Every college football season, like clockwork, Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn finds himself on the proverbial hot seat. It seriously never fails. After each loss, disgruntled fans light up social media demanding a change, yet nothing ever happens.
Malzahn is one of the highest-paid coaches in the country. He will make $6.9 million for the 2020 season and did not take a pay reduction during the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 outbreak. Several SEC coaches didn’t, either, but that’s not the point here.
It honestly doesn’t matter how much Malzahn’s base salary is on The Plains. Everyone knows and understands it is a lot of money. The important figure to look at is his incredibly expensive contract buyout if and when Auburn decides to pull the plug.
Gus Malzahn’s Contract & Buyout
At the end of the 2017 regular season, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was awarded a seven-year, $49 million contract extension. The Tigers gave their leader a ton of job security for the future.
According to USA Today, only Alabama’s Nick Saban, LSU’s Ed Orgeron, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, and Georgia’s Kirby Smart will make more money than Malzahn in 2020.
Other college football coaches to make over $5 million this year include Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, TCU’s Gary Patterson, Florida’s Dan Mullen, Texas’ Tom Herman, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops and Mississippi State’s Mike Leach.
To get rid of Malzahn, however, would cost Auburn a fortune.
Malzahn’s buyout as of December 1, 2020? A whopping $21,450,000.
It’s not the most expensive buyout in the country, by any means, but it’s a lot.
Since taking over Auburn football program in 2013, after a successful season at Arkansas State, Malzahn has failed to live up to some lofty expectations. He helped bring a national title to The Plains as an assistant coach under head coach Gene Chizik, but hasn’t delivered himself.
Malzahn took Auburn to the BCS National Championship Game in his first year, but lost to Florida State. He only has reached 10 wins in a season once since. That’s when he earned his big extension in 2017.
“I got a job that expects to win championships, and I expect to win championships,” Malzahn said at SEC Media Days in 2019. “Some places (get) eight wins, they celebrate. That’s just not part of Auburn.”
Under Malzahn’s leadership, Auburn is 64-33, including 2-2 to start the 2020 season. He’s only won the SEC West twice, beaten Alabama in the Iron Bowl three times in seven tries, including last year on CBS, and is just 2-5 in bowl games.
Auburn lands stellar high school talent with NFL potential. That’s not the problem. Auburn fans are just sick of ‘Bama always winning and making the College Football Playoff. They want FBS success of their own on The Plains. Not second half collapses and losses to South Carolina like last week.
At some point, Auburn athletic director Allen Greene and the Board of Trustees will have to make a decision.
When is enough truly enough? Is this Malzahn’s last season or will he be around next year?
Getting rid of a coach is always a touchy subject. That decision could make things a lot worse than they already are. Every school has its breaking point, though, and Auburn might be there sooner rather than later.