The Calm Before the Storm
Call it the calm before the storm. After a week of rumors and flight tracking, all has gone quiet on the Auburn coaching front, which means a decision is likely close at hand. With the regular season over, Auburn is expected to move fast now.
They’ll have to be quick, Arkansas and Tennessee have made it clear they are prepared to open up their wallets and target some of the same candidates on Auburn’s list.
Interviews are believed to have been conducted yesterday and expected to continue today. Don’t be surprised to see an announcement as early as tomorrow.
The speculation over the last seven days has been comical. Every big name from Bob Stoops to Chris Petersen to Jeff Fisher has been mentioned. All these reports have come courtesy of unnamed sources. Some web sites have been doing hourly updates, throwing out a new name each time. I suppose its good for business, but I trust those stories about as much as I do the National Enquire.
Talking with fellow TET writer AubTigerman over the weekend, we are in agreeance on Auburn’s philosophy. They’ll likely swing for the fences with names like Stoops, Petersen and Jeff Fisher; and if rebuffed, they’ll settle on one of these four: Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn, former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino or Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
Could there be a surprise choice? History says yes. Pat Dye was certainly a long-shot at the beginning of Auburn’s search back in late 1980. Most of that search focused on Georgia coach Vince Dooley and even included former Denver Bronco coach and Americus, Georgia native Dan Reeves.
Terry Bowden was a shocker to most everyone when hired from Samford at the end of 1992. And we all know the reception Gene Chizik received after being named coach in 2008.
Don’t count out Bama’s Smart or another big-name coordinator. While he is young and unproven as a head coach, some of Smart’s predecessors in the business have proven this model works. You’ll remember that Mark Richt, Stoops, Jimbo Fisher and Will Muschamp all landed big jobs and succeeded without head coaching experience.
Who’s most likely to end up on the Plains? Flip a coin. I would guess Auburn places Jimbo Fisher at the top of its list. It’s reported that Tennessee is also very interested. Would he leave FSU? With conference realignment going strong again, he has to be worried about the long-term relevance of his program in the ACC. I still believe Fisher landing at Auburn is highly unlikely.
Without question, Bobby Petrino is the best coach available. He’s also the most divisive. Is Auburn willing to put up with the public relations hit and a divided fan base? Possibly.
Malzahn is the safest choice. He knows Auburn the best. He’s a genuine offensive genius and knows how to score points and beat Alabama, LSU and Georgia.
In recent days, many have brought into question some of the recruits he greenlighted to Auburn while offensive coordinator that turned into behavioral problems. He’ll certainly have to answer in front of the search committee.
However, sources say that Malzahn grew frustrated last season with the lack of discipline inside the program and tried repeatedly to get Chizik to address them before they exploded. Some say it’s one of the reasons he left for Arkansas State. Then again, he allowed Mike Dyer to transfer with him.
So here we sit. In the final analysis, we know little more today than we did last Monday. Look for that to change fast.
Stay close to your computer over the next few days. Continue to check back with us often. As soon as we know something, we’ll let you know. These are exciting times for Auburn. Let’s hope the committee gets it right.