Now I want to get to the meat of this letter. In many ways, this open letter is going to mirror the open letter C&M contributor Tuco wrote a few years back that really rang a bell with me. I have noticed over the past several seasons that we have a new generation of Auburn fans that are spoiled. As a young guy, I would typically be counted in this number, but as a 4th generation alumnus, I know the tales and stories of Auburn football as well as any other Baby Boomer or Gen X fan. So, I know that Auburn football is not about winning national championships year after year. I know that it is not about winning the SEC year after year. While those things are great and are a great reflection of the school, as Tuco put so eloquently, "Being an Auburn fan is about wanting a team that will play any team in America on any field in America on any Saturday and represent our school well. It's why we begged Tennessee to play us annually in the 50s even though they were a significantly better program. It's why our Amen Corner traditionally involved three SEC bluebloods, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. If we wanted titles, we could have scheduled Kentucky, Vandy, and Ole Miss every year instead." We take our teams, coaching staff, administration, and the program itself for granted. And as the head coach, a lot of that negative energy is directed solely at you, Coach. For the past two years, the media and the fanbase have talked about whether or not you are on the hot seat and whether we should begin the search for a new head coach. After the loss to LSU, everyone wanted to pack it in and send you sailing. But not you, Gus. You stayed the course and knew what kind of team we have. Just like you did in 2013, coming off of one of the worst years in program history (for more, go look up Undercover Barner's open letter to the 2012 team). The rumors that fly around about you leaving really irritate me because I know that the fanbase is giving more credibility to them with each day. I would like to think that you realize how many of the fans really appreciate the work you have done to bring Auburn into the national spotlight, but as we all know, the naysayers saying nay are louder than the yaysayers are saying yay!
When discussing a matchup between two teams, people often talk about the intangibles and moral victories that can come from a particular outcome. I believe that Coach Malzahn has the best intangibles of any coach in America, including the likes of Saban, Meyer, Harbaugh, Fisher, Swinney, Patterson, and any other coach you want to name. Gus is a smart, offensive-minded coach, who has recruited (dare I say it) better than any other coach in recent memory. Since Coach Malzahn has taken the helm, Auburn has had a top ten recruiting class 3 out of 4 years and currently has us in the top 10 for this next recruiting class. Gus also knows his weaknesses, so he has surrounded himself with a staff that will push the program to succeed (Chip Lindsey, Kevin Steele, and Herb Hand, to name a few).
I'd put MY coach up against them any day of the week because at the end of the day, Gus knows my team better than anyone else. There are times when I get frustrated, of course. There are times when you put Malik Willis in for no discernible reason and I think it kills a drive. But at the end of the day, I wouldn't have any other coach leading the Auburn Tigers. Things may not always go according to plan, but I can count on you to do everything you can to right the ship and get our boys trucking right along.
War Eagle Gus. You are a part of my family, because my family is the Auburn Family. You will always be a part of my family, just like Tubs and Gene (as a young person, these are the only coaches I vividly remember growing up). You are the coach that Auburn deserves because you are an embodiment of Auburn and you instill the Auburn Spirit in so many of your players (looking SPECIFICALLY at you Kodi Burns, Philip Lutzenkirchen, and Johnathan Wallace).
To Coach Malzahn, here are a few things in which I truly believe about you. You may have heard this a couple of times:
You believe that this is a practical world and that you can count only on what you earn. Therefore, you believe in work, hard work.
You believe in education, which gives you the knowledge to work wisely and trains your mind and your hands to work skillfully.
You believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which you cannot win the respect and confidence of your fellow men.
You believe in a sound mind, in a sound body, and spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities.
You believe in obedience to the law because it protects the rights of all.
You believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with your fellow man and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness to all.
You believe in your Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is your own home, and that you can best serve that country do "doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with your God."
And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I know that Arthur Gustavo Malzahn believes in Auburn and loves it.
Because Coach Malzahn believes in these things, I believe in him and in a weird way, I love him. As always, It's Great to be an Auburn Tiger.