That’s why Malzahn made sure to state his contentment with his current job on Monday.
“I’m a good fit for the Auburn Tigers,” he said following the team’s practice, the Tigers’ first as they prepare for the BCS National Championship game on Jan. 6. “That’s why I signed the contract the day before the SEC championship. Like I said before, I’m tickled to death to be here.”
Malzahn agreed to a new, six-year deal on Dec. 6. The deal is set to pay him $3.8 million per year starting in next season. For each subsequent year he stays at Auburn, that base salary would rise by $250,000, bringing the entire worth of the contract to $26.85 million.
The exact parameters of the deal, including the buyout, have yet to be released.
MALZAHN WINS ROBINSON AWARD: Malzahn captured yet another national coaching award on Monday.
After winning the Home Depot Coach of the Year Award last week, he added the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award on Monday. He became only the fourth coach to win the award in his first year at a school, joining Ralph Friedgen of Maryland (2001), Tom Cahill of Army (1966) and former Auburn coach Terry Bowden (1993).
“That’s a true blessing and it’s a tribute to our assistant coaches, which have done a wonderful job, and a tribute to our players,” Malzahn said. “When you win, you get awards. But this is a group award. Anytime you get a head coaching award, it’s a group thing.”
The coach has helped the Tigers tie for the biggest single-season turnaround in NCAA history, with an 8.5-game improvement (from 3-9 in 2012 to 12-1 this season) over last year. Hawaii had the same level of improvement 14 years ago, going from 0-12 in 1998 to 9-4 in 1999.
“Certainly, the job Coach Malzahn has done this year warrants this award,” said Football Writers Association of America President Chris Dufresne, of the Los Angeles Times. “It is one of the best turnarounds in college football history, and to do it in the first year at a school even adds to the accomplishment.”
Malzahn will be presented with the award during a reception on Jan. 4 in Newport Beach, Calif.
Auburn’s coach could continue to add to his award haul for this year, as he is still up for three more national coaching awards: the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year (one of 10 finalists), the Bobby Bowden National Collegiate Coach of the Year Award (one of five finalists) and another presented by the Maxwell Club (one of three finalists).
PRACTICE PLAN: The Tigers hit the field Monday for the first time since they walked away from the Georgia Dome with the SEC Championship on Dec. 7. And during Monday’s practice session, Malzahn said they let the younger, less-experienced players have at it.
“They were flying around having fun,” he said.
Malzahn said Auburn would use this plan for the next few days before it starts to turn its attention to Florida State.
“With the younger guys, (we want) to give them a chance to put the ball down and let them play a little bit (and) work with them,” he said. “And we’ll do that probably the first half of this week.”