Auburn went from the preseason No. 9 team in the country to 7-5 in 2018, and that brought with it intense scrutiny on coach Gus Malzahn. One year after signing a 7-year, $49 million contract by winning the SEC West, rumors of pressure by influential Auburn power brokers on Malzahn to re-work his deal have been prevalent since the end of the season.
The sixth-year coach of the Tigers shot them down Thursday during his press conference at the start of bowl practice.
"A couple things I wanted to clear up that are out there," Malzahn said (via 247Sports). "First of all, my contract has not changed one bit. I was never told I had to change my contract to keep my job. I have the support of our athletic director and president. There's nobody hamstringing me from doing our job. They're both on the same page for helping us moving forward."
He admitted to frustration within the program about the lackluster 2018 campaign, but offered hope for the future.
"I think the bottom line is when you go 7-5 and you have aspirations of winning a championship, which we did, and go 7-5, no one is going to be happy," Malzahn said. "I'm not happy. I know our fans aren't. But I will tell you this, we've got a lot to look forward to next year. We've got the majority of our team coming back."
It's been sink or swim for Auburn under Malzahn. He burst on to the scene in his first year in 2013, led the Tigers to the SEC championship and to within 13 seconds of a national championship before former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston ended that. The Tigers were in the College Football Playoff mix into November 2014 before losing to Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama. They started in the No. 6 spot in 2015, but immediately regressed and finished 7-6 and 2-6 in SEC play. Back-to-back New Year's Six bowl games the next two seasons gave Auburn fans hope that the glory days might be back, but this season erased those hopes as fast as lemonade gets consumed at Toomer's Corner.
Since nearly winning it all in 2013, Malzahn is 21-19 in SEC play despite winning the 2017 SEC West title with a 7-1 conference record.
Auburn will play Purdue in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 28.