College football coaches never fail to surprise

By Chris Hengst



As the college football coaching carousel slows, most years the last of the jobs are filled with young coordinators or retread names to little publicity.

Thankfully for those of us intrigued by coaches changing locales, the last calendar day has been ridiculously entertaining.

Gus Malzahn coordinated the Auburn offense for three seasons, his pinnacle being the 2010 national championship behind the exploits of Cam Newton.

Apparently, Malzahn decided it was time to test himself as a head coach because he’s headed to Jonesboro to helm Arkansas State.

His high school background, followed by stints at Arkansas and Tulsa, showcased his ability to coach the X’s and O’s but he finds himself in a shakier conference – the Sun Belt — with far less resources as a head coach.

Hugh Freeze, who just left Arkansas State for Ole Miss, led the Red Wolves to a 10-2 record in 2010 but this isn’t Arkansas, it’s Arkansas State. So what’s the draw?

Conspiracy theorists will point to issues with Gene Chizik or maybe a looming NCAA investigation but the easiest answer to Malzahn’s surprise move is Arkansas is home and he wanted his own program.

Should Malzahn succeed in his first season, replicating Freeze’s ten wins, he might end up right back in the SEC at a number of jobs possibly opening (Tennessee or Mississippi State).

Todd Graham, even before today, had a reputation as a job-hopper. He spent a year as the head coach at Rice, four years in Tulsa and a single season at Pitt.

Now, he’s the fallback option for Arizona State.

Graham moves to Tempe, having guided the Panthers to a 6-6 record and if that sounds familiar, it’s because Arizona State hired a coach that finished with the same .500 mark as they did.

His comments about commitment and dream jobs are irrelevant because the profession he works in is full of mercenaries.

These coaches enjoy the opportunity to build a program in their image but the minute a better chance at BCS riches or more fertile recruiting areas rises, consider them gone.

Players are chained to the schools where they sign Letters of Intent with the only recourse being transferring to another FBS campus and sitting out a year or heading to a FCS school to play immediately.

Their coaches?

The beneficiaries of buyouts, guaranteed dollars and the ability to take whatever job they’re offered.

Even when guys like Malzahn accept gigs that don’t make complete sense, the coach still lands ahead of the wideout he recruited for a spread offense who is quickly out of place in the replacement pro-style without the benefit of a signing bonus.

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