Longtime friend and television guy Mike Irwin is actually at fault here. Blame it on him.
After the Monday press conference was over and we woke up, he asked me on the way out if I was behind this “Gus talk.”
Since I wasn’t, I was being completely honest when I told him no.
So I started nosing around and, lo and behold, there are a bunch of folks talking about Gus Malzahn coming to Arkansas as the head football coach.
It’s Irwin’s fault I even started checking.
At first it appeared to be just the usual “Gus Bus” discussions that have popped up from time to time in Arkansas over the last 12 years or so. Yes, it’s been that long since he was at Springdale High and folks thought he should be with the Razorbacks.
Malzahn, the former coach at Shiloh Christian, Benton High School (well, for about a day before he went back to Shiloh), Springdale High, finally came to the Razorbacks in 2006 and that lasted a year before basically falling apart.
He went to Tulsa, then to the big time at Auburn as offensive coordinator. His second year he gets Cam Newton and wins a national championship, then goes to Arkansas State for a year as head coach in 2012.
When Auburn dumped Gene Chizik after the 2012 season (note this is just two seasons from a national title), they brought in Malzahn. What he likely discovered there was a scene so unbelievable outsiders find it hard to comprehend.
Let’s put it this way: The guy actually calling the shots in Auburn football was fired in 1992 getting the school in deep, deep NCAA trouble, which they rewarded by naming the field after him in the stadium, then giving him an office between the football office and the athletic director.
More media people talk to him about Auburn football than the head coach … at least on the days they can catch him sober. They actually pay attention to what he says even though he’s stuck in a 25-year time warp on college football and never won a national championship when he was coaching.
And Gus actually knew all of this going back to Auburn and STILL took the job.
Now his name is popping up in his home state of Arkansas. Of course it’s in connection with the head coaching job for the Hogs, which presently is occupied, but no one’s going to be surprised to see it empty in just over 30 days.
Even Paul Finebaum got in on the act on WJOX in Birmingham on Monday.
SEC Country’s Nick Cole got it all Monday:
“Yes, I do,” Finebaum started when asked if he thought Malzahn would “go home” to Arkansas after the 2017 season. “Let’s assume Gus Malzahn survives this season. He’s either going to have Jay Jacobs as his boss – someone with whom he doesn’t speak – or he’s going to have a new boss who has no vested interest or investment in him. So, if given the opportunity to go home where he can escape Auburn and escape the immediate shadow of Nick Saban – now, listen, you still play Saban at Arkansas – but the expectations at Arkansas are ‘Have an 8-4 season, maybe win your bowl game and we’ll throw you a parade.’ At Auburn, 8-4 gets you fired.”
It appears that Malzahn’s contract has no non-compete clauses involved and there’s no buyout for Auburn if he leaves that we can find. Alabama colleges found out years ago they basically weren’t worth the paper they were printed on so quit worrying about it (yes, I know coaches that challenged them in that state and won … easily).
Malzahn is just as polarizing in this state now as he was 12 years ago.
We were told by some former Razorback Foundation employees there were clauses in long-term commitments that voided them if Malzahn was ever named coach, but that may or may not be accurate.
But who knows? This will all shake itself out over the next 30 days or so.
As will some other positions in Fayetteville.
You can hear the entire interview here:
— WJOX 94.5 FM (@WJOX945) October 23, 2017