CLEMSON — If you were worried about Chad Morris’ spin on this winter’s coaching carousel, Tuesday was a good day for you.
One of Morris’ potential landing spots hired one of his coaching mentors, while another possible destination in the game of coaching dominoes locked up its current head coach.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Auburn announced that it had hired Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn as its new head coach. Auburn Undercover, a 247 Sports site covering Auburn, reported Monday that Morris had interviewed for the position.
Malzahn was Auburn’s offensive coordinator from 2009-11, and helped AU to a national title running the hurry-up, no-huddle offense helmed by No.1 overall NFL draft pick Cam Newton.
He left for Arkansas State – and a $500,000 annual pay cut from $1.35 million to $850,000 – only to return after AU slipped to a 3-9 season, sealing coach Gene Chizik’s fate.
In a statement, Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said Malzahn was Auburn’s “unanimous choice.”
Morris also reportedly interviewed for N.C. State’s vacancy, which was filled by Northern Illinois’ Dave Doeren.
In addition, Baylor coach Art Briles – who was a candidate for Arkansas’ opening – agreed to a new long-term extension to stay at Baylor. With deep Texas roots, Morris would have been a candidate at Baylor had Briles left. Arkansas stunned many by hiring Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema as its new leader.
Morris is finishing the first season of a six-year, $7.8 million deal that pays him $1.3 million annually as the nation’s highest-paid assistant. He has no buyout to leave for a head coaching position, but his buyout to leave for another offensive coordinator job from 2012-14 would equal the amount of his annual total compensation multiplied by the years left on his contract – approximately $6.5 million this winter.