Auburn athletic director says Gus Malzahn will return as football coach next season
AUBURN — Put an end to the questions about Gus Malzahn's immediate future as Auburn's head football coach.
Asked directly if Malzahn would return as head coach in 2019, Auburn University athletic director Allen Greene responded to reporters in no uncertain terms.
“He’ll be the coach next year," Greene said, according to AL.com. "I’m confident that he’s going to — he’s already proven that we can get through adversity. Every team has it, and I’m looking forward to working with him for a long time.”
Malzahn and Greene have both faced questions about the football coach's future with the university over the last few weeks, despite the fact that Malzahn is nine games into the first season of a seven-year, $49 million contract he signed in January.
Seventy-five percent of that contract is guaranteed, which places Malzahn's buyout as of Dec. 1, 2018, at $32.1 million. Both that figure and his salary this season ($6.7 million) are the fifth-highest nationally.
Despite the length of the deal and what it would cost to make a change, Auburn's struggles during the middle part of the season — back-to-back losses at Mississippi State and to SEC East cellar-dweller Tennessee — caused a vocal group of fans to lose faith in Malzahn.
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Through nine games, the Tigers are 6-3 overall and 3-3 in the SEC with games against No. 5 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama still on the schedule. The Crimson Tide have already clinched the SEC West.
This season marks the second time since 2015 that Auburn, which opened the season ranked No. 7 in the AP poll, has gone from preseason top 10 to unranked.
Still, as Greene put it when he spoke to reporters in Birmingham last month, "this isn’t a week-to-week deal."
"When you compete in this league and when you’re investing in a football program the way that we have chosen to invest in our football program, you expect to be successful more than a normal team," Greene said. "When that doesn’t happen, it’s frustrating — for me, for Coach, our student-athletes, our fans — because we expect more, and Coach expects more."
Malzahn is 51-25 overall and 28-18 in SEC play since becoming Auburn's head coach in 2013. He has led the Tigers to two SEC West titles, one SEC championship and one national championship game appearance.
"He’s our coach for the future," Greene said.
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