Auburn’s brilliant offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is reportedly set to become the new Arkansas State head coach. The 46-year-old guided Cam Newton to a national championship and is considered one of the top coaching commodities on the market.
So, given all that, why on earth would he take a job in the Sun Belt?
One of the biggest reasons is that he was born and raised in Arkansas and spent the bulk of his coaching career in the state. There were a number of head coaching jobs Malzahn was considered for, including Vanderbilt a year ago, North Carolina and Kansas.
The argument could certainly be made that he would want to start off small in a place he is familiar with to truly get a hang of being a head coach before moving on to bigger and better things.
However, there is one lingering question amid all of this. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof decided abruptly to leave Auburn last week for the same position at Central Florida.
Yes, UCF’s head coach George O’Leary was his mentor at Georgia Tech, but by all reports he chose to leave Auburn.
Add to that the fact that Malzahn “was willing to take a relatively large pay cut” and you have to wonder if something else isn’t at play. He could have easily stuck around for one more year at Auburn and be almost assured of a great job next year and not have to take a pay cut.
It wouldn’t be surprising in the least if something else forced his hand. It could be a result of tension with Gene Chizik or the athletic director after this video of Malzahn's wife made its way onto the internet. It could come from his feeling about the attitude of Michael Dyer and how it represented a possible shift in culture for the team. On the other hand, it could stem from the arrests at the beginning of the season in connection to an armed robbery.
Obviously, we don’t know what his thought process was through this and taking this job really could be the best thing for him and his family. However, from an outside perspective, it’s hard to believe that a coach of his pedigree would really settle for a job at Arkansas State.