Auburn's once extremely hot offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has decided to take the head coaching job at Arkansas State. Normally an offensive coordinator taking a job as a head coach wouldn't be that big a deal, it is considered a step up even if you are going from a team that recently won a national title to a team in the Sunbelt. This however to me seems to be a curious move. Not because he took the job but because he did it a year after turning down the Vanderbilt job that would have paid him 3 million dollars a season versus the $850,000 a year that Arkansas State will pay him. At Auburn he is currently making 1.3 million a year. To me there is one of two ways this can go.
Malzahn may have felt that he was not ready to be a head coach at a division 1. It is possible that he didn't like the situation at Vanderbilt thinking that there was little upside to the job as it would be very hard to win many more games than the six they have won this season. He may feel that things are set up for early success at Arkansas State after Freeze won 10 games this season. If Malzahn can go in and continue that type success for a couple years he could get offers from bigger programs after getting the experience he needs to succeed at a major program. It is also possible that being from Arkansas he simply wanted to go home.
Of course the other way this could go is that he realizes that despite the fact that Chizik won a title at Auburn that there are issues there. Is it possible that he realizes that Chizik is more the coach that went 5-19 at Iowa State than the coach that won a national title at Auburn? Malzahn's offense and getting a very rare player in Cam Newton that happened to coincide with having an extremely good and experienced offensive line might have simply been the perfect storm to win at Auburn and he sees issues behind the scene at Auburn that he knows it is time to get out now. Auburn was very young this season so it is possible that things will get turned around next season and they will head back in the right direction. It just seems there is something more to this when a coach turns down 2.5 times his salary one season for a head coaching job in the SEC just to take 65% of his salary the next season to coach in the Sunbelt.