Despite losing the SEC Championship Game and the playoff spot that went with it, Gus Malzahn's job got far more secure over the weekend.
It did NOT get any easier.
The playoff selection demonstrated two hard, cold facts of life for Auburn moving forward. Georgia's back, and Alabama's not going away. It appears Malzahn will have to deal with both rivals at the height of their considerable powers for years to come.
For better or worse - this being Auburn, you know there will be extremes - the coach and the school renewed their wedding vows when they agreed to a seven-year deal worth $49 million, an average of $7 million a year.
On the plus side, if Malzahn continues to grow as a head coach as he did this season, Auburn could move from frequent November contender to regular December champion. On the other hand, if the next three years look anything like the finishes to 2014 through 2016, both sides will have to grin and bear it.
We don't yet know all the critical buyout details, but it appears it'll be even more expensive to make a change in the coming years.
The Arkansas insiders who were convinced that Malzahn was coming home were misinformed or misled. Malzahn's camp and Auburn, led by President Steven Leath and trustee Raymond Harbert, had been working on a new deal for about two weeks and had generally agreed on the parameters before Saturday's game.
That contract, like many events in the Malzahn era, produced a mixed reaction in the Auburn fan base. Some supporters recognized this isn't an optimal time to be searching for a new coach and it would be challenging to land someone as accomplished as Malzahn.
He's been far from perfect, but he's led the Tigers to two SEC Championship Games and won one of them, the same as Tommy Tuberville but in half the time. As head coach, Malzahn has come up just short of a national title and just shy of a playoff berth, and he's had Auburn ranked in the top 10 at some point during each of his five seasons.
When his teams are good, they're very good, good enough this year to take down No. 1 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama and earn the No. 2 playoff ranking in the next-to-last poll. But when they're bad ...
Those mood swings have been maddening. They concern other Auburn supporters who expect more consistency from a coach making the kind of money Malzahn has made and will make. His new deal puts him at No. 4 on the list of college football's highest-paid coaches.
Reaching higher ground on the field on a regular basis has become even more challenging. This year provides all the evidence you need.
Beating No. 1 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama wasn't enough to put the Tigers in the playoff. Unseating Alabama as SEC West champion and denying the Crimson Tide a shot at a fourth straight SEC title wasn't enough to get Auburn where it wanted to go.
Finishing seventh in the final playoff rankings but still trailing Georgia and Alabama in the only poll that mattered wasn't enough to satisfy some of the more demanding Auburn supporters.
I know because I heard from some of them Sunday night after the news of Malzahn's new contract broke. They were not thrilled.
For the foreseeable future, negative emotions will serve no purpose. Barring a bizarre set of circumstances, Malzahn is going to be the Auburn coach for years to come.
He's already shown he can stand up to Nick Saban and Kirby Smart on occasion. His new contract won't satisfy him or Auburn unless he does it again and again and again....Read more