High expectations kill college coaching careers. Shug Jordan, Doug Barfield, Terry Bowden, Tommy Tuberville, and Gene Chizik all started their final year on the Plains ranked in the preseason polls. Each ended the season with a losing record.
Last preseason and this, there has been talk that Gus Malzahn is on the hot seat at Auburn. Making the 2017 Sugar Bowl did nothing to help Gus in the eyes of his critics. One analyst said Gus would have to beat Bama or win before he could feel secure.
Gus doesn’t get much credit for 2016, in part, because of how Auburn lost early games to Clemson and Texas A&M. Auburn looked like the better team at times against the eventual national champions but let Clemson escape Auburn thanks to strange offensive coaching decisions like the CoxCat. Auburn also ended the year poorly after injuries to Sean White and Kam Pettway. Ironically, the man who gets most of the credit for the 2010 National Championship was overshadowed in 2016 by Kevin Steele and Auburn’s amazing defense.
Part of the perceived pressure Gus is facing is due to Auburn’s unearned reputation for impatience. If history is a guide, Malzahn won’t be fired in 2017 unless Auburn severely under performs.
No Auburn coach has left Auburn after a winning season since 1942. In 1943, Auburn’s team was disbanded because of World War II. Coach Jack Meagher joined the Navy and pursued coaching opportunities elsewhere after the War. In 1922, Mike Donahue left Auburn after an 8-2 season to take the job at LSU. Gene Chizik’s short tenure was due not only to Auburn’s total meltdown on the field, but a string of off the field scandals.
Admittedly, Gus (and his two predecessors) had the unfortunate honor of sharing the state with the best college football program in America. Auburn has only beaten Saban’s Alabama teams three times. Before that, Auburn had taken control of the Iron Bowl series, going 15-10 since Bo went Over the Top in 1982. Alabama’s success raised the expectations of fans around the SEC, including Auburn’s.
Gus is not the first Auburn coach to face stiff competition from an instate rival. Shug Jordan’s teams played .500 ball from 1964-66 when Bear Bryant won back-to-back national titles and were robbed of a threepeat. Not only did Coach Jordan survive his mid-career swoon, he coached nine more years and became the first active head coach to ever have his team’s stadium named in his honor.
Due to the heightened expectations around the conference and the preseason hype surrounding the Tigers, Gus could be the first Auburn coach to ever be fired with a winning record. If Auburn wins seven games in 2017, we will have a new boss by New Years. If Auburn wins eight or more, he will likely be given another year.
How many wins does Gus need to keep his job?
This poll is closed
Ten or More