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The Gus Malzahn era at Auburn University has begun. Athletics Director Jay Jacobs confirmed directly to WSFA 12 News Tuesday afternoon that the former offensive coordinator would return to the Plains where he'll take the reins as the university's 26th head football coach.
Several hours later, a white jet with Auburn insignia landed at the Auburn airport carrying the new coach back to town.
Malzahn takes over after his former boss, coach Gene Chizik was fired following a 3-9 season just two years removed from a BCS National Championship win. Malzahn played a hand in that championship, the Tiger's first in more than five decades.
Malzahn was greeted by a large crowd of cheering Auburn fans as he stepped off the plane. He greeted Jacobs and then charged into the crowd yelling "War Eagle" and giving high-fives. Malzahn said he was excited to be back and to be the crowd's football coach.
Before leaving for an 8pm news conference to mark his official return, Malzahn told the crowd he was eager to get the Auburn Tigers back to winning championships. The new coach called it a "new day" in Auburn.
Here's the official statement from the Auburn Athletics Department:
Gus Malzahn, who served as Auburn's offensive coordinator from 2009-11, has been named the program's head football coach, Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs announced Tuesday. Malzahn, who won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach in 2010 while helping the Tigers to the BCS National Championship, spent the past season as the head coach at Arkansas State, where he led the program to the Sun Belt Conference title.
Known for his innovative offensive style, Malzahn has made a profound impact during each of his coaching stops at the collegiate level at Arkansas State, Auburn, Tulsa and Arkansas.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity to become the head football coach at Auburn University. It's an outstanding institution with a storied football program that I had the pleasure of experiencing first-hand for three years," Malzahn said. "I deeply appreciate the confidence that Dr. Gogue, Jay Jacobs and the search committee had in my ability to turn this program around and to bring Auburn back to national prominence. This is a homecoming for me and I look forward to being reunited with the Auburn family."
This season at Arkansas State, Malzahn led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 record and 7-1 conference mark, including a current seven-game winning streak. They defeated Middle Tennessee, 45-0, on Dec. 1 to claim the Sun Belt championship and a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 6.
"It's a pleasure to welcome Gus back to Auburn, this time as our head football coach," Auburn University President Jay Gogue said. "We owe the search committee our gratitude for their time, expertise and dedication to Auburn. They are each distinguished graduates of this great institution and I'm grateful for their ongoing commitment. I appreciate them working so closely with Jay Jacobs as a team—a very good team."
A native of Fort Smith, Ark., Malzahn becomes the 26th head football coach in the program's history.
"We are tremendously excited that Gus Malzahn will be our next head football coach," Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs said. "Coach Malzahn was the clear unanimous choice of our search committee, and I am pleased that Dr. Gogue has accepted our recommendation. This is a great day for Auburn football and Auburn University."
Jacobs said the committee was impressed by Malzahn's outstanding track record as a coach at every level he has coached.
"Gus Malzahn is a proven winner," Jacobs said. "He is without question one of the brightest minds in college football and he has won everywhere he has been. Coach Malzahn knows what it takes to build a championship program in the Southeastern Conference. He knows our state and region and he understands what it will take to turn our program around. Coach Malzahn will also be an outstanding ambassador for Auburn University, and that was important to the committee."
Jacobs thanked the search committee of former letter winner Mac Crawford and Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson and Pat Sullivan for their service.
"I want to thank each member of the committee for their tireless effort in helping us find the right man to lead our football program and represent Auburn University," Jacobs said. "They were objective, thorough and thoughtful throughout the entire process. Their one and only agenda was doing what is best for Auburn."
Malzahn's ASU offense is in the top 25 nationally in nearly every offensive category, ranking 17th in total offense (481.8 ypg) and 21st in scoring offense (36.4 ppg) and rushing offense (217.4 ypg). Led by record-setting quarterback Ryan Aplin, the Red Wolves' offense was 13th nationally in passing efficiency (155.39 rating) and averaged 217.4 yards per game passing.
Malzahn made an immediate impact during his tenure at Auburn, highlighted by a record-setting offense in 2010 when the Tigers finished 14-0 and claimed the school's first national championship since 1957. The Auburn offense set nine school records, including points in a season (577), points per game (41.2), total yards (6,989), total offense (499.2), rushing yards (3,987), rushing touchdowns (41) and passing touchdowns (31). Malzahn's record-setting offense in 2010 led the Southeastern Conference and finished in the top 10 nationally in six statistical categories.
He coached Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton during the Tigers' run to the 2011 BCS National Championship. Under Malzahn's direction, Newton later became the overall No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft after producing one of the best single-season quarterback performances in collegiate history.
He helped lead the Tigers to an 8-5 record in 2011, which included a victory in the Chik-fil-A Bowl. The Malzahn-led Auburn offense had four players named to the All-SEC Team.
Malzahn's arrival in 2009 and style of offense marked a drastic turnaround from the 2008 season when Auburn struggled offensively. In a two-year period, the Tigers improved from a tie for 110th to seventh in the nation in scoring offense (from 17.3 to 41.2) and from 104th to seventh in total offense. It also took Auburn just six games in 2009 to score more points than it did in all 12 games in 2008.
Before coaching at Auburn, Malzahn spent two seasons at Tulsa, coordinating a Golden Hurricane offense that finished first nationally in total offense in 2007 and 2008. Tulsa's offense in 2007 established nine team school records and 12 individual records. The Hurricane also set nine Conference USA team records, while Tulsa quarterback Paul Smith broke an NCAA record by throwing for at least 300 yards in 14 consecutive games.
Prior to his time at Tulsa, he coached one season at Arkansas, where he served as offensive coordinator, coached Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden and helped the Razorbacks finish fourth nationally in rushing offense at 228.5 yards per game. Two of Malzahn's first three collegiate offenses ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing, including the 2008 Tulsa team and 2006 Arkansas squad.
Malzahn, 47, is married to the former Kristi Otwell and they are the parents of two daughters, Kylie (23) and Kenzie (20).
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