ADOB: My View of The Truth, Part VI
Hello again, friends.
After the Terry Bowden spectacle in 1998 and the Jetgate fiasco in 2003, everybody figured Auburn had set the low-water mark for mismanagement of football regimes.
Yet Auburn in 2018 has found a way out out-Auburn itself.
So we spoke yesterday about "Plan C," which was an effort by certain, influentional folks to rid Auburn of Gus Malzahn by making "the head coach so uncomfortable that he becomes willing to negotiate a departure."
These methods included taking the unofficially green-lighted football complex off the table — a facility Malzahn not only wants to use but also wants to design himself — and requiring the head coach to gain approval before making any hires or fires. He also was told the pool of money to be doled out to assistants was locked. And that meant any grand designs to hire former Ole Miss coach Huge Freeze were dead on arrival.
No coach in their right mind, Plan C devotees figured, would agree to such untenable demands.
Yet that's exactly what Malzahn is threatening to do.
This is an almost impossibly grievous situation that somehow makes everyone involved look bad. If Malzahn agrees to these limitations, he's allowing Auburn to punish him for a 7-5 season — a season that he still doesn't consider a true calamity. He'll be seen as a weakling, a man whose own organization tried to make him leave and he refused to go. And that's to say nothing of the recruiting trail, where rival programs frame minor squabbles or missteps as dumpster fires to prospects.
Auburn doesn't exactly look professional here, but there was no way to avoid that once Malzahn actually demonstrated or feigned interest in abiding to the insulting demands. Auburn didn't expect that. Malzahn is obsessed with maintaining control, of course, and the idea was for Malzahn to recoil, for agent Jimmy Sexton to leap into action and for the two sides to begin buyout negotiations immediately.
Will Malzahn actually agree to this stuff?
Let's start that answer right here: Malzahn isn't like me or like you or probably anyone else we know for that matter. If we were faced with a situation where our employer wanted us gone and offered us $30 million to leave, we'd almost certainly be gone the minute the ink dried.
Maybe we'll find another good job. Or maybe we won't. Either way, the bank account will be stuffed and consulting gigs pay better than you think.
Malzahn doesn't think that way. He's never thought that way. He truly, genuinely doesn't fuss over money. I mentioned this to a friend of mine recently, who quickly noted that Malzahn, for not caring about money, sure was opportunistic last fall when he jammed Auburn for this massive contract. True, but that was all due to his agent Jimmy Sexton. Agents are paid to help their clients make money.
Sexton is great at making people money.
The truth is that Malzahn doesn't want to be unemployed. Seasoned coaches often laugh about having been fired more times than they can count, but you'll never hear Malzahn crack those jokes. He's never been fired. He's damn proud of that fact and he'd really like to finish his career without that blemish on his record — even an insignificant one that most people never even consider.
Malzahn loves football strategy. He loves drawing up plays and installing them and repping them and adjusting them until they actually work. (Auburn observers find this odd considering how bland and predictable Malzahn's offense was on Saturdays this fall.) He genuinely believes this Auburn program, as it sits today, is reasonably close to contending for the Western Division title next season. He thinks the personnel holes can be filled. He thinks the run game can improve dramatically. He thinks the 2019 Tigers are going to be a very good football team.
He will not yield on these points. And he wants to be the head coach when this reclamation project kicks off against Oregon in Dallas next fall.
That's why we're standing here today, 48 hours after these intentionally obtuse demands were handed down, wondering what will happen next. Malzahn really wants to be here. Some influential people really want him gone. It's an impasse that only Auburn can create and only Auburn can solve.
Yet a solution seems elusive or perhaps impossible. This relationship wasn't smooth even on its best days. Will Malzahn's desire to see this job through really lead him to concede power and autonomy as a punishment of sorts? That concept is incompatible with the Malzahn I think I know. That concept also has Auburn aghast.
It sure seems like Sexton has advised Malzahn to call the school's bluff.
This might be Malzahn's best trick play yet.