History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man. And history says Gus Malzahn’s job is safe unless Auburn lives up to expectations.
Hang with me here. Imagine this 2017: Auburn is 10-1 and ranked #6 in late November ahead of an Iron Bowl against undefeated, top-ranked Alabama. A win puts Auburn in Atlanta and probably in the playoffs. With one second left, Noah Igbinoghene watches a 52 yard field goal barely clear the cross bar to give Alabama the victory.
Because the Sugar Bowl is a national playoff semifinal, Auburn accepts a bid to the New Year’s Six Peach Bowl as a consolation prize. Auburn takes revenge on Florida State amid a barrage of parachuting stuffed cows. Gus leaves the newly opened Stankonia Dome feeling cooler than Freddie Jackson sipping a milkshake in a snowstorm.
The next morning, Gus Malzahn wakes up, stretches, and grabs his copy of the O-A News on the way out the door. He orders his usual breakfast and notices that his hash browns are extra chunked. Nothing is too good for the conquering hero. What Gus doesn’t know—indeed, can’t know—is that he is doomed.
Gus will have committed the one unpardonable sin: winning a Peach Bowl. The Peach Bowl Curse has claimed the careers of the last four Auburn coaches. No Auburn coach has ever had another winning season after winning a Peach Bowl.
In 1990, Auburn was #2 and on top of the world after beating Florida State at home. A late season slide relegated Auburn to the Peach Bowl against Indiana. Auburn beat the Hoosiers 27-23 after a last second bootleg touchdown on 4th and 1 from the 1 by Stan White. In 1991, Auburn went 5-6. In 1992, Auburn went 5-5-1 and Pat Dye lost his job. The Peach Bowl Curse claimed its first victim.
In 1997, Auburn came within an eyelash of winning its first SEC Championship Game against Peyton Manning’s Vols in Atlanta. As a reward, Auburn got to renew its rivalry with Clemson. (You have to remember, in 1997, we hadn’t played Clemson since 1971 so this was exciting.) Auburn beat the other Tigers 21-17. Terry Bowden resigned before the end of the 1998 season.
In 2001, Tommy Tuberville did the sensible thing and threw the 2001 Peach Bowl to North Carolina (despite Karlos Dansby’s best efforts to get him fired).
Hubris brought Tubs low only a few years later when the Tony Franklin System (which would be a great name for a band) beat Clemson. He was “definitely not fired but resigned voluntarily” the following year.
Gene Chizik beat Virginia in 2011. He tried to appease the football gods by throwing a game to Clemson in the Georgia Dome to open 2012, but the damage was done. A kick off classic cannot erase that kind of karma. The Peach Bowl Curse claimed the job of the first Auburn coach to win a national title since Shug Jordan.
Dye, Bowden, Tuberville, and Chizik. Each left Atlanta victorious and entered the following season with high expectations. Their prospects dropped like the Peach at Underground Atlanta.
On January 2, 2018, Gus may wake up basking in the glow of the Atlanta victory but by December, “oh no, they say he has to go!” If I were Coach Malzahn, I’d block all calls from 404, 678, and 770 just to be safe.