In a move that seemed to surprise only the Auburn and Arkansas beat writers, Gus Malzahn will be the head football coach on the Plains for the foreseeable future.
The details haven’t officially come out yet, but let’s run down how ridiculous this whole made-up saga was.
First of all, why would Gus Malzahn leave Auburn? He wanted more money? He wanted better facilities? He felt like he didn’t have control at Auburn? Whatever the reasoning behind each different story predicting the move of the Malzahn family back to northwest Arkansas, none of it added up.
Honestly, the only real things that could’ve swayed Gus to the Hogs would’ve been an exorbitant amount of money (much more than the $7 million that was reported) or the unrequited nostalgic pangs of an Ozark man wanting to go home. On the money front, who thought that Auburn wouldn’t pay to keep the guy that thrashed Georgia and Alabama when both were ranked #1? Yeah, Arkansas has Wal-Mart and Tyson cash, but Auburn’s not exactly poor.
That leaves the “mama’s calling” factor, which then has to be put up against the following factors, none of which go in Arkansas’ favor:
- Current position - Auburn won the West this season, beat Arkansas by 32, beat Georgia by 23, Alabama by 12, Mississippi State by 39, Ole Miss by 21, Texas A&M by 15, and only lost to LSU in conference before the title game. Arkansas won four games this year, and their lone SEC win came against Ole Miss by a point. Gus would take a big step down in terms of fielding a competitive team if he left for Arkansas. To go even further, it’s not like he’d even be going where it’s easier to be successful! He would still have to play the rest of the SEC West, and he’d have to do it with a team that’s in need of an actual rebuild.
- Fan support - this might be an unfair comparison, but check this out. Here’s a picture of Arkansas’ stadium before kickoff against Coastal Carolina:
And here’s Jordan-Hare Stadium last weekend:
Auburn student section Swag Surf so lit pic.twitter.com/Lc1lNBNJbR— Football Is Life (@FootbaIl_Tweets) November 25, 2017
Yeah, one is a game against the top team in the land and your biggest rival, and the other is a game against an FCS team. Still, even during 2012, none of Auburn’s crowds looked like that. That’s embarrassing and pathetic for a school in the SEC to have that kind of support even during a bad year.
Sure, we’re fickle at times, and demanding because of what we’ve seen our rivals doing lately, but we’re not just going to let a guy who won ten games and won the West leave, especially when he should have the tools to make a run at another West title next year, which brings us to our third point.
- Current Roster — Auburn should be pretty loaded next season. Jarrett Stidham will return with Malik Willis behind him, Kerryon Johnson has said that he should be back, and we won’t lose much on the perimeter. The offensive line will need a little retooling, but we’ll manage. On defense, Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown will return, and with some luck, Jeff Holland and Carlton Davis won’t enter the draft. Tre Williams is gone, but Darrell Williams and Deshaun Davis will be seniors. Not to mention that Chip Lindsey has said he’ll be back, and barring something crazy, we should keep Kevin Steele. The cupboard is absolutely full, and Gus would be crazy to leave a team with championship potential for a complete rebuild in Fayetteville.
- Athletic Director - one of the points that some people were making is that there’s a ton of athletic department disfunction at Auburn. There is, but not really with football, and the Tigers will be getting a new athletic director soon as Jay Jacobs steps away. I would wager that Gus has some sizable input into who gets that job. Arkansas’ in the same boat with Jeff Long’s departure, so at best this is a wash and in no way a reason for Kristi to start looking at movers.
Whatever your feelings are about Gus during his time at Auburn, the Tigers are arguably the second-most successful SEC team from 2013-17. Before last night, we were the only team aside from Alabama to win the conference in that time, we haven’t had a losing season, and with the finish to this year, have beaten the heck out of our main rivals. I’ve been frustrated with the offense at times like all of you have, and we seem to play down at times, but would you rather have a coaching search in this climate or have the coach that just won us the West? I know what my answer is.
This is good for Auburn, and gives us stability in a time when that’s a highly-coveted quality in college football. Let’s beat UCF and head into 2018 a top ten team, ready to answer the expectations. War Eagle.