When Gus Malzahn took the head coaching job with the Auburn Tigers, he was returning to a team that he had helped guide to a BCS national championship in 2010 which had fallen on hard times since then. Gene Chizik went from conquering hero to unemployed coach in a matter of two years after taking that championship team and turning them into the 3-9 (0-8 SEC) team that limped through 2012.
But Malzahn is taking on a bigger job than just turning around a team that failed to win a single conference game next season. Now, he’s taking a job for a team that will have the full weight of the NCAA on them very soon following allegations of grade-fixing and payments to players on Wednesday followed by another report about wide-spread drug use on Thursday, all surrounding their 2010 team that had its own share of controversy with the Cam Newton drama during the season.
So this job isn’t just about coming home to lead the team he found the most success with for Malzahn anymore. Now it’s about leading the Auburn Tigers through a minefield of allegations and media scrutiny. Malzahn doesn’t get to focus just on recruiting and the X’s and O’s of fixing Auburn on the field, now he takes on a Herculean task of keeping tabs on 75 players for 24 hours a day, seven days a week to make sure they’re not getting into trouble…again.
Because trouble is exactly what the Auburn program is in. While Tigers’ fans and faculty and even former head coach Chizik have come out and vehemently denied any and all of the allegations against them, those denials won’t dim the spotlights. And Chizik or the school president or even Michael Dyer won’t be the ones in the cross-hairs day after day. That responsibility falls on the new guy at the top, Gus Malzahn.
So welcome back, I guess, Coach Malzahn. You are going to have your work cut out for you both on and off the football field.