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Auburn announced Sunday that coach Gus Malzahn has been relieved of his duties effective immediately. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will serve as the Tigers' interim head coach as the they prepare for a bowl game. 

Malzahn will be paid a $21 million buyout as part of his seven-year, $49 million contract signed two seasons ago.

"After evaluating the state of the Auburn football program, we've decided that it was time to make a change in leadership," said Auburn athletic director Allen Greene in a statement. "We appreciate everything that Gus did for the program over the last eight seasons. We will begin a search immediately for a coach that can help the Auburn program consistently compete at the highest level."

Malzahn was 68-35 in eight seasons as the coach of the Tigers with a 39-27 mark in SEC play. He led Auburn to an SEC championship victory and appearance in the BCS Championship Game during his first season in 2013, but the Tigers lost that national title clash 34-31 to Florida State.

Auburn won the SEC West in 2017 and entered the SEC Championship Game with a College Football Playoff berth within reach only to fall to Georgia in that game and go on to lose to UCF in the Peach Bowl.

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Malzahn is one of the rare coaches who has seen consistent success against Alabama coach Nick Saban, compiling a 3-5 record in their eight Iron Bowl meetings, including a 48-45 win in 2019. However, the Crimson Tide dominated the Tigers 42-13 in this season's rivalry game on Nov. 28.

Despite the taste of success on a national stage and ability to challenge Bama more than any other coach in the SEC, Auburn has had an issue with consistency throughout Malzahn's last five years. It hasn't finished higher than sixth in the conference in offensive yards per play over the last six seasons, and the only time it finished higher than sixth in total offense was the SEC West title year of 2017 when they averaged 451.6 yards per game. That's especially concerning since Malzahn literally wrote a book about the success of the hurry-up, no-huddle offense.

That trend continued in his final game with the program on Saturday night. The Tigers gained just 343 yards in a 24-10 road win over Mississippi State