Does Malzahn to Arkansas State mean Auburn imploding?

Gus Malzahn's departure to Arkansas State has led to speculation of a rift with Gene Chizik. (AP photo)

Gus Malzahn's departure to Arkansas State feeds speculation of rift with Gene Chizik. (AP photo)

Is the party over at Auburn?

The Tigers’ drop from unbeaten BCS champions to 7-5 (4-4 in the SEC) this season wasn’t a great surprise, given the loss of Cam Newton. The recent departure of defensive coordinator Ted Roof to Central Florida for the same job was a little surprising. But with Gus Malzahn’s reported decision to leave his $1.3 million job as Auburn’s offensive coordinator to become head coach of a Sun Belt Conference team, Arkansas State, for $850,000, you have to begin to wonder what’s going on down on The Plains.

Here’s the non-conspiratorial explanation of Malzahn’s decision: After turning down the Vanderbilt head coaching job last season, he realized his stock had dropped this season. He was desperate to get a head coaching position, thought he had the Kansas job locked up until Charlie Weis sold himself to the Jayhawks and suddenly was ready to take almost anything.

Also, while Jonesboro, Arkansas, might seem like Kabul to you and me, it’s close to home for Malzahn. And for $850,00 a year, he can live like the Clampetts.

But this is SEC country. Nothing like this happens without a good conspiracy theory or 20. Here are a few:

• RIFT CONSPIRACY: Chizik, believing Auburn’s spread offense worked in 2010 primarily because of Newton, started to put the clamps down on the Malzahn this season. He wants to change to something more conventional with more of a power running attack to compete against Alabama and LSU in SEC West. This is completely plausible from both standpoints — that Chizik felt a change was needed and Malzahn felt his power was being usurped. We’ll learn more when we see what offense the Tigers run next season. As for the Chizik-Malzahn relationship, Chizik said a few days ago (before Malzahn took the Arkansas State job):  “Gus and I have a great relationship, and we’ve had several discussions about moving forward in his career and where his goals are. At the end of the day, his decisions are going to be up to him and I’m sure he’s going to make the best decision for him and his family.”

•  DECLINING MARKET CONSPIRACY: Malzahn now regrets not taking the Vanderbilt job last season and he has become convinced that the Tigers will not be very good again next season, thereby further eroding his marketability for a head coaching job. So he figured he would take the Arkansas State job, which is almost certain to have a good season next year, believing that’s a better launching pad back to a BCS program than a declining Auburn.That also could explain why Roof would leave Auburn for Central Florida for the same job (although Roof also was under immense pressure for the Tigers’ poor defense this season).

• NCAA IS COMING CONSPIRACY: There’s really nothing to support this right now. But probably until we get at least a decade removed from the national title and the Newton era, SEC fans are going to drop hints on message boards that the NCAA is about to drop the hammer. Suffice to say, probation would hurt the program and likely diminish perceptions of the entire coaching staff.

• KRISTI MALZAHN CONSPIRACY: Yes, I watched Kristi Malzahn’s ramblings on YouTube from her recent talk at a Christian Leadership Summit. It was, well, excessive. But as for all this talk about her embarrassing the program and killing recruiting, I find that WAY overstated. I mean, come on. Seriously? Do you really think a recruit is sitting out there saying, “Well, I was going to sign with Auburn but it turns out the wife of the offensive coordinator is kinda crazy. So I think I’ll go to Florida instead.” Bottom line: I doubt very much that prompted Malzahn to flee Auburn.

So what are your thoughts on this? Did Malzahn make a mistake taking the Arkansas State job, or do you believe there’s substance to one of the juicy conspiracy theories?

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (

496 comments Add your comment

The Grinch

December 14th, 2011
11:05 pm

December 14th, 2011
10:55 pm

“you guys win every summer.”

And UF couldn’t win in the fall.


December 14th, 2011
11:11 pm

Weis obviously wants to go in a different direction with his offense…and I think he is making a smart move with this new direction…especially if he wants to compete without playing in the SEC East.

Captain America

December 14th, 2011
11:40 pm

Malzahn is a one trick pony whose offense sucks unless he has a $180,000 quarterback to run it. He’ll be two years and out at Arkansas State and be looking for a high school job.


December 15th, 2011
12:31 am

Auburn is the Casey Anthony of college football.


December 15th, 2011
12:32 am

Just curious, how hard is it for a school to change conference? ASU is getting big, their program is fantastic. I think they have out grown the sunbelt. I’d like to see something new for them. (maybe even take down the Hogs?) I proudly support them, I wear my A-state hat in Atlanta every single day

Battle Pigons/ kitties/ tree lovin cousin lovin folk.

December 15th, 2011
12:58 am

The Auburn fanbase is the stupidest bunch of hicks in America. I give the Bama people this much credit, they have a grip on reality. Auburn folks chug back on bathing/drinking water supply. Good luck living in the ignorance, you folks don’t need much help there. Next there is the Massacre on the Plains. ALL IN!

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

Chris Petersen

December 15th, 2011
3:29 am

No dog fan should bad mouth anybody after the school girl performance you gave against us. The SEC must have been really proud of you. LOL!!

Barn Burner

December 15th, 2011
4:19 am

At the end of last year they were saying the Barn had the best coaching staff in America.



December 15th, 2011
7:37 am

“Merry Chizmas from da Plains!”; December 14th; 12:17 pm

Good one! LMAO!


December 15th, 2011
8:09 am

The DAWG fans would love to have a conspiracy to talk about on the heels of a national championship. Of course, let us not forget the championship over 30 years ago that they still revel in today.


December 15th, 2011
8:13 am

DAWG Fans, one other thing, you guys would be amazed at the size of the BCS trophy when you see it in person. Don’t worry, I am sure next year is your year and you will get your chance (Where have we heard that one before?)

Vince Doodly

December 15th, 2011
8:13 am

Relax bullpuppies. Auburn will be just fine. Malzahn was ready to do his own thing. Im frankly glad he isnt in the SEC. Gus will win his share of games. Roof on the other hand was about 24 hours from being fired and got a gig with his ole buddy George O’leary.

Vince Doodly

December 15th, 2011
8:15 am

STUPIDEST COMMENT EVER MADE ON THIS BOARD: From Battle Pigons/ kitties/ tree lovin cousin lovin folk.: “Bama people have a grip on reality”

What kind of drain cleaner are you drinking?


December 15th, 2011
8:28 am

I know it’s off topic & I know Ga Southern is in South Ga but they are playing in National Semi Finals Sat. Is AJC aware of this? Go Eagles.


December 15th, 2011
8:37 am

Bama fans have a grip of reality?…wow, that says it all….Hey dawg fans go open your 1980 National Champion Coke bottles all you guys have in your house…it shouldn’t be too flat after 30 years…


December 15th, 2011
8:39 am

@crossdawg Mark Bradley is least he said he was hah…

Good morning all haha…seems we need a new topic…

James Young

December 15th, 2011
8:48 am

Sounds ugaly is full of little brother stuff, smells like a bunch of wet dogs


December 15th, 2011
9:12 am

How irresponsible is it for you to PUT INTO PRINT allegations about fictitious message board rumors about NCAA violations when Auburn just recently got a clean bill of health from the NCAA?? Since when does message board rumor get passed off as “journalism”? It is absolutely disgusting that you would put lies like that into print with direct evidence to the contrary.

UGA went undefeated when?????

December 15th, 2011
9:16 am

Let’s see here………………..AU was cleared by the NCAA of any wrong doing just about 6 weeks ago. The NCAA even looked at things as small as walk-ons eating after games, at tailgates. Sure, problems with the NCAA make sense………and UGA can also dream of going undefeated!
Let’s see…’s it go? “Well, back when Herschel was here……………”.

Ya gotta laugh at ‘em!


December 15th, 2011
9:33 am

Ark St. is a religious grounded athletic base. They seem to recruit from that position and look for their coaches to be of that nature. They played Auburn two years ago, the very first game for Cam Newton. They looked pretty good for what they were and played Auburn a competitive game. Brandon Reese the basketball player at Tech transferred from Ark. St. where he had been a super star freshman. Brandon came from Whitefield Academy in Atlanta and no one really noticed him until he had played down there in Arkansas. There are a lot of good athletics in the small religious private high schools, ask public school single A coaches, that go their for their faith and character. It is not a dumb move for Gus to be going where he can pull some of these kids into his program. He will do well and he is right there in SEC country where he will be noticed as a candidate for a SEC job. Smart move by him.


December 15th, 2011
9:36 am

“I know what a NC feels like. I was 10 in 1980 and remember like it was yesterday. So, you like UGA, got your one NC in 50 years, great. If you want to focus on recent activity, we can go there. UGA versus Auburn since 2005 = 5-1, since the turn of the century = 7-5. Please give up the ghost on the NC comments.”

When all UGAG fans have is their last 5 games vs Auburn you know things are horrible in leg humper nation.

Face it leg humpers, NO ONE cares about UGAG. UGAG hasn’t been relevant since Jimmy Carter left office.


December 15th, 2011
9:37 am

“Auburn is the Casey Anthony of college football.”

UGAG is the Jeffery Dohmer of college football.


December 15th, 2011
9:38 am

My wife and her roommate stole Jumping Joe off the gym roof facing in ‘73! Last we heard the Evil Witch roommate still has him.


December 15th, 2011
9:39 am

“Sounds ugaly is full of little brother stuff, smells like a bunch of wet dogs”

Yeah, GT has at least won national title in the last 30 years. In fact, even Georgia Southern has done more than UGAG in football.

Have fun that the Outhouse Bowl, mutts.


December 15th, 2011
9:40 am

Another thing, leg humpers. Your last national title came at the hands of an Auburn grad.


December 15th, 2011
9:41 am

“The Auburn fanbase is the stupidest bunch of hicks in America.”

Fan base is two words, troglodyte.


December 15th, 2011
9:44 am

UGA fans pointing fingers at another school without any merit or evidence. How many players have been kicked off the team or arrested in the last two years?

Answer: 18

UGA fans are the most ignorant, uneducated people in America. Not only do their AD’s get arrested with an underaged girl but they also give their hack head coach an extension for winning 10 games over very very mediocre teams.


Too tough

December 15th, 2011
9:44 am

jUst my opinion…I couldve coached the offense with Cam Newton, how hard would that be…you could see this season without Newton, below avg. (Just like when Bobby Cox coached Maddux, Glaving, Smoltz and AVery…I mean, come on, you and I could have coached the Braves and probably won another world series1)


December 15th, 2011
9:48 am

“I couldve coached the offense with Cam Newton”

Maybe you should apply with the Carolina Panthers.


December 15th, 2011
9:54 am

O’Leary is building a really good program down at UCF. I bet they could beat Auburn now. ND shot themselves in the foot letting this guy go. They found a coffee stain on his resume. You think anything in that resume influence them to hire him in the first place. UCF goes into the Big East next year. The Big East has O’Leary and Skip H at South Florida, don’t count that conference out of a run. Cincinnati and Louisville, are improved with great coaching too. This will make the CFU program even stronger. Now that I think about it I bet ya George could beat ND right now too.


December 15th, 2011
10:25 am

Malzahn left because he and Chizik realized the advanced high school offense (spread option) is not as difficult to defend against as they thought and that the losses will contnue to increase against talented and well coached teams. The Gators realized this two years ago and changed. Someday maybe the Yellow Jackets will also.

Ron Swanson

December 15th, 2011
10:43 am

2010 – Do your parents know how much time you are spending on their computer? You must be unemployed or seriously lacking in the motivation department. You’ve probably posted 50 comments in the last 12 hours.

Andy in Macon

December 15th, 2011
11:52 am

Just remember,,,just as it’s always 10 to 9 in Texas, at Auburn it’s always 6:15 (45 to 7)!!
Doesn’t matter who coaches 5 outta last 6!!


December 15th, 2011
11:55 am

“Imploding” is a little strong I think. Like Todd McShea (sp?) said at some point earlier this year, when he went to pro day he realized how “bad” (strong emphasis he put on that word) the “athletes” on that 2010 Auburn team were. If Auburn fans want to rag UGA fans about a one man team from 30 years ago, they need to take inventory of how fortunate they were to grab the laptop thief off the trash heap because, aside Fairley and Cam, they had zero. Therefore, implosion is too much. Maybe ‘realizing that AU sucked all along, coaches bail…’ would be a better description.


December 15th, 2011
1:04 pm

You guys always miss the small things.

LATE in the fourth quarter of LSU, after Onterio McCaleb had taken a hard head hit to the ground, Malzahn still had McCaleb in the game so he could score a TD against LSU’s third team defense. Thus, what was important to Malzahn, was Malzahn gettting a couple of stats.

Offensive implosion + a monstrous ego = Arkansas State HC job


December 15th, 2011
1:11 pm

Andy in Macon – Just think about how bad you want and what you would do for a BCS championship.


December 15th, 2011
1:31 pm

2010, you are an idiot. I’m glad Malzahn is gone!!

How did we expect to play defense with having to go three and punt every series. His offense was 104th in the nation!! Bring Ted Roof back and be glad Gus is gone!!

Ron Swanson

December 15th, 2011
1:33 pm

DAWGWISH, I just think about how badly I want a degree from Auburn and what I would do to be able to hang a tiger tail from the back of my pants

Monkey Says

December 15th, 2011
5:11 pm

DC just have a problem reading and comprehending.

The facts are:

3 Former Auburn players DID go on HBO and accuse Auburn of paying for play. 2 OF 3 refused to meet with NCAA Reps because Auburn wanted Attorneys present. Still left a black eye on the program. Very Very True.

The NCAA DID investigate Auburn for 15 months, and their report said there was “not credible, usable information to continue with the investigation”. However they did say they would “revisit” the situation if more information was made available to investigators. In other words, the key parties would not talk. Very Very True.

4 Players did rob fellow students at gun point and are awaiting trial. True, True, True. And you want to bring up UGA players….cannot remember UGA players with guns robbing fellow students.

The BOT at Auburn did have his bank fail, and 3 of his co-workers are in federal prison now, 1 convicted at trial, and 2 other pleaing out. And yes, over 400 employees and investors are suing Bobby Lowder for misappropriation of funds.. You said ” many other banks failed”, well dummy ..more banks did not fail than did fail and most that did are under federal investigation and Bobby Lowder and several members of his board are under investigation. How many of those board members are also on Auburn boards? 3 ..True True True.

Trooper Taylor is still involved with the initial investigation of illegal recruiting in Louisiana.
Willie Lyles just met with NCAA investigator again in the past 45 days to discuss Auburn.

Even while the guardians of recruits have less than nice things to say about Trooper-
… Lorio said the NCAA investigator also asked about Robinson’s grandmother, Lydia Robinson, whom Lorio said he has never met. Robinson said Wednesday she was not interviewed by the NCAA and declined further comment.

But she told last month that she was unhappy with Auburn’s recruitment of her grandson and Nelson having taken him to Auburn on unofficial visits. Robinson also hoped her grandson would choose another school.

She said Auburn’s coaches “weren’t very intelligent” and was especially critical of Taylor, who she says “got a lot of lies in there when he was talking.”

Cam Newton and Cecil Newton have both stated that they would not talk with NCAA investigators without an Auburn rep with them. They lived by that rule. The facts are the NCAA with pressure from the SEC changed rules to allow a player to remain eligible when in over 30 other cases the student athlete was ruled “permanently ineligible”, and in 14 other cases the NCAA restored eligiblity with the loss of games.

ERIC SMITH…who said lie lie lie…well here is the link and the proof…

AUBURN – Former Auburn running back Eric Smith was arrested for third degree domestic violence on Feb. 22, six days before the university confirmed he was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules.

Smith spent almost 12 hours at the Lee County Detention Center before being released on a $500 bond. The police report said Smith was sober and did not resist arrest. The university did not say when Smith was dismissed from the team.

Smith was also arrested for third degree assault before the 2009 season for striking another university student. Smith received youthful offender status in that case. He was suspended for a game.

Smith’s role during Auburn’s 2010 national championship run was primarily as a blocking back. He had one carry for zero yards for the season.

Auburn did have several of their largest booster under indictment and trial for Fraud. Several were found not guilty, others are now waiting new trials to be set in March 2012 for the rulings where the jury found themselves hung. True True True….

Learn to read and comprehend…you will go much further in life..

It is called internal IMPLODING and if you look up Auburn Football you will see it in action.


December 15th, 2011
5:36 pm

Ron – Enjoy mediocrity. Wait, next year is the year.

Monkey Says

December 15th, 2011
6:50 pm

SORRY DC….That post should have been directed toward GEORGE.

I owe you an apology..I apolgize..


December 14th, 2011
3:06 pm
fan base- “Just reading what Monkey wrote and I bleive everything he wrote is the truth. I did not see any of it not being reported or untruthful.” Lets just show you how dumb you are by looking at FACTS.

After 15 months and very much doubt about Cecil Newton getting paid for his son’s services, even though the money trail went cold, it is more than likely money passed hands. UNTRUE(there was no money trail to begin with because no money exchanged hands)

The HBO special with Auburn players telling how they go money and were paid for sacks, etc… UNTRUE (investigated by the ncaa for months and NOTHING was found and the players could not mention ANY details or names)

The year long journey of a federal court case surrounding some of Auburn’s biggest boosters paying off politicians. UNTRUE( yes this case happened but nobody related to auburn was found guilty of ANYTHING)

The Chairman of The Auburn Board and his bank failure and now being sued by so many people and former employees for misappropriation of funds. TRUE (Kind of) (yes his bank failed but so what. How many other banks in the country have failed???

A football player beating up a woman, getting re-instated then beating her up again before The Chiz finally dismisses him. UNTRUE (nothing short of dumbass internet rumors started by people like you.)

4 players robbing fellow students. TRUE. Kicked off team and have nothing to do with them anymore. How many players has UGA had arrested in the last few years?

Michael Dyer and his troubles just making the news. TRUE (again remind me how many uga players were supsended this year and or have caused problems off the field.)

Trooper Taylor engulfed in the Lyles Recruting scandal and recruiting issues in Louisiana. UNTRUE (one of MANY things the NCAA investigated while investigating auburn for 15 months and not even finding one single secondary violation)

Two Coordinators heading or the hills, and two others who WILL take jobs at other schools after the bowl game…. TRUE. who cares we have two undefeated seasons in 7 years with 2 entirely different coaching staffs.


December 15th, 2011
10:37 pm

Her ramblings may not impact a high school athlete…..but it very well could have impacted the thought processes of AD’s at UNC and Kansas perhaps.


December 19th, 2011
4:22 pm

Chizik may be going to NFL after the bowl game.
He’s a very good coach and NFL GM are after him hard

the answer:

December 20th, 2011
7:07 am

yes, the barn is imploding – if a steaming pile of horse leavings can actually implode, that is.


December 21st, 2011
2:54 pm

Good read.

I would pick two on the list: (2) Declining Market, and (3) NCAA is lurking.

When Malzahn saw what Franklin did at Vandy, he may have regretted not taking the job, thinking he could have done even better.

Plus, everyone has to believe that Auburn is at least on the NCAA radar. It’s possible Malzahn and other assistants have seen or heard things that make them nervous. No assistant coach wants to be on the staff if the hammer falls.

From the 2010 “purchase of Newton” fiasco, all the way back to the 2001 Terry Bowden interview where he talked about Coach Garner and Coach Danley being the bag men to deliver payment to players. He also discusses Lowder insisting on paying a subset of players that wouldn’t play at Auburn otherwise.

COULD BE NONE OF ABOVE. Chizik can do better than Roof (60th ranked in FBS defensive ranking was his best day) so no great loss. Malzahn was good, but maybe he simply sees a chance to go home and inherit a good Arkansas State team, do well for 2 years and use it as a springboard to a better job.