LITTLE ROCK In the afterglow of helping Arkansas State claim its second-consecutive Sun Belt Conference title, Red Wolves Coach Gus Malzahn is returning to Auburn to take the job held by his former boss.
Multiple sources told to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Tuesday that Malzahn, 47, will leave Arkansas State and return to the Plains to take the helm of the Tigers.
The move comes nine days after former Tigers Coach Gene Chizik was fired in the wake of a 3-9 season. Malzahn served as his offensive coordinator from 2009 until 2011.
ASU released a statement late Tuesday afternoon addressing Malzahn's departure. In the a statement, ASU Chancellor Dr. Tim Hudson said Malzahn informed the school that he would be leaving for the Auburn job and "we appreciate his contributions to our conference championship season and wish him well."
No formal announcement has come from either Arkansas State or Auburn, but sources told the Democrat-Gazette they learned of his intended departure around 2 p.m. Tuesday.
No salary figures for taking over Auburn were available, but Malzahn will have to pay a $700,000 buyout for his four-year contract that currently provides him $850,000 annually.
In a lone season at Arkansas State, Malzahn led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 record, including seven-consecutive victories to end the year, and a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 6 against No. 25 Kent State in Mobile, Ala. For the time being, Malzahn will coach the team in the bowl game, according to the release.
With the departure, the Red Wolves will again face a month of bowl preparations with their coaching situation in limbo almost a year to the day after former Coach Hugh Freeze left ASU to take over at Ole Miss.
The release also stated that ASU Athletic Director Terry Muhajir and ASU System President Dr. Charles Welch would begin a search for Malzahn's replacement immediately.
“The back-to-back championships in the Sun Belt Conference make this a very attractive position, and we’re confident we’ll have a lot of interest,” Mohajir said in the release. “This administration, this community and the entire Arkansas State family have demonstrated our commitment to have a nationally prominent intercollegiate athletics program and will continue to do so.”