Holy smokes! Malzahn headed to ASU
Arkansas State University (ASU) fans have a great reason to celebrate — Auburn Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn has been introduced as the new head football coach of the Red Wolves.
If that announcement didn’t come as a bit of a shock, then you’re either not a Arkansan or haven’t paid attention to the drama that surrounded the University of Arkansas Razorbacks football program back when Houston Nutt was the head coach. Also, it’s more than a bit intriguing that Malzahn squelched rumors he was taking over as head coach at Vanderbilt almost exactly a year ago by agreeing to a new contract with Auburn.
For those not familiar with Malzahn and his relationship to Arkansas, here’s a brief history lesson. Malzahn is a native Arkansan, having graduated from Fort Smith Christian in 1984. He was a walk-on receiver for the Razorbacks in 1984 and 1985 (Ken Hatfield was the head coach back then), but he transferred to Henderson State University in Arkansas and was a two-year letterman.
He started as a defensive coordinator at Hughes High School in 1991, became the head coach of that team in 1992 and then went on to coach Shiloh Christian in Springdale in 1996. From there, he went across town to Springdale High School to accept another head coaching job in 2001. By 2005, Malzahn had assembled a team that cruised to a state championship — the Bulldogs were undefeated that year and, in fact, starters rarely finished a game during the season.
By 2005, Malzahn was — let’s face it — a minor celebrity in this state. He joined the Razorbacks as offensive coordinator that year, endured a 2006 season in which he was at odds with then Head Coach Houston Nutt, managed to be named National Offensive Coordinator of the Year by Rivals.com and by 2007 was the offensive coordinator at Tulsa. He stayed there for two seasons before moving on to Auburn.
Now, here’s something fascinating about the Malzahn announcement. He replaces Hugh Freeze, who was the head coach at ASU until he announced on Dec. 5 that he was heading for Ole Miss. Freeze takes over as head coach from Nutt, who was run out of Ole Miss on Nov. 7 after four seasons at Mississippi (and 10 fair-to-middling seasons with the Razorbacks).
Here’s something else to keep in mind — ASU fans (and more than a few of us Razorbacks fans) have been calling for an annual Arkansas/ASU game for decades now. How much does anyone want to bet those demands will increase now that ASU has landed a coach as well known as Malzahn?
At any rate, it’s good to see Malzahn back in Arkansas. Good luck to him.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.