You had the feeling when Gus Malzahn turned his back on Arkansas a month ago there wasn’t going to be a long honeymoon period at Auburn.
That lasted about, oh, a month.
Hours after the Tigers had lost to Central Florida in the Peach Bowl, Kevin Scarbinsky at AL.com blistered Malzahn:
There’s no excuse. None. Zero.
As many numbers as there are in Gus Malzahn’s new seven-year $49-million contract, there is no excuse for Central Florida 34, Auburn 27.
Central Florida’s entire coaching staff spent the last month doing double duty, preparing for a new gig at Nebraska while also getting UCF ready for the Peach Bowl.
What did the Auburn staff do? Count its money?
Malzahn reportedly had a shot at the Arkansas job after Bret Bielema was fired after the Missouri game the day before the Tigers knocked off No. 1 Alabama.
He pointed them to Chad Morris. So did Terry Don Phillips, who was the athletic director at Clemson when Morris was hired there.
Julie Cromer Peoples had the good sense to listen and follow the advice in handling the coaching search. Hunter Yurachek simply said okay coming on as athletics director.
Malzahn proceeded to lose to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, then put together a Top 10 recruiting class in the early signing period … and fall flat on his face in the Peach Bowl against an undefeated AAC opponent that saw a coaching staff doing two jobs.
When Scott Frost accepted the Nebraska job, he took his entire staff and they spent much of December recruiting for the Cornhuskers, but managed to keep things together with Central Florida and win a New Year’s Six bowl game.
A little over a month ago, Malzahn was riding high on The Plains.
Now? Well, Scarbinsky summed it up pretty well:
For all the good things they did, the Tigers still finished 10-4 with a two-game losing streak. For how much Auburn is paying Malzahn going forward, some things about this program have to change if the school is going to get its money’s worth.
So, to summarize for Gus, he turns down one of his reported dream jobs coaching the Razorbacks (being the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys is the other) to stay at Auburn. He gets a huge raise.
And now he’s right back on a seat that is hot … coming off a 10-4 season. He’s been there before, just not at Auburn.
In 2006, he was in the same position at Arkansas after Houston Nutt’s best team finished the season with a thud, losing to Florida in the SEC Championship game, then Wisconsin in the Citrus Bowl.
Malzahn bolted for, well, Tulsa. Nutt stayed.
And left after the next season with a big chunk of the Hogs’ fan base applauding.
This time Gus can’t run away.
Just two games after being on the top of the mountain, Gus’ seat at Auburn is hot and folks are already asking questions.
One game isn’t the final word on whether Auburn overreacted to the interest from mediocre Arkansas and overpaid Malzahn far beyond what his accomplishments to date should merit. It is a major caution flag.
Now what does he do?