Maybe it was meant to be.

I have to preface this by saying I don’t think even Nick Saban is this devious, but, damn, do I wish this was evidence of some serious eleventh-dimensional chess being played.

Talk to people behind the scenes on the Plains, and Auburn 26, Alabama 14 changed everything for Gus Malzahn and the Tigers. Without that victory, insiders say, it’s all but certain Malzahn wouldn’t have that new seven-year, $49-million guaranteed contract.

It’s quite possible he would be the new coach at Arkansas instead.

Go back to the next-to-last week of November. Thanksgiving week. Iron Bowl week. There was a curious vibe at Auburn.

It didn’t matter that the Tigers had beaten Georgia for the first time in four years, dominating the No. 1 Bulldogs as they hadn’t in decades in a 40-17 statement. Or that, despite having two losses on their resume, they had set up an Iron Bowl that would decide the SEC West title and maybe more.

Malzahn was concerned about the Alabama game for a different reason, people close to him say. He was convinced a fourth straight loss to the Crimson Tide would cost him his job. He may not have been wrong.

… Malzahn himself was fully aware of the possibility that the Iron Bowl could be an all-or-nothing proposition. His most insistent demand in the negotiations was that the entire amount of the contract be guaranteed to make it financially prohibitive to fire him in the future.

As concerned as he was, Malzahn had leverage in the Arkansas opening. While the Razorbacks weren’t offering the same kind of money Malzahn eventually got from Auburn, insiders said, that job was Malzahn’s if he wanted it.

Then came Auburn 26, Alabama 14.

Given what they perceived as the choice between losing a coach who’d beaten Georgia and Alabama to a lesser rival in the SEC West or making Malzahn one of the highest-paid coaches in college football, Auburn’s leaders put their faith in Malzahn. They put together a massive new deal that was essentially in place before the loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

Or, as Malzahn skeptics in the Auburn family put it, Auburn got played by Arkansas and Malzahn’s agent Jimmy Sexton, and Auburn caved.

Those skeptics fear that Auburn has given Malzahn too much power based on too little production, that it will be financially disastrous and thus impossible to fire him if he goes 8-5, 7-6 and 8-5 the next three years, that he’ll have no real boss going forward because there will be a new athletics director learning the territory soon.

If you think there’s a downside to Gus being at Auburn for the long haul, then the way things have turned out is a win-win-win for Malzahn, Saban and Sexton.  And all it cost was a loss that didn’t affect Alabama’s chances of making the CFP.

It couldn’t have turned out any better if the three of them had planned it.



Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Jimmy Sexton is the Nick Saban of agents and is Nick Saban's agent, Nick Saban Rules

30 responses to “Maybe it was meant to be.

  1. AusDawg85

    Don’t think Kirby wasn’t in on it. Loss to Auburn cost us nothing. Winner of the SECCG was always going to be in the CFP. We played vanilla offense (c’mon man…do you really think Chaney got that smart over the following 3 weeks?!) and didn’t want to show our hand. Hunted became the hunter.

    That Kirby…he’s a sly one.


  2. The Auburn administration is just dumb. One win over Alabama was worth $49,000,000?


  3. Hogbody Spradlin

    That would be some pretty nervy sandbagging. Saban would have had to precisely achieve a not so bad losing margin to Auburn, then depend on OSU to beat Wisky by a ‘meh’ score. That’s the way it worked out, but all that just to keep Gus around?


    • Macallanlover

      Yeah, that different happen. Saban doesn’t have enough offense to play a game like that even if he could stand to lose a game. With his defensive personnel that day on the Plains, 2 TD loss was about right


  4. Here is the 4th dimension of this chess board …it was all Kirby’s idea. “When I left you I was but the learner. Now I am the master” (insert Boris Karloff laugh here) Kirby calls his old boss and says I’ll throw mine if you throw yours. Gus is but a pawn on this chess board. A well paid pawn but a pawn none the less .Kirby is letting Nick and Sexton THINK they’re in control….. someone cue the “Thriller” music.


  5. So, what is Aubie on the hook for of Gus goes 4-8 next year and they want to fire his ass?


  6. sniffer

    I think the simplest answer is this. When Gus beat Bama, Jacobs could then sign him to a large extension and leave the next guy to deal with it. Jacobs professes love for Auburn but has to be hurt that he can’t stay on. So, he leaves his mark on the future as he heads for the door.


  7. Russ

    Best thing for Bama was losing the Iron Bowl. Still got in the playoffs, got an extra week to recover and scout, and still has an excellent chance to win it all. I hope we can play them if we make the final.


  8. 3rdandGrantham

    Apologies for belaboring the point, but many of us still have no clue just how nicely things are set up for us the next, say, 5-6 years. UT is and will continue to be a dumpster fire, and their rookie coach combined with a bitter former coach (who wants to run the show) will be a sight to behold. Oh yea – UT is soon to be three very solid recruiting classes behind us, with a massive talent gap that Belichick himself couldn’t overcome.

    UF will improve under Mullen…but he still runs a 1950’s offense and isn’t exactly known for his recruiting prowess. He also is dealing with a lack of talent too, as two of McElwain’s three recruiting classes were average at best. Finally, AU just gave a massive extension to a guy who also has struggled in recent years and was on very thin ice until just recently.

    All in all, expect UGA to be playing in the MB stadium quite a bit in December in the years to come. Give the Falcons foresight for painting the seats red and black.


  9. Spike

    Machiavelli.. call your office..


  10. Gurkha Dawg

    Did y’all see the ESPN show when they revealed the 4 playoff teams? Saban didn’t even watch it, he was driving a recruit to campus. He already knew he was in. There’s no question the whole thing was fixed. It was as phony as the moon landing.


  11. mg4life0331

    Man its hilarious to read the Gumps and Warplainsmen argue on that site. Some Auburn fans dont care about anything other than that win against the gumps.


  12. Bulldog Joe

    Considering A&M anted up $75M for Jimbo Fisher, Auburn got a bargain. 😉


  13. Conspiracy theories over conspiracy theories. Really a nice way to spend anxious moments before the Rose bowl.