It’s Wrong To Try To Force Gus Malzahn To Accept a New Deal
Shanna Lockwood / USA TODAY Sports
The events swirling around the Auburn football program the last few days are simply mind boggling. With irritation bubbling up over the Tigers’ 7–4 record, exacerbated by the blowout loss to No. 1 Alabama, President Steven Leath (along with some encouragement from at least one trustee) ‘may’ have made a move that could damage the program.
By now the entire nation has heard the rumor that Leath tried to bluff Gus Malzahn into balking at an offer to retain his job by asking him to make a new deal. To their surprise Gus may be considering the offer. Reports say that offer would include reducing the huge buyout that Leath agreed to less than 12 months ago along with requiring Gus to relinquish some control of the program. The specifics of the second demand have not been revealed, but sources close to the situation (including 247’s Phillip Marshall) say one of those limitations would be the ability to make changes to his staff.
If the reports are true, it’s unbelievable that Gus would even come to the table, especially to discuss limitations on his ability to run his program. It just goes to show how much he wants to remain the Tigers’ coach. It’s not a money issue with him, it’s a desire to stay in Auburn. But to consider staying with restraints on his ability to run the program defies logic for both Gus and also the University. Why would a school want to keep a coach and make it more difficult for him to win?
If the reports are not accurate then Dr Leath needs to make an announcement to the contrary. Failure to do so damages the program in the short run because it could not have come at a worse time. While Auburn coaches are crisscrossing the country to stock the stalls with future talent, they are being cut off at the knees by opposing coaches who are using the noxious situation to undercut Auburn recruiting efforts at every turn.
Poor recruiting also hurts the future for the long run. In addition, the way this has been handled will give pause to any top coaching prospect even to want to consider the Auburn job.
Frankly, if Gus decides to cave and take less money, that’s his business, but I hope he doesn’t agree to those “limitations” terms. It would set a bad precedent.
Hobbling a coach with restraints (be it Gus or the next guy) is no solution for building a winning program. In fact it’s a recipe for disaster. If he or the next coach can’t hire who they want and can’t run the program the way they want, then there will certainly be more disappointing seasons the likes of which Tennessee has had to endure the past decade, except Tennessee’s situation did not involve spurious actions by the administration.
The Auburn football brand has taken a big PR hit. And unless Leath does the honorable thing, the program may have been damaged to the point it could take years to recover. The fact that Leath agreed to a contract that defied logic thereby upsetting many in the fan base should not be an excuse to deal dishonorably now.
It doesn’t matter if those reading this are pro Gus or want to see him leave. This is a matter of doing the right thing—something the Auburn Creed alludes to.
What the president and the trustees should do is give their coach everything he needs (including their 100 % support) to be successful; either that or ante up the buyout that Leath put his name to last December and replace him with the man of their choice.
To do otherwise is at best unprincipled and at worst smacks of dishonest dealings. Maybe new presidents should be required to memorize the Auburn Creed; in particular the line that reads …
““I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.”