On Saturday, the Auburn University football team defeated Mississippi State 24 to 10. The win was Auburn’s sixth win of the ten-game, all-SEC, COVID-shortened 2020 football season. It was another winning season for Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn, but it wasn’t enough for key Auburn boosters.
Malzahn’s job was in jeopardy after the Tigers’ humiliating 42 to 13 defeat by Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
Every football knowledgeable person in the state knew that the loaded 2020 Alabama team would defeat Auburn this year. What Auburn fans could not abide was that the team never even looked competitive with Alabama, the No. 1 team in the country.
Auburn followed that with a loss to Texas A&M, and it was widely expected that Malzahn and Auburn would part ways after this season.
“After evaluating the state of the Auburn football program, we’ve decided that it was time to make a change in leadership,” Auburn athletic director Allen 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.”
“Coach Malzahn led the Auburn football program with honor and integrity,” Auburn President Jay Gogue said. “We appreciate his service to Auburn athletics, Auburn University and, in particular, our student-athletes. We wish him and Kristi all the best.”
Malzahn was 68-35 in his eight seasons at Auburn. He won the 2013 SEC Championship and played in the National Championship game that year. Malzahn is the fifth-winningest head football coach in Auburn history.
Malzahn had previously served as the Auburn offensive coordinator on its 2010 BCS National Championship team. Malzahn’s predecessor, Gene Chizik, was head coach for that team. Current Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has been named interim head coach for the Tigers, who qualified for a bowl game.
It appeared as Malzahn was going to leave Auburn after the 2017 season to coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks, but then-President Steven Leath gave Malzahn a hefty raise that included an unprecedented $49 million buyout. Malzahn is reportedly owed $21.5 million
Greene said Auburn would conduct a nationwide search for a new head coach.
Early reports are that Auburn might offer the job to Oregon head football coach Mario Cristobal who finished 12 and 2 last year. This year Oregon is just 3 and 2. The Ducks’ game on Saturday versus Washington was canceled due to COVID-19.
Another candidate being discussed is Hugh Freeze who coaches at Liberty University. He is the former head coach at Ole Miss, but his tenure there ended with a recruiting scandal, prostitution scandal and heavy NCAA sanctions that resulted in the school having to vacate 25 of Freeze’s wins.
The Sporting News has listed seven potential contenders for the job including UAB head football coach Bill Clark and Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who coached the Tide during its recent Iron Bowl win.