Breaking: Former Auburn coach Gus Malzahn will be UCF's next head football coach, first reported by Yahoo! Sports and confirmed by ESPN. pic.twitter.com/6rKEejLZPG— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) February 15, 2021
As was murmured earlier this morning, the story is now apparently confirmed. Gus Malzahn will be the new head coach at UCF. We need a timetable reset on this one.
December 13 - Gus Malzahn is fired by Auburn
December 22 - Auburn hires Bryan Harsin from Boise State to replace Malzahn
January 18 - Tennessee fires Jeremy Pruitt
January 27 - Tennessee hires Josh Heupel from UCF to replace Pruitt as head coach
February 15 - UCF hires Gus Malzahn to replace Josh Heupel
Most people originally thought that Gus would probably take a year off, enjoy time with the family, the grandkids, and enjoy a bit of time away from the grind. However, as usually is the case with many of these college coaches, working is the lifestyle. They can’t quite stay away from it, and many feel unfulfilled if they’re not leading a team. Bobby Bowden said once that “after you retire, there’s just one big event left, and I ain’t ready for that yet”. Nick Saban has mentioned how retirement would be the first time he’s not been a part of a team since he was a kid. For Gus Malzahn, the sentiment is likely the same. The allure of a new opportunity and a chance to get back in the game is one that is too much to pass up.
General wisdom suggested that Gus would probably not take a job immediately unless it was a Power Five gig. Despite the fact that he was a coach whose success had been trending downward since his magical first year at Auburn, he was still a coach with one SEC Championship, two SEC West titles, and three victories over Nick Saban’s Alabama. He never missed a bowl game, and went to three New Year’s Six events during his time on the Plains. Let’s not forget that he revolutionized offensive football at the start of his career with his hurry-up no-huddle offense. While he’d become a little stale as of late, this was still a man in the upper tier of college coaches. We thought that a job like Virginia Tech would be the one for him. Instead, he’s heading to the AAC, not the ACC.
Look at this for UCF. They essentially took the long way home with Heupel leaving and replacing him with Gus. He’ll be by far the most accomplished coach ever to hit Orlando, after Heupel, Scott Frost, and Georg O’Leary preceeded him at UCF. While O’Leary finished tied for first with the 1998 ACC Championship, they were throttled by their co-champ FSU, and didn’t go to a BCS bowl game. Gus is the only coach they’ve had with true top-level Power Five success, and it’s a huge get for the Knights, no matter what stage of his career Gus is in.
It’s also interesting for Auburn. When you look at former Auburn coaches, they usually don’t do much after leaving the Tigers. Auburn is a destination job, and a retirement job. Malzahn’s predecessor Gene Chizik never got another head job, but spent a few years as defensive coordinator at North Carolina. Now he’s a TV guy on the SEC Network, and very good at it. Tommy Tuberville wallowed at Texas Tech and yelled at students at Cincinnati before trying to sway elections. Terry Bowden dropped down a classification to work at North Alabama before Akron came calling. Now he’s at Louisiana-Monroe. Pat Dye? Retired. Doug Barfield? A year as an assistant at Mississippi State before hitting the high school ranks. Shug Jordan? Retired.
Let’s keep going. Before Shug? Earl Brown. Auburn was his last head coaching job.
Carl Voyles? Last college head coaching job before going to coach the Brooklyn Dodgers football team in 1948. He then spent some time in Canada.
Jack Meagher? Here’s your trivia answer. He’s the last Auburn coach to win 10 games at a subsequent Division 1A stop. After World War II halted football in 1943, he went on to coach Iowa Pre-Flight in 1944 and led them to a 10-1 season and #6 finish in the AP Poll.
So you see, Auburn’s not exactly the job you leave and head somewhere else. We’ll see how Gus Malzahn does in Orlando, but he’ll have some offensive talent to work with and a good foundation laid by Heupel, as UCF has won double digit games three of the last four seasons. His first game as head coach in Orlando? It’ll come against Bryan Harsin’s former bunch as Boise State comes to visit on September 4th.