Sallee: Gus Malzahn's Big Move To Arkansas St
New Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn
New Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn
Posted Dec 14, 2011

CFN SEC Columnist Barrett Sallee discusses Gus Malzahn's move to Arkansas State, why it happened and what it means for Auburn.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

Gus Malzahn finally got his head coaching gig - it's just not at a place that anyone would have ever imagined.

Twelve months after turning down Vanderbilt and dismissing Maryland in favor of taking a $1.3 million per year extension to stay as offensive coordinator of the Auburn Tigers, Malzahn has taken a head coaching job... Arkansas State.


As was first reported by, Gus Malzahn has accepted an offer worth around $800,000 per season to become the head coach of the Arkansas State Red Wolves.

The obvious reaction is, "what?"

Malzahn had plenty of opportunities after the 2010 National Championship season to take a head coaching job, but passed. In 2011, the shine came off of his offense a bit. Auburn finished the regular season ranked No. 104 in total offense and No. 106 in passing offense. More importantly, the game plan Malzahn used in Auburn's final two SEC games appeared lazy and bland - almost as if he already had one foot out the door.

You will hear a lot of talk that Malzahn's decision is an indication that Auburn is a "sinking ship." That's also lazy. This is more about ego.

The pace of Auburn's offense - which is a point of pride for Malzahn - clearly slowed down before Auburn's win over South Carolina, after it became obvious that the defense couldn't handle the quick turnarounds. The more conservative approach worked vs. the Gamecocks, but as the season progressed, that plan backfired. Not only was the defense awful, but the offense became equally as listless.

Is Arkansas State the caliber of job as Vanderbilt? No. Malzahn made a bad decision passing on bigger jobs last offseason, and he'll probably be the first to admit that. But that doesn't mean that this job in and of itself is baffling. It's a head coaching job where he can find out if he's capable of doing this on the FBS level, and it's in his home state of Arkansas. Don't underestimate the importance of going home.

For Auburn, this doesn't look good - at least on the surface. Losing a hot shot offensive coordinator one year after he appeared to make a big commitment to the program to a school like Arkansas State will certainly leave a mark. But it's not a matter of impending doom, sinking ships or crazy conspiracy theories. It's a matter of a coach chasing his dream of becoming a head coach.

You can't fault him for that.

Now you have Auburn, Alabama and Florida all in the market for offensive coordinators. Let the games begin.

Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

2011 Regular Season Column Archive
Malzahn's Big Move - December 13, 2011
Ranking The SEC Bowls - December 10, 2011
Mathieu For Heisman - December 5, 2011
SEC Championship Game Live Thoughts - December 3, 2011
South Carolina's Historic Season - November 28, 2011
Arkansas Needs Some Help - November 21, 2011
For Alabama, Style Matters - November 14, 2011
Missouri To The SEC Is A Good Thing - November 7, 2011
Justice For Auburn and Cam Newton - October 12, 2011
Time For The Frazier Era At Auburn - October 10, 2011
Welcome Back Georgia To The SEC Chase - October 3, 2011
Florida Is The Class Of The East - September 26, 2011
Houston Nutt's Big Problems - September 19, 2011
South Carolina Is Legit - September 12, 2011
It's Over For Mark Richt - September 5, 2011

Click here for the 2011 Three & Out Archive
Click Here for the 2011 offseason column archive

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