A third annual opponent for Georgia has parted ways with its head coach, as Auburn made the decision to fire Gus Malzahn on Sunday.
The Tigers went 6-4 this season, finishing with a win over Mississippi State. Auburn began the season ranked in the top-10 but finished with losses to Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Texas A&M.
Kevin Steele will serve as the interim coach for the Tigers.
“After evaluating the state of the Auburn football program, we’ve decided that it was time to make a change in leadership,” Auburn Athletic Director Allen Green said in a statement. “We appreciate everything that Gus did for the program over the last eight seasons. We will begin a search immediately for a coach that can help the Auburn program consistently compete at the highest level.”
Malzahn went 2-7 in his career against Georgia, with the two wins coming in 2013 and 2017.
South Carolina fired Will Muschamp and replaced him with Shane Beamer. Vanderbilt also parted ways with Derek Mason during this season. Malzahn went 68-35 in his time at Auburn, which began in 2013. He won the SEC once, made an appearance in a national championship game and beat Alabama three times.
The move to fire Malzahn comes just days before the Early Signing Period starts. Auburn’s recruiting class has plummeted in the 2021 recruiting cycle, as it sits at No. 42. Georgia beat out Auburn for the likes of Smael Mondon, Kamari Lassiter and Nyland Green in the 2021 recruiting cycle.
Auburn has said Malzahn will be paid out his full buyout, which is reportedly $21.45 million. Due a contract stipulation, Auburn must pay half of that buyout in the next 30 days.
The obvious front-runner for the Auburn job is Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. He has SEC experience, as well as a track record of beating Nick Saban dating back to his time at Ole Miss.
Another name to watch for the job possibly include Billy Napier of Lousiana-Lafayette, though he just turned down an opportunity to be the head coach at South Carolina. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal is also a name to watch according to John Talty of Al.com.
The news caught many off-guard and produced a number of reactions from the fans and media. The Auburn job is easily the biggest job to come open during this coaching season.
Gus can buy an $11 million island within the month https://t.co/MLziQmPyIK
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) December 13, 2020
$21 million to tell a coach who won 2/3 of his games and never had a losing season to take a hike in a pandemic. https://t.co/3KUWqMpECR
— Matt Hinton (@MattRHinton) December 13, 2020
Three early names to watch: Oregon’s Mario Cristobal, Liberty’s Hugh Freeze and Louisiana’s Billy Napier.
— John Talty (@JTalty) December 13, 2020
sadly moves the dial to a FIRE GUS year for the last time
— BUM CHILLUPS AKA SPENCER HALL (@edsbs) December 13, 2020
Auburn’s head coach job coming open is not the news you want if you’re at Tennessee. Some of the top candidates the Vols are eye-balling will definitely be in play for Auburn. https://t.co/qYOTwEJ5kJ
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 13, 2020
Gus Malzahn's buyout is *$21.45 million.*
SEC boosters not gonna let a little ol pandemic get in the way of firing a 6-4 coach.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) December 13, 2020
One of Auburn's top 2021 commits — and just a few days before the early signing period begins. https://t.co/JY5KTvcRUo
— Tom Green (@Tomas_Verde) December 13, 2020
— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) December 13, 2020
There‘s a list of names for Auburn – Cristobal, Napier, Freeze, etc – but you absolutely have to include Kevin Steele, the current DC, with them.
So yes it’s possible we get to see Auburn spend $21M just to hire their own DC in this timeline
— Steven N. Godfrey Jr. (@38Godfrey) December 13, 2020
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