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It’s Wrong To Try To Force Gus Malzahn To Accept a New Deal

By on November 29th, 2018 in Football, News 31 Comments »

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.”


  1. Got to admit, I got off the Gus Bus partially after the home loss to the Vols but all the way after last Saturday, but your right ATM, this is no way to treat any coach. If you don’t want him as your coach, fire him. Not any of this making promises and signing contracts and then trying to wiggle out of them because you made a bad deal.

  2. neonbets says:

    Malzahn leveraged an Arkansas offer to re-negotiate to a more favorable last December.

    Auburn is leveraging a sorry, disappointing season to a more favorable deal this November.

    The President and Trustees are doing their job. Finally.

    • Malzahn didn’t leverage the Arkansas job, Jimmy Sexton did. That’s what agents do to earn their money. And Steven Leath didn’t have to make that deal. He was taken to the wood shed by Sexton and now has made a bad situation worse. It’s simple, pay the guy or fire the guy and move on.

      • neonbets says:

        That’s what agents do to earn their money. Hilarious. So Gus has no autonomy over his agent? In your world, Jimmy Sexton is the boss, and Gus just needs to do as he’s told.

        And Steven Leath didn’t have to make that deal.

        Guess what? And now—Malzahn doesn’t have to do this deal. You know, this seems like a good time for Jimmy Sexton to do his job. In case you didn’t know— That’s what agents do to earn their money.

  3. uglyjoe says:

    I’m not discounting anything anybody is saying, but can somebody explain to me exactly what the deal is that leeth has put forth to malzahn?

  4. When Steven Leath was hired from Iowa State I was concerned that he would not understand how important football is in the SEC. He continues to prove he has little to no understanding of how to do his job as it relates to athletics. Now he has compounded his bad decision from last December with this embarrassing move. What a mess he’s made of things!

  5. Tigerz Tigerz says:

    This article nails it … I wasn’t happy after the UT fiasco, the end of the 1st half against uat, and quitting against uat in the 4th. I don’t expect Auburn to always win but I do expect us to be competitive and our coaches never quit on their players. On that front, Malzahn has failed us and the players.

    So, pay him what he’s due or give Malzahn your 100% support (for the duration). Anything less would be dishonorable.

    As for Leith, I’m curious as to his buyout?? He struck out negotiating this mess. He struck out mouthing off about Bruce Pearl. Now he’s struck out not quashing this circus the moment it came up. If anyone needs to go, it’s Leith.

  6. I genuinely do not see anything morally wrong with AU going to Gus and saying, "look, this did not turn out like we had hoped. That is on us. Tell you what, you give us some additional controls and maybe give back some money, and we will not have to fire you (and pay your severance). Whaddayasay?"

    Contract re-negotiations happen all the time. Gus can always say, "Nah – fire me and pay me or let me do my job." He does not have to entertain the offer. He is a big boy (with some great agent representation). It is not personal, and it is not unethical or wrong. Just a business decision.

    Now, do not get me wrong – I think that it is a terrible decision for AU. They should have the stones to fire and pay or let him work. Hobbling your coach is not likely to bear much fruit, to badly mix a metaphor. Not to mention how disorganized it makes the program look.

    But AU has the right to ask him to change the deal, and Gus has the right to decide what he wants to do. Just business.

  7. Jonathon Jonathon says:

    Sorry but I disagree. AND I agree with neonbets. Malzahn didn’t deserve the contract he got, let alone using, boldly, his own leverage to get it. We thought that there weren’t other valid coaching options, so shame on us. This year proved what we’ve all known: Gus is not a great coach. So yeah, he needs to renegotiate so we can ‘can’ him without such a heavy buyout burden.. because that’s what this is. Gus had his chance, on more than one occasion and failed, miserably. Heisman campaign QB, Best D-Line in country, an accomplished run game, and… 7-5 (?). Huh? With terrible statistics along the way.
    Tenured professors at Auburn educating the next round of industry leaders do not earn in five years what Gus makes in one game while losing to a team we should beat.
    Why does Auburn have to be the laughing stock of the SEC? We don’t, but Gus has put us in that category on multiple occasions.

  8. jbellison56 says:

    If they don’t believe in Gus they should have just fired him. Leath has made us the laughing stock of college football.

  9. uglyjoe says:

    Here’s a novel idea… Why don’t we let the president of the university handle the day-to-day activities of a major academic and research university, and let the athletic director handle athletics? I love football as much as anybody else, but the university does not exist because of football, it’s the other way around…. I heard we just hired a really good athletic director, let’s have him earn his money.

  10. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I have to agree with the majority sentiment, on these new developments. And many thanks to AubTigerman for tackling this subject, so I won’t have to, tomorrow! You might make that offer to an employee, but you really don’t want it leaked, which is what apparently happened.

    …..6 years ago, we did not hire a traditional coach. And also, you have to question whether either the AD or the Prez knows how to evaluate prospective assistant coaches. Why yank that away from an experienced head coach? Do they think they can make better decisions?

    …..The right thing to do is either get wholly behind Gus, or dump him and pay. This is very reminiscent of Prez Phillpot trying to low-ball Vince Dooley back in early 1981, offering him less money than he was making at Georgia. In other words, incompetence.

  11. AUwaterboy AUwaterboy says:

    I don't mind saying I'm still a Gus supporter BUT I don't won't him to stay under these conditions. All they’re doing is trying to get him to lower the buy out so they can fire him next year. That's wrong and besides kids are smart. They'll decide to not sign with a program that has a dead man walking.

  12. No body comes away from this thing looking good and no coach worth anything will want to work for a school that treats its employees like this. Its a sorry mess that should have never gotten this far. Sometimes it seems like Auburn is its own worst enemy.

  13. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    IMO, They called CGM in on Sunday to fire him. CGM said “wait a dad gum minute cause I want to stay at Auburn because nest year we will win 10+ games”. CGM says “is there any way I can stay”. Leath says yes; but with conditions. Then, this mess was birthed!

    • Hanlon’s Razor suggests you may be correct – Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity. It is worth noting that AU has a sad, sorry history of upper-level mismanagement and seemingly random, knee-jerk decision making.

      • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

        Or, Occam’s Razor —

        Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.

        More things should not be used than are necessary. Or, in my feeble mind, the simplest is generally the best.

        • I had considered using Occam’s Razor, but decided it would be more pretentious and obscure to cite Hanlon’s Razor, so I used that.

          But then you had to trump me with your latin. Damn!

          • ATL_AU_FAN ATL_AU_FAN says:

            Just having fun – no offense intended!
            And, speaking of no offense…

  14. Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

    I have buddies who are pilots. Theres a saying: it’s not the first mistake that kills you. It’s ignoring the first mistake and making a second.

    In my mind, you can’t be mad about the current situation if you weren’t mad about the first.

    It was a colossal mistake to make the deal that was made. Either pay the man and fire him or let him coach. Anything else is failure to acknowledge the issue and will result in going down in flames.

    Of course, it’s all academic now since it appears the second mistake has been made.

  15. Orange Talon Orange Talon says:

    I’m not a Gus fan as a head coach, never have been, but I absolutely agree that a deal is a deal and Auburn should honor it or buy Gus out.

    There are a couple of issues for me though. I agree Auburn has taken a PR hit but not from the recent actions of the President/Board. The PR hit is due to the underachieving 7-4 season the Gus Bus coughed up after being super-hyped by the return of Jarrett Stidham (“it’s his offense now”) and “the best defense in college football”, all of which fizzled.

    “Hurts recruiting in the short-run”, really? Auburn’s recruiting (for the short-run) resulted in a 7 win season, loses to far inferior teams, and blow outs by teams that recruit for the long-run. You are correct, poor recruiting hurts the team in the long-run, that’s exactly why Auburn is in this mess, they recruit for the short-run which results in a shallow talent pool primarily comprised of 3 star talent.

    There’s so much more to this hot mess that no one wants to address, but suffice to say, Auburn is in disarray, again. The common denominator? You, me and the whole college football world knows.

  16. WDE says:

    For Gus or against…….

    I know I am in the minority here but this wreaks of “Fake News” and Auburn beat writers’ “Click Bait.”

    Granted I am cynical when it comes to any media but in today’s world of 24/7 news – no traffic is no bueno to advertisers! And when the Bama and UGA beat writers are getting all the clicks this week… has to be created (as opposed to reported).

    Again, I am know I am in the minority.

  17. Solojoe says:

    So let me get this straight…
    If this rumor is correct (and until I see it as a full blown confirmed and corroborated report in the news, it is an unsubstantiated rumor) the AU president made an offer to the head coach that he can stay one more year but if and only if he accepts a rewritten contract that makes it easier for him to get fired after next season if he doesn't turn things around.

    Also as part of the deal the head coach can't make any changes to the staff regardless of whether he thinks changes would be required to make things better like O-Coordinator, running backs coach, O-line coach, etc..

    So the AU president, with this offer, is essentially saying that we want to keep everything the same but we expect different results. I always heard that doing the exact same thing and expecting a different result was the definition of insanity. Is Leath and/or whomever came up with this idea insane?

    In my opinion Gus would have to be insane to agree to it. They are tying his hands, throwing him in the water and expecting him to competitively swim. Not to mention what something like this would do to recruiting both currently and for the coming year. Talk about dead man walking.

    This would all but assure that Gus would fail next year and be fired and that the football program would be digging out of this mess for years to come.

    I sincerely hope that this rumor/story is either completely false, made-up, misunderstood or some of the major parts of it are very wrong. Otherwise, barring some monumental miracle next year, we will be handing Alabama, Georgia and LSU more than they could ever have hoped for and AU will become a basketball school for years to come.

    Am I understanding this correctly and/or am I over-reacting?

    • Solojoe says:

      I wanted to add that if it’s true then I really hope Gus will not accept the deal as is. They should either fire him and pay what they agreed to or get behind him 100% and let him make the changes he thinks need to be made to get the program moving in the right direction. Anything less would be failure in the making.

    • Tigerpharm says:

      Pretty much sums it up.

  18. […] for a new offensive coordinator has revealed just how much Gus Malzahn has been handicapped by a new deal worked out last week to retain his position as head coach. He reportedly accepted an offer […]

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