After guiding Auburn from a three-win season to the SEC championship and shot at a BCS championship, Gus Malzahn was named this year’s recipient of the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award by the Football Writers Association of America.
“Certainly, the job Coach Malzahn has done this year warrants this award,” said FWAA 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 was helped along the way by a couple of miraculous plays, against Georgia and Alabama, but the Tigers developed a powerful running game that few teams stand a chance of slowing down. Auburn got better as the season unfolded, and they hit their stride at the right time to leap past Alabama in the SEC West and pull away from Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. With a little luck on their side in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis, Auburn slid right in to the BCS Championship Game against all odds at the start of the season.
“This is a huge honor, and I’m very humbled to be named the recipient of the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award,” Malzahn said upon hearing the news. “I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Robinson and looked up to him as a coach and as an individual. I accept this award on behalf of our entire coaching staff and players, which have done an outstanding job this year getting our program turned around.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the FWAA but apparently missed the deadline to cast my vote. If I had gotten my vote in, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe would have been at the top of my ballot, but Malzahn has as strong a case as nay of the finalists for the award. Turning around Auburn was bound to happen for Malzahn, but few could have guessed his first year on the job would have gone quite this well. Cutcliffe did win the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award.
Malzahn is the third coach to win the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award in his first season on the job at a school, joining former Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen in 2001 and Tom Cahill at Army in 1966. He is also the second coach from Auburn to win the award, joining Tommy Tuberville, now at Cincinnati.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly won the award in 2012. Alabama’s Nick Saban was the last SEC coach to win the award, doing so in 2008.