Gus Malzahn was in line for a plum head coaching job. After his offense helped Auburn to a national title last season, he became one of the hottest commodities in college football.
So when Arkansas State announced Malzahn as its next head coach, questions started flying: Why he didn't end up at a one of the many vacancies at BCS "Big Six" schools? The most common answer: Malzahn's wife, Kristi.
Two days before Auburn's game against Arkansas in October, Kristi Malzahn was the featured speaker at The Summit, a weekly luncheon hosted by Senior Pastor Ronnie Floyd of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark. During that interview, Kristi Malzahn made some controversial comments about some of Auburn's players — nothing too nefarious, but a little too much inside information from the wife of a potential head coach.
On now-suspended running back Michael Dyer, she said: "He has a little bit of an attitude. He carries himself with a little confidence we have to kick around every now and then. But he's a great kid." She also said former quarterback Cam Newton was cute. Of course the entire session was filmed, and a not-so-flattering edited version ended up on YouTube. It didn't take long to go viral.
Malzahn said in a radio interview with Tim Brando that he found the edited YouTube video manipulative and "very unfortunate." But also said he wasn't blaming his wife for potentially costing him jobs at North Carolina and Kansas.
"I've got one of the best coach's wives ever. I would not be in the situation that I'm in right now professionally without her. She's been a great coach's wife," Malzahn said. "You're in a high-profile position, and people manipulate things and try to do things. That's very unfortunate. She's a godly woman and a great support for me. That's part of the deal. We'll be better for it in the long run."
Malzahn didn't intend to pitch himself for the Arkansas State job. Arkansas State athletic director Dean Lee had a relationship with Malzahn that dated back to 1989 and Malzahn had called Lee to give him some thoughts about his coaching search like he had a year ago when the Red Wolves hired Hugh Freeze. Lee asked Malzahn if he was ready to "return home" and then serious talks about him taking the job were underway.
"Initially, I was planning on giving some feedback," Malzahn said. "Then, I don't know, the conversation just went the other way. In a hurry."
Malzahn will coach the Auburn offense in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Years Eve before taking up fulltime duties with Arkansas State.