Auburn Football: Gus Malzahn Has a Small Window to Bring Auburn Back to the Top

Brett MixonContributor IMarch 12, 2013

Dec 4, 2012; Auburn, AL, USA: Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn speaks during a press conference after being introduced as the head football coach at Auburn.  Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

College football coaches have two choices these days. 

Win now or pack your bags. 

With the SEC having won the last seven BCS national championships, the pressure to win immediately is undoubtedly higher among its member institutions than in other conferences.

It's even higher at Auburn, where its hated rival, Alabama, is humming along at its highest peak in nearly three decades, if not in its entire history.  

New coaches taking over a program used to get a minimum of five years to turn the program around and get it back on track.

Look for new Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn to have only three. 

Malzahn has three years to take a program that finished in ESPN's "Bottom 10" in 2012 back to being a serious contender for an SEC and national championship. 

Former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik only received four years. He helped bring Auburn's first national title in 53 years to the Plains and as soon as the Tigers stopped moving forward as a program, he was shown the door.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs had no choice but to relieve Chizik of his duties. Chizik's hefty buyout of $208,334 a month for the next three years was worth the money that would have been lost in the long run if Auburn continued to backslide.

The empty seats inside Jordan-Hare Stadium in the early third quarter of games against Texas A&M and Georgia was the biggest sign that something had to be done. 

There is way too much money at stake. Losing is felt in more places than just the playing field. It affects everyone. 

Losing means big boosters quit donating money to fund scholarships for the athletes and funding for smaller revenue sports.

Losing hurts the local Auburn economy. More day games mean less attendance and less attendance means that local business owners suffer. 

“For us, this is probably one of our worst years on record,” local store owner Cliff Hare told Donathan Prater of The Opelika-Auburn News. “There’s definitely a correlation between the football score and sales figures.”

Does this amount of pressure and lack of job security weigh on Malzahn?

Apparently not. Here is his statement on job security in his opening press conference (via

"All I worry about is what I do and moving forward and getting this thing turned around, and getting this thing to a championship level. That's the only thing on my mind and we're going to get it done. You know obviously there's going to be some challenges, but here's the good thing about it, I know those challenges. I'm very familiar with the personnel and we're going to get this thing turned around."

While the climb back to the top of college football's mountaintop may seem like climbing Mt. Everest backwards, there is good news for Auburn fans.

History says Auburn will bounce back quickly after a coaching change. 

After Doug Barfield was fired after Auburn's last winless season within the SEC in 1980, Pat Dye led Auburn to a 9-3 record in 1982 and an 11-1 record with an SEC championship in 1983. 

Following suit, Terry Bowden led Auburn to an undefeated season in 1993 after Dye's last season in 1992 that saw Auburn go 5-5. 

Tommy Tuberville led Auburn to the SEC championship game in just his second year at the helm in 2000. 

We all saw Chizik lift the crystal football above his head in just his second year in 2010. 

The past four Auburn coaches have had an undefeated season, won the SEC west, won the SEC or won a national championship within three seasons of taking over as Auburn's head coach. There's no reason to think Malzahn will have any less success as Auburn's head coach. 

That is a good sign for Malzahn, because with pressure and expectations of head coaches in the SEC being at an all-time high, the "Gus Bus" will run out of gas if Auburn continues to flounder in mediocrity over the next three seasons.