[UPDATE, 2:49 p.m. ET, 12/13] Multiple reports from Auburn and Nashville on Monday claim that Malzahn has turned Vandy's offer down, and will not be the Commodores' head coach, despite the Post's confidence on Sunday night. Well. Carry on then.
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Maybe he values academics. Maybe he values a challenge. Maybe he wants a head coaching job that badly. Maybe he just wants off the Plains as quickly as possible. Whatever his reasoning, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn has reportedly agreed to enter the black hole of the SEC as the new head coach at Vanderbilt, according to the Washington Post. It's unclear yet whether he'll hang around to call the Tigers' offense in the BCS Championship Game. Either way, may peace be upon him.
Maybe he wants to get paid, too. At last report, Vandy was prepared to offer Malzahn in the "ballpark" of $3 million per year, significantly more than his current boss at Auburn, Gene Chizik. He may be worth it: Malzahn literally wrote the book on the no-huddle, hurry-up spread as a celebrated high school coach in Springdale, Ark., and has presided over three top-10 attacks in four years since escaping an ill-fated stint as Houston Nutt's offensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2006 – and not all of them have featured a runaway Heisman Trophy winner in the backfield.
Malzahn's two-year stint at Tulsa produced the nation's No. 1 total offense two years in a row without a single draft pick in the lineup in 2007-08, and his first offense at Auburn improved by a full 130 yards and two touchdowns per game with the most pedestrian signal-caller in the SEC, Chris Todd, pulling the trigger in 2009. Cam Newton made his job easy, but statistically, Malzahn has never been associated with even a mediocre offense, regardless of the level or the personnel. And even with Newton at his disposal, he just recognized with the Frank Broyles Award as the nation's best assistant coach.
If that streak continues in Nashville, it will be one of the greatest coaching miracles the SEC has ever seen. The Commodores were dead last in the conference against this year in total and scoring offense, and haven't averaged more than 20 points per game since 2007 – when they averaged a little over 21 per game, still good for 10th in the league. They've had exactly one viable, SEC-caliber quarterback in 25 years (Jay Cutler from 2002-05), and he couldn't get them to .500.
The university wants to get out of that rut of futility – it sees Stanford in the Orange Bowl and Northwestern with consistent winning records in the Big Ten and thinks, "Why not us?" Malzahn is one of the biggest names to be associated with the job since World War II, and certainly one of the most expensive. If he manages to crack 6-6 two years in a row, he won't be long for it.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.