This is the third of seven columns on the Arkansas coaching search countdown.
by Tommy Foltz
It’s Thanksgiving and we can give thanks that we have the same AD leading the football coaching search that landed Musselman. But, it may require a Christmas miracle to hire someone like Musselman to head the football program.
Number seven on my list was Lane Kiffin. Number six was Mike Leach. Act like you didn’t read this column’s headline for sec. At #5……..drumroll please……
ARTHUR GUSTAVIOUS MAL-A-ZAHN.
If you’ve paid enough attention to Hog football over the years, you may remember when in 2006 Houston Dale Nutt held a press conference to announce his new offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn. In what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to ridicule him, Nutt mispronounced Malzahn’s name throughout his statement.
Hey, he didn’t want to hire Malzahn. Can you blame him? Yes. You can.
Gus Malzahn had four of the best players in the state at Springdale, including Mitch Mustain, who was named Gatorade’s #1 quarterback in the nation. They all wanted to follow him wherever he went. So, in order for Nutt to get the players, he had to hire Malzahn.
It was an annoyingly painful show of disrespect to a man who was clearly smarter than Nutt and certainly more innovative as an offensive mind. He would later go on to do much bigger things than Nutt, including kicking Nutt’s ass when he was at Ole Miss.
After that press conference, it all went downhill. It was rumored that Nutt and his assistants called Malzahn “High School” after one game. Nutt and Broyles came out with a study that said his offense could never work in the SEC.
Malzahn did that year at Arkansas, then went to Tulsa as offensive coordinator, then Auburn as OC, then Arkansas State as head coach and then back Auburn as HC. Auburn hadn’t won a single conference game that season, and he turned the program around.
In six seasons he’s racked up these records: 12-2, 8-5, 7-6, 8-5, 10-4 and 8-5. Granted, he’s had some ultra talented dual-threat quarterbacks playing for him, but nevertheless he’s done more than Nutt did as a coach.
Right now he’s 8-3, and 8-3 with one game to go falls WAY short of expectations for Auburn’s fan base. If they lose to archrival Alabama in Saturday’s Iron Bowl, the long knives will be out.
It’s to a point that even the self-appointed expert on everything Alabama, Paul Finebaum, has decided that Gus should take the money and take the Arkansas job. Thanks Paul, but we’ll handle our own search. By the way, have you ever thrown a ball of any kind. Shut your trap. We don’t need you to figure out who our coach is going to be.
HAVING SAID ALL THAT:
Two years ago I was excited about the possibility of Gus taking the job—until I realized that he completely gamed us to pump his salary at Auburn. He played us like a fiddle and he took Auburn to the bank.
Not only did he make a huge withdrawal from Auburn’s bank, also ultimately reduced the deposits in the Hogs’ bank.
“To me, he gambled two years ago. He made a lot of money. Now I would leave. I don’t think it’s a difficult decision for Gus. I would take the money. We’ve all covered transitions. You’re taking over for Chad Morris, who has one of the worst records, one of the most inept, incompetent and laughable programs I have ever seen in the history of covering the SEC. What do you have to do? … Go to a bowl game and they’ll give you a parade.”-Paul Finebaum in a Nov. 11 interview with WJOX
Well, all that flirting Gus Malzahn did in 2017 just to make the other girl jealous probably made us miss on coaches we would have rather had than Chad Morris. Morris’ 2-10 and 2-8 records, which threw us into college football oblivion, hurt our revenue from ticket sales and that directly affects our merchandise, coke, hot dog and nacho sales. Less butts in the seats. Less concession revenue.
I need a few boxes to be checked for any candidate. In no particular order, except the first one:
—Does he know how to win in the SEC? (Malzahn has proven he can)
—Does he truly want to be here? (I think so)
—Does he understand the fan base’s expectations? (He grew up here)
—Is he comfortable with the way of life in Arkansas? (He grew up here)
—Is he willing to stick around? (I think so)
—Money? (We can pay him, but not the obscene money Auburn has)
Basically, he checks all the boxes. Still,, he and his agent played us.
HERE’S THE KICKER:
The minute Malzahn steps on campus, half the fan base will be alienated. Most Arkansans are not good with playing someone for a fool, especially when we’re the ones getting played.
Nobody ever hires a coach that EVERYONE is happy with. You can’t please everyone. But, when you live in a state of 3 million people and you’re trying to fill up a stadium with 2.5% of that population 5 or 6 times in a 3 month period, we can’t knowingly and willingly fracture the fan base like that.
It would be the equivalent of loading our shotgun, pointing it at our feet and pulling the trigger. Gus is not welcome here. I’m not going to stand on the I-40 bridge in West Memphis and stop his car as he comes to visit family members, but we shouldn’t hire the guy.
No question he was treated unfairly by Nutt when he was here, but he treated us just as unfairly from over there.
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ with in.
In the 2006 video below, Nutt says the chemistry with Malzahn has been”great fit” (at the 1:30 mark):
Tommy Foltz was born in Fort Smith and grew up in Little Rock. He graduated from Central High and the University of Arkansas. He was named to the former Arkansas Democrat’s “All-Arkansas” team and was recruited by Tennessee. He instead chose to go to Arkansas.
Fair warning. His opinion could change based on future events/development.