Just when Auburn thought it had escaped one of the craziest, most contengious post-season coaching grabs in recent memory, Gene Chizik now has reason to worry. While there has been no official word of Lousiana Tech officials asking for permission to interview offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, the odds of that happening are extremely high.
In the wake of Derek Dooley’s hire at Tennessee, Malzahn’s name has been mentioned prominately as a successor at the Rustin, Louisiana school. Outside of Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, Malzahn is arguably the hottest assistant coach south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The question today is whether it’s a good move for Malzahn both professionally and finanacially. Considering Dooley just landed one of the most coveted jobs in college football, you’d have to say professionally, it’s not a bad move. Financially, you would figure Malzahn would break even. His $350,000 Auburn salary is comparable to what Dooley was pulling down at Tech.
Don’t be shocked to hear Malzahn at least listen should Tech call. If nothing else, he could use it for leverage to get a raise at Auburn.
Speaking of Dooley, something tells me he’s going to work out at Tennessee. He was a candidate at Auburn last year, but was deemed to be too inexperienced. Many will argue that a 4-8 season this year hardly shows progress. Watching Louisiana Tech play in Jordan-Hare Stadium last September, you had to be impressed with their coaching.
Why did Dooley get the job? One of the primary reasons was the recommendation he received from former Georgia Bulldog Will Muschamp. When Muschamp turned the Vols down, he pointed them in Dooley’s direction. Just like in business, it’s all about networking.
There’s something amazingly cool about seeing Dooley asscend to the top job in Tennessee. After all, it started with his father, Vince leaving Mobile after high school in 1951 to begin his adult life in Auburn. Playing under legendary coach Shug Jordan, the senior Dooley will forever be associated with the Georgia football program. But he will also always be an Auburn graduate and Auburn man and that legacy continues today in Knoxville.
Walking into Beard-Eaves Coliseum on Saturday afternoon, I thought I’d entered the Twilight Zone. The building was sold out, and Auburn was playing like it was relevant again in the SEC. Did the players and fans not get the memo that The Sporting News just this week called Auburn the handsdown worst team in the conference?
Despite appearing a foot shorter at every position and having no inside game, Jeff Lebo’s Tigers somehow had a chance to win in the final minute. Sitting next to the sizable, raucous pregame Kentucky crowd, you could hear a pin drop for most of the second half as Auburn outscored the Wildcats 41-33.
Even though Auburn came up short in a 72-67 loss, it got the attention of Kentucky coach John Calipari. “I always respected Jeff Lebo and the job he does, but what he did today to keep his team right there to win the game was incredible.”
Lebo still faces an uphill battle in trying to save his job. The days of moral victories are over. But if he continues to get the effort he got Saturday, you have to believe he’ll have a fighting chance.