Auburn had 21.4 million reasons not to fire Gus Malzahn with four years remaining on his seven-year, $49 million contract extension. Unfortunately for Malzahn, he gave the program one “solid” reason to pull the plug and start anew.
Malzahn was fired Sunday, athletics director Allen Greene and school president Jay Gogue announced. Firing Malzahn after eight seasons comes at the end of an unusual and frustrating season that saw the Tigers finish 6-4 following Saturday’s regular-season finale against Mississippi State. That record included three blowout losses to ranked teams — Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M — plus an inexplicable loss to South Carolina, which fired head coach Will Muschamp before the season ended.
Malzahn’s seven-year contract, which he agreed to and signed in December 2017 after leading Auburn to an SEC West title, included 75 percent of the deal’s value fully guaranteed. His buyout, as of this month, is $21,450,000, with 50 percent of that owed within 30 days of his termination and the remainder paid in four equal annual installments.
“After evaluating the state of the Auburn football program, we’ve decided that it was time to make a change in leadership,” Greene said. “We appreciate everything that Gus did for the program over the last eight seasons. We will begin a search immediately for a coach that can help the Auburn program consistently compete at the highest level.”
In wake of Malzahn’s departure, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will serve as Auburn’s interim head coach as the university begins its national search for Malzahn’s successor.
Auburn started this peculiar season — played against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic —on the cusp of a top-10 ranking, but the Tigers tumbled out of the rankings within a month of their first game. After a 27-6 road loss at Georgia, Auburn narrowly beat Arkansas at home the following week — benefitting from a controversial replay review in the game’s waning moments — before losing at South Carolina a week later. That loss against a two-win Gamecocks team wound up being one of the most baffling of Malzahn’s tenure.
Auburn then rattled off three straight wins and appeared to find its stride before running into the Alabama buzzsaw. The Tigers lost to the Tide, 42-13, at Bryant-Denny Stadium after Thanksgiving. It was the program’s fifth straight loss in Tuscaloosa, and it marked the second-most lopsided loss of Malzahn’s career, just behind Auburn’s 31-point loss to Alabama in 2018.
The loss in Tuscaloosa also dropped Auburn’s record under Malzahn against its three biggest rivals — Alabama, Georgia and LSU — to 8-17, including 0-12 on the road. A week later, a 31-20 loss to Texas A&M ensured the program’s seventh straight season with at least four losses. Auburn led Texas A&M heading into the fourth quarter, but the offense faltered late, and the defense suffered a total letdown against the Aggies.
After the game, Malzahn was asked about recalibrating the team’s goals after another loss, to which he said the aim was to finish the year 6-4 now—the best the Tigers could do at that point — adding that “if you had a…
Read More News: Gus Malzahn fired as Auburn head coach