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10 Auburn Coaching Candidates to Replace Gus Malzahn
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File (left), AP Photo/Jay LaPrete (right)

Former Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was finally fired by athletic director Allen Greene this season after yet another disappointingly average regular season. The Tigers have finished with four losses in each of the last seven years, lost 35 games in Gus’s eight years and won zero national championships.

“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!” is probably what fans on The Plains are thinking. Malzahn’s hot seat finally came to a boiling point, and the school will now pay him a $21 million buyout to clear out his belongings.

That being said, Auburn University is still an extremely attractive football program in the Southeastern Conference. Sure, the Tigers may have to play Alabama every year in the Iron Bowl and a tough SEC West schedule, but let’s not forget about the facilities and history.

Auburn has wasted no time beginning its coaching search for Gus Malzahn’s replacement. Here are 10 potential coaching candidates to bring the Tigers their first national championship since Gene Chizik‘s win over Oregon in 2011. Try not to get lost in the coaching carousel.

Hugh Freeze

AP Photo/John Raoux, File

Freeze is one of few coaches that can say “I beat Nick Saban.” In fact, he did it twice in back-to-back years at Ole Miss.

While this would be a controversial hire given his NCAA violation-ridden departure with the Rebels a few years back, he’s shown he can win big college football games. The current Liberty coach would undoubtedly jump at the chance if he were given the keys to Auburn football.

Mario Cristobal

AP Photo/Chris Pietsch

Oregon is hot off a 12-2 campaign last year, capped by a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. The Ducks have won three of five games in the Pac-12 this year, but that doesn’t mean Cristobal isn’t one of the more attractive candidates.

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Cristobal, who is set to coach in the Pac-12 Championship Game against USC, addressed the rumors that he could replace Malzahn.

“We seem to get a lot of rumors at this time of year,” Cristobal told USA Today. “This is what I can say: I can say that I haven’t been contacted, OK. I don’t know if my agent is being contacted and I talk to him every single day.”

Kevin Steele

AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

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This just feels right. Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is the current interim head coach has spent the last five seasons as the team’s DC. Steele has also served as the defensive coordinator at Clemson, Alabama and LSU.

According to AL.com, some see the 62-year-old Steele as the “leading candidate” who believe “he deserves a shot at running the program.” The knock here is that in his only head coaching stint with Baylor from 1999-2002 he went 9-36. Still, he has a world of experience.

Les Miles

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

We’re not in Kansas anymore! In all honesty, I’m not sure the 67-year-old Miles would even want this job. If you overlook his 3-18 record while coaching Kansas over the last two seasons, his past makes sense.

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Miles has a national title, two SEC titles and three SEC West titles to his name from his days at LSU. He’s also on the short list of active coaches who’ve found a way to beat Nick Saban at Alabama. That’s basically half of the job at Auburn.

Urban Meyer

AP Photo/Jay LaPrete

Let’s spice it up, huh? Every single football program (NFL or NCAA) throws Urban Meyer’s name into the hat when their coach is fired, so why not do the same for Auburn’s search?

Meyer’s only SEC experience came during his time at Florida, when he won two national championships in 2006 and 2008. He won another in the Big Ten at Ohio State in 2014. Remember how he got there, though? The Buckeyes beat Saban’s team in the 2015 Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal.

Brent Venables

AP Photo/Richard Shiro, File

Venables is just 49 and has called the shots for Clemson’s defense since 2012. He’s said he feels “valued” at Clemson, but nothing says feeling valued like doubling or tripling your salary.

Listen two these two notes from his coaching career: In his 24 years as a full-time assistant coach, his teams have 24 winning seasons. Venables has also coached in eight national championship games, four at Clemson and four at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops.

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Billy Napier

AP Photo/Jim Lytle

The head coach of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has led the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 9-1 mark in the Sun Belt Conference this season. He posted 11 wins last year. Napier has shown he knows how to win, but can he do it in a cut-throat conference like the SEC?

Some oddsmakers have Napier behind Hugh Freeze as the most likely man to take over at Auburn. He even reportedly interviewed for the South Carolina job. Considering his instant success as Louisiana, that might not be a bad thing.

Steve Sarkisian

AP Photo/Vasha Hunt

Who better to hire than the man who’s served as Alabama’s offensive coordinator the last two seasons? Sarkisian is the spy that Auburn needs to put an end to Nick Saban’s dynasty.

He last served as a head coach for USC from 2014-15, during which he went 12-6. Sark also took the Atlanta Falcons to a Super Bowl as the team’s offensive coordinator and put up 28 points before the New England Patriots completed an epic 28-3 comeback.

Maybe Auburn should give him a call after the SEC Championship Game.

Bill Clark

AP Photo/Brett Duke, File

Clark is an Alabama man through and through, and I’m sure he’d love to accept the coaching job at Auburn. The Anniston, Alabama, native and Jacksonville State graduate has directed the UAB Blazers to success over the last five years.

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Under Clark, UAB won the program’s first ever Conference USA Championship in 2018 and won back-to-back C-USA West Division titles in 2018 and 2019. The jump to the SEC would be steep, however.

Lane Kiffin

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

All aboard the Lane Train, choo choo!! Just imagine it for a second. Lane Kiffin versus Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide in the freakin’ Iron Bowl. Social media would explode.

Would Kiffin leave Ole Miss for Auburn after his first season there? I don’t know. But then again, no one knows what he’s going to do next. Something tells me the former Alabama offensive coordinator who got in screaming matches with Saban wouldn’t mind playing him every year in the game’s most epic rivalry.

MORE: 5 Auburn Face Masks for True Tiger Football Fans

Patrick has spent parts of the last four years covering University of Florida athletics and spent two seasons with Major League Baseball. He's a baseball junkie who spends his days defending Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins. A recent Gator grad, Patrick currently resides in Gainesville, Florida.
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