John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn Football: Gus Malzahn Takes Charge, Sort Of


Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. –The Who, Won’t Get Fooled Again

The Auburn Tigers have a new head coach after a day of wild speculation, rumor and a rush to report hearsay as fact.

Who is the man they hired to replace Gene Chizik, to salvage what is left of Auburn’s dignity and to face not only Nick Saban but any impending NCAA penalties? Their previous offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn.

While Tiger fans bandied about such A-list names as Jimbo Fisher, John Gruden and Bob Stoops, and a blue-ribbon panel of Auburn greats like Bo Jackson and Pat Sullivan were tasked with the search for a new coach, the Auburn administration ultimately did exactly as we predicted:

The history of Auburn football since the Pat Dye era (an era that continues as long as he is among the powers behind the curtain) is one of up-and-comers, of former assistants and lower-level coaches getting a chance to climb to the next level. Why should this coaching search be any different?

Malzahn was a bird in the hand, as it were. The Auburn brass knew he would return if asked, and having him as a fallback allowed them to pursue Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, a favorite of former Auburn coach Pat Dye.

As you might expect from a disciple of one Nicholas Lou Saban, Smart insisted on full control of the program and a full accounting of the NCAA investigation of the Auburn football program. Any casual observer of the Auburn powers-that-be could have guessed that none of that would happen, so Smart passed.

Saying Smart was not offered the coaching position is accurate but incomplete. He was not offered the job because he set conditions the Auburn administration would not meet.

So it came to be that Auburn got the guy many suspected would be the next coach all along. All of the pie-in-the-sky wishes were just that. Bobby Petrino was a bridge too far, even for this administration. And the up-and-comer they coveted wanted actual – not nominal – control of the program, something Auburn gave to Pat Dye in 1981 and he has since refused to relinquish.

Malzahn now holds the keys to the Auburn football program in the way a teenager holds the keys to the family car; with the understanding that he is merely borrowing it from the real owners.

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