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Auburn: Who Are We?

By on November 26th, 2018 in Football 19 Comments »

The 2018 regular season closed this past Saturday with the annual Iron Bowl. In the wake of the blowout, Auburn fans find themselves not only at a crossroads but pointing fingers at one other over justifying a head coach. 

With the book closed, the conversations and arguments have shifted from numbers and games to boil down to this: 

“Auburn is historically an 8–5 team that occasionally over-achieves.” That’s typically followed by “Whom would we hire that’s better?” Lastly, “A new coaching staff would set Auburn back a decade.”

Some want Malzahn gone. Some are OK with the historical status quo. And many are pointing fingers at who are the good fans and who are the bad fans.

Auburn fans, who are we? 

Let’s start with my favorite of the lines that I hear: “Auburn is historically an 8–5 team that occasionally over-achieves.” Since you are an Auburn fan, at some point there was a generation who said to their son or daughter “I want you to have what I never had.” Thus began the cycle of new expectations. That likely began with your family’s first college graduate, possibly from Auburn University.

Not accepting the status quo is the reason you are an Auburn fan to begin with. Accepting the status quo stands in the way of progress, and unless you’ve been living under a rock, there is only one school that should be okay with maintaining the status-quo. Let me tell you, the coach from across the state will not accept the status quo, which is why Alabama is in the midst of the most powerful dynasty college football has ever seen. For Auburn to have that rival and to be okay with 8–5 is simply shocking. It should be a wake-up call. 

Maintaining the status quo wasn’t good enough for LSU or Georgia, both of which are part of Auburn’s schedule every single year. It wasn’t good enough for Utah State or Boise State, whose football programs have risen from absolute obscurity to yearly relevance. The two programs had a Top 25 showdown Saturday night in the Mountain West Conference. It wasn’t good enough for Bill Clark and the UAB Blazers, who have put together two incredible seasons, back to back, after the program was canceled.

Somehow, 8–5 is good enough for Auburn? And we are supposed to accept that? 

“Whom would Auburn hire that’s better?” Let me just stop you right there and point out that Auburn hired its last two head coaches with a combined three years of head-coaching experience. Am I thankful for the 2010 and 2013 seasons? Absolutely. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything but …


let’s not pretend that Jay Jacobs went out and got the very best man for the job to begin with. To make the assumption that there is no one better than Gus Malzahn out there isn’t just near sighted, it’s foolish. Is it without risk? Absolutely not. Nothing ever is. Will it be cheap? Of course not. 

Does that mean that we Auburn fans should accept that there weren’t or aren’t better coaches out there? Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State, and Georgia didn’t think so. Those four teams made coaching changes in the last 24 months, and two of those teams fired proven 10-win-a-year coaches. All four teams have beaten Auburn at least once in that period with Georgia aiming to go back to the College Football Playoff for the second straight year.   

In the meantime, Malzahn has produced three seasons of mediocrity, which brings us to the next point many Auburn fans use: “A new coaching staff would set Auburn back a decade.” A decade from what? If Auburn is historically an 8–5 team that has had very few losing seasons in its storied history, what is there to fear? Those fans that say on one hand, “Auburn is historically an 8–5 team,” can’t use the line, “A new coaching staff would set Auburn back a decade.” There is simply no basis for that assumption. 

Auburn is not an 8–5 program, and it isn’t fair or right to compare the current state of Auburn athletics to records from the last 100 years. 

Fact: Auburn is one of the most profitable football programs in America. It was ranked No. 8 this past year by Forbes. It netted 56 million dollars last year. 

Fact: Auburn is one of the top recruiting schools in the country. According to the 247Sports.com rankings, under Malzahn it has never finished below 12th in the country. Auburn has never had trouble with elite recruits. Auburn has two Heisman winners, NFL Hall of Famers, and an entire backfield drafted in the first round in 2005—before Malzahn. Gus isn’t the reason Auburn is recruiting well. Auburn recruits well because it’s Auburn. 

The Auburn football program is a Top 10 program in terms of two of three things that matter: monetary support and recruits. It has finished in the Top 10 in final rankings just twice under Malzahn, both of those seasons ending in embarrassing losses. So, what’s the missing piece? 

It’s simple: a big money buyout to pay off Malzahn. Without an athletic director, newly minted President Leath was worked over by Super Agent Jimmy Sexton to the tune of 49 million dollars following the wins against Alabama and Georgia last season. The buyout is a cool $32.1 million, which ranks fifth in all of college football. The four in front of him? Coaches who have actually won National Championships. 

Gus is making $4.7 million a year.  It’s an insane amount of money to pay a coach on a yearly basis. It’s an even more insane amount for a buyout. To get a new coach, Auburn has to pay Gus or at least supplement an amount based upon what he’s paid by the next school to hire him, pay off assistants, and hire a new coaching staff. So, the talk about who to hire to replace him is moot and academic, really. If AD Allen Green wants to get rid of Malzahn, he can. And, if he wants to hire a big name coach, he can. 

Despite the two sides pointing fingers, neither side can do a single thing because of the decisions made above our pay grades. Being on either side doesn’t make you a bad fan. Calling other Auburn fans “bad fans” is what makes you a bad fan. 

19 Comments

  1. AtkinsonTiger AtkinsonTiger says:

    To answer your question: “Whom would Auburn hire that’s better?” …. How about Bob Stoops.

    That being said, I would prefer the administration/power brokers get 100% behind Gus and move forward. If they can't do that, how do you convince a new coach that he would have 100% support?

  2. Solojoe says:

    Wanting better should never make you a bad fan. I'm not sure I've been exposed to anyone calling anyone else a "bad fan" just because they wanted/expected better results especially considering the amount of money Auburn was dishing out on football for coaching, facilities, staff, etc.. I would hope that every Auburn fan wanted better not just for Auburn Football but for Auburn everything and I'll argue with anyone who thinks that 8 wins in football should be part of our status quo just like expecting to lose to our major rivals on the road should be a given. I don't think that's acceptable and I don't think I'm a "bad fan" for it.

    Does anyone think Saban, Smart or any other coach comes to Jordan-Hare expecting anything except a win? I definitely don't think that wanting to go in a different direction with the coach and/or staff makes anyone a "bad fan" either just like not thinking a coaching change is the way to go makes you one either. We all have our opinions on what ails Auburn and how to fix it. We all wish for improvement and that should never make us bad fans.

    Now having said that, I do think I was witness to what I would consider a "bad fan" poster not just on this site but on some others as well. I've touched on this in some of my previous posts. There are some folks who were hoping for losses just so the powers-that-be would have no choice but to fire Malzahn.

    They actually were disappointed because Auburn didn't just fold and lose the last five games. They tried so hard to make everyone think that the players didn't want to play and that the team had given up on the coaches like they themselves had as a way to justify their feelings even though anyone with any understanding of football could see that the team was still fighting as hard as they could for the coaches until the final whistle.

    These so called 'fans' gave no consideration to the players, the staff or the fans and families who went to the games to support the team at their own expense. They gave no regard to the seniors who were out there giving their all for the team in their last year playing, either.

    Their justification for not taking all these other things into consideration was that it was for the greater good of Auburn Football and that it would be better for the younger players in the long run so it was OK to hope for their failure.

    Some gave the weak reasoning that they were against only Gus and not the team as if you could separate the two. It seems they don't understand that you can’t really hope for one to fail without hoping the other fails also. If you were hoping for Gus to lose while he's coaching Auburn then you were hoping for Auburn and the players to lose. Those things are inseparable and if you are hoping for the players to lose (regardless of reason) then in my book that is what makes you a "bad fan".

    I have never and will never pull against an Auburn team, coach or player in a game ever, period. I used to make fun of Bama fans for being like that but I guess we have 'em too. Sad.

  3. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    I wish I could say that someone [pres, bot] knew what they were doing when they decided to pump more $ into CGMs contract. Sadly, I cannot. Les Miles took 5 stars and coached them down to 3 stars at LSU. That is why they let him go. I fear CGM is doing the same thing at Auburn. My church changes pastors every 4 years or so. I do not base my membership on who the pastor is at any given time. I have been mildly shocked at the fervor of some fans to get CGM to leave. Auburn has a very high percentage of fans who are also alumni [unlike that other university]. That is why we care so much.

  4. meathead530 says:

    The tigers are a team full of talent, but lack a solid coach. That’s why we have mediocrity. I wish I could see passion with GCM.

  5. neonbets says:

    I think you’re missing one key point: If you really want to change the status quo–Auburn needs more than a head coaching switch. Or AD switch for that matter.

    You’re trusting the same group of ‘trustees’ who got us into the Malzahn Guarantee Debacle to begin with. I would be all for a coaching switch–but only if there are consequences to the people who guaranteed him.

    And I have to admit–I really am ignorant on the governance of the institution. Who are these people? What’s their function, how much do they make, how can one (or all) be removed? Did they have to approve the Malzahn guarantee, or was it an unsupervised call by the AD? I should know better.

    Regardless, if you want to dump a coach 1 year into an outrageous guarantee –there should be consequences to the ‘adults’ supposedly supervising things.

    You’re not advocating a change in status quo. Not really, Instead, you’re advocating the use of Monopoly money, no transparency, and no accountability–all in the hopes that the school will strike lightning in a bottle with a new Coaching Messiah. Sounds like more of the same to me.

    If Malzahn’s head needs to roll, it needs to be in a long line. Auburn needs a Revolution—just not an American one. We need to go French style, circa 1792.

  6. challenger10 says:

    Great write up.

    It truly amazes me at the vitriol aimed at the entire team and coaching staff. However, Gus, nor any coach for that matter doesn’t try to lose. He just doesn’t appear to be a very good head coach and unless he can consistently beat our rivals then he should be replaced.

    One final item, I believe Auburn has had three Heisman winners not two, Pat, Bo and Cam.

  7. Randyc37 Randyc37 says:

    A great read Zach. Perhaps I will see you around the softball field this season. I will just quote Cole Cubelic on his show. “It can never be acceptable to lose to your biggest rival by 31 points”.

  8. Jason Wright says:

    Good article Zach

  9. Jonathon Jonathon says:

    Good write up! It’ll be interesting to see what unfolds moving forward.

  10. AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

    Phillip Marshall is reporting that Pres Leath and Gus are on the brink of a new contract where the buyout would be reduced along with Malzahn accepting "other limitations" and his future as head coach would be guaranteed for a seventh year.

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      If this is so … it looks like Gus didn't learn anything from Houston Nutt and he's not listening to Jimmy Sexton because all he's doing is making it easier to be let go after the year (that Allen Greene had already verbally committed to) in order to remain through 2019. I say that because there are some boosters/ trustees that will not be satisfied with anything less than a natty next year.

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Also, why would he agree to "other limitations?" He must really want to stay bad and prove he can get it done.

      Although a new contract would be good for Auburn, the Right Reverend Houston Nutt would take the money and go be a talking head on a sports network.

      • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

        I’m not sure I qualify as a “donor that matters” but what I’m hearing is that CGM wants to remain head coach at Auburn and is willing to give up some manner of control, including potential staff changes, to accomplish such.
        I mean, seriously, he already has enough money to pursue anything he wants, within reason.

  11. WDEGirl says:

    100% agree with you, Zach (I’ve been accused of being your wife, so be it ; ) All the “who are you going to get???” is exaggerated by the Media. Then in their next breath, they talk about how bad your coach is.

    Because of the recruiting is why we can’t afford to keep Malzahn. What recruit wants to come to a school who is 1-4 or possibly about to be 1-5 in bowl games?? or wants to come to a school that never beats their rivals or only once in a blue moon??? None of them.

    They want to win and get in 1) the CFP 2) the NFL. Auburn can’t deliver on those things. Yeah some AU players get in the NFL, but not as many as AL, Ohio State, Clemson. What do they have in common? multiple trips to the CFP. AL and OSU are 1 & 4 with most active NFL players on 2018 rosters, Clemson is 8.

    Most draft picks in last 10 years:
    1) AL & LSU = 65
    2) USC = 62
    3) Ohio State = 56
    4) Florida = 55

  12. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    This will make it easier to fire CGM next year if we have another embarrassing loss like the Tennessee loss this year. We do not need an offensive coordinator any longer. CGM can take over the entire offense.

  13. Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

    Who is to say they also couldn’t negotiate it down and immediately buy him out?

    It’s all pretty nuts. Then again, it already was.

    I’m shocked that malzahn even came to the table. I wouldn’t. I’d tell Greene to pound sand. Leave me alone or pay me to leave.

  14. Orange Talon Orange Talon says:

    Auburn’s current football dilemma can be boiled down to a couple of questions I think: (1) Is Auburn in it for the short-run? Is it more important to win as many games as possible year-to-year, using a coach who employs a “system” of RPO’s, gimmick plays, sugar huddles, etc. to attract a shallow talent pool of players the majority of which will never play a down in the NFL, OR (2) is Auburn in it for the long haul? Is it more important to consistently win more games each year, over a period of years, using a coach who employs a pro style “system” to attract a deep talent pool of players all of which are looking to make the jump to the NFL?

    From a simple economics standpoint, either choice for Auburn University will be/is just as profitable ($$) than the other. However, from the 5-star recruit’s standpoint, deciding what school represents his best chance of getting to the NFL ($$) makes his choice that much easier.

    Auburn has played football for 126 years now compiling a record of 749-432-47 which equates to a .629 win percentage all time. In all of those years, Auburn has only had 13 10+ win seasons, 12 of which were undefeated seasons, and 2 NC’s.

    It’s pretty clear, to me at least, which business model Auburn has historically chosen to use.

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