Updated: Auburn hires former OC Gus Malzahn

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Not to be outdone by SEC West rival Arkansas, which will reportedly hire Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, word on who Auburn will hire is beginning to leak as well.

Word began to spread Tuesday afternoon when Auburn president Jay Gogue confirmed that the university was planning to announce its new head coach within the next 24 hours.

Not long after, multiple media outlets including Scout.com, Rivals.com, al.com and Chris Bahn of ArkansasBusiness.com reported that Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn will be the Tigers’ new head coach. Auburn announced a press conference for 9 p.m. ET to make the hire official.

The Red Wolves went 9-3 this year under Malzahn.

Malzahn was Auburn’s offensive coordinator from 2009-11 under former coach Gene Chizik. Chizik was fired late last month following a blowout loss to Alabama that ended AU’s season at 3-9. If the reports indeed come to fruition, Auburn would be repeating some history. Chizik was the program’s former defensive coordinator during Auburn’s undefeated 2004 season and Malzahn was the offensive coordinator for the team’s 2010 undefeated season.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was also believed to be a finalist for the job.

Updated 5:10 p.m. ET: Auburn has officially announced Malzahn as the team’s new head coach.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to become the head football coach at Auburn University. It’s an outstanding institution with a storied football program that I had the pleasure of experiencing first-hand for three years,” Malzahn said in a release. “I deeply appreciate the confidence that Dr. Gogue, Jay Jacobs and the search committee had in my ability to turn this program around and to bring Auburn back to national prominence. This is a homecoming for me and I look forward to being reunited with the Auburn family.”

“We are tremendously excited that Gus Malzahn will be our next head football coach,” AD Jay Jacobs said. “Coach Malzahn was the clear unanimous choice of our search committee, and I am pleased that Dr. Gogue has accepted our recommendation. This is a great day for Auburn football and Auburn University.”

“Gus Malzahn is a proven winner. He is without question one of the brightest minds in college football and he has won everywhere he has been. Coach Malzahn knows what it takes to build a championship program in the Southeastern Conference. He knows our state and region and he understands what it will take to turn our program around. Coach Malzahn will also be an outstanding ambassador for Auburn University, and that was important to the committee.”

Mike Riley came off Nebraska’s books with $6.2 million buyout in January

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It was thought that Nebraska had been paying three current/former head coaches throughout the 2018 season.  Instead, it was just two.

When Mike Riley was fired by the Cornhuskers in late November of last year, he was owed a buyout of just over $6.6 million that was to be paid in monthly installments of nearly $166,000 through February of 2021.  However, Nebraska officials confirmed this week, the university paid Riley a $6.2 million buyout in January of this year that wiped the former coach off NU’s books.

Riley took a job at Oregon State shortly after his dismissal by Nebraska, with his $50,000 salary very slightly mitigating his buyout number.

“We went ahead and absorbed it [earlier this] year to get it behind us, and we felt that we had a good enough year revenue-wise that we could handle that,” athletic director Bill Moos said by way of the Lincoln Journal Star. “Those things, for the most part, are behind us, and we’re moving forward at this point.”

Bo Pelini, fired by the Cornhuskers in November of 2014, is being paid nearly $130,000 every month through February of next year to pay off his $6.54 million buyout.  Riley’s replacement, Scott Frost, is in the first year of a seven-year, $35 million contract.

After Week 12 results, Houston-Memphis to decide AAC West

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It wasn’t pretty, but it did the job.

Coming out of a first half that was at times head-scratching… and odd… and downright weird with a 7-5 lead on SMU, Memphis put up a touchdown in the third quarter and another two in the fourth to pull away for a 28-18 road win.  Running back Patrick Taylor accounted for two of those second-half touchdowns on nine- and six-yard runs as he finished with a game-high 112 yards, his third 100-yard effort of the season.

The Tigers’ Darrell Henderson, who came into the game second in the nation averaging 8.74 yards per carry, was held to 4.7 yards on his 16 carries.  That was his second-worst yards per carry average of the season, behind only the 3.8 (4-15) put up against Missouri Oct. 20.

The Mustangs had even less success on the ground, rushing for just 25 yards on 26 carries.  Ben Hicks passed for 344 yards, his third 300-yard game in the past four games, in a losing effort.

With the win, Memphis improved to 4-3 in the conference, one game behind Houston, which moved to 5-2 with a win Thursday night, for first place in the AAC West.  Those two teams will square off next Friday, with the winner advancing to the conference championship game and playing either UCF, Cincinnati or Temple. The undefeated Knights hold the edge in the East heading into tonight’s huge matchup with the Bearcats, although a loss would leave all three, including the Owls, in play for the East crown.

Prior to last night’s loss, SMU (4-3) could’ve staked its claim to the West by winning its last two games.  SMU could still finish in a three- or four-way tie for the division, Tulane (4-3) included, although Memphis would win all tiebreakers regardless of how many teams are involved.

Major Applewhite, Ed Oliver issue statements addressing sideline flap

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We can all move on because apparently there’s nothing to see here.

Ed Oliver, who had missed the previous three games because of a knee injury, was sidelined for a fourth Thursday night as Houston squared off with Tulane in a key AAC West matchup.  Shortly before the half, Oliver, who was on the sidelines of the game supporting his teammates, was approached by head Major Applewhite about what was later learned to be the lineman’s choice of jacket, which according to the head coach is reserved for players who are active in the game.

Oliver took exception to Applewhite’s directive — and the fact that the coach put his hands on his jacket — leading to a heated confrontation heading into the halftime locker room in which the star defensive tackle had to be physically restrained from going after Applewhite by a UH football staffer.

After the game, Applewhite explained that “[t]here’s a rule for our team. Everybody follows the rule.”  Friday night, both of the involved parties issued statements through the school in which they stated they’re ready to “move forward together.”

MAJOR APPLEWHITE
“Ed is a passionate human being, and that is why he is the best player in the country. Last night was not indicative of his character and it was a passionate moment within our program. We can, and we will, both learn from this situation as we move forward together.”

ED OLIVER
“Last night is not who I am. I’m very passionate about the game of football and last night there was a misunderstanding. I was caught in an emotional moment. I have the utmost respect for Coach Applewhite and I appreciate the support of Coach Applewhite and my teammates during this time. I love my brothers, my team and my city and I’m looking forward to moving forward with them together. Go Coogs!”

It’s expected that, if healthy, the All-American defensive tackle will play in the regular-season finale next week.

After $1 million donation, UCF is adding a lazy river to new athletes village that will be open for tailgating

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College football traditionalists will have none of this, but Wet ‘n Wild may soon be a term you hear to describe future UCF football games.

Thanks to a $1 million donation this week from a pair of alumni, the school announced that they are finalizing plans for ‘Recovery Cove’ as part of a new $30 million UCF Athletics Village. As the name implies, the area will be for athletes of all sports to come to relax and recover and now will feature a pool, a lazy river and various other amenities.

“Florida weather is one of our greatest competitive advantages,” athletics director Danny White said. “UCF student-athletes have very demanding schedules. Having a recovery and leisure space so close to the Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership and the Garvy Center for Student-Athlete Nutrition will significantly enhance the UCF student-athlete experience. Recovery Cove will also deliver one of college football’s most unique game-day premium experiences for UCF fans.”

Yes, it that last little bit wasn’t clear, Recovery Cove will be opened up before football games for tailgating. The school eventually expects to even make quite a bit of money off the project as fans and others pay to get in and use the facilities before and after the Knights take the field at nearby Spectrum Stadium.

A timeline for the project was not released but any construction will naturally begin in the offseason. While we’ve seen pools at stadiums in the state before (such as Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field), Recovery Cove certainly is stepping things up in a new and unexpected way in Central Florida.