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Arizona fired head coach Kevin Sumlin on Saturday, following the Wildcats’ embarrassing loss to rival Arizona State. The Sun Devils scored a whopping 70 points, the most ever in the rivalry's storied history.
The loss was the 12th-consecutive defeat dating back to last season, and even though he had two years remaining on his contract, the school dismissed him anyway and executed the buyout clause. But, as it turns out, Sumlin wasn’t the only head coach to get the axe this past weekend. Let’s take a look at the other two high-profile names that join the list of head coaches looking for a new gig.
Malzahn, Auburn Part Ways
Gus Malzahn was dismissed on Sunday, less than 24 hours after the Tigers closed out their regular season with a 24-10 win over Mississippi State. Malzahn spent eight seasons at Auburn, competing in two New Year’s Day bowl games and reaching the National Championship in his first season in 2013.
The 55-year old signed a seven-year extension worth $49 million in December of 2017 but would only last another three years on campus. He’ll be owed $21.7 million after the firing, 50% of which is due in the first 30 days since the buyout.
Malzahn accumulated a record of 68-34 while at Auburn but was on the hot seat almost from this season’s outset. Early-season losses to Georgia and South Carolina fueled further speculation the end was nigh, and his fate sealed with losses to Alabama and Texas A&M. Malzahn struggled against the SEC’s elite, going a combined 8-17 against Alabama, Georgia and LSU during his tenure.
No More Love for Lovie at Illinois
Another big name was let go on Sunday, as Lovie Smith was dismissed after five seasons at Illinois. The Illini are scheduled to play one final game during the upcoming conference championship weekend, but Smith was let go after a 28-10 loss to Northwestern dropped them to 2-5. Smith, who was a head coach for the Bears and Buccaneers in the NFL, led the Illini to a bowl game in 2019 but could not replicate that success a year later, and the team regressed.
Sumlin, Malzahn, and Smith push the total to 10 coaches who resigned or were fired this season. They join Jay Hopson of Southern Miss, Gary Andersen at Utah State, Will Muschamp at South Carolina (legendary coach Frank Beamer’s son Shane was hired last week), Derek Mason at Vanderbilt, Steve Campbell at South Alabama, Matt Viator at U-L Monroe, and Blake Anderson at Arkansas State.
There doesn’t appear to be any crossover between the reported candidates to replace Malzahn and Smith. Auburn’s list is highlighted by Indiana’s Tom Allen, Liberty’s Hugh Freeze, Lane Kiffin of Ole Miss, and former Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn. Meanwhile, it appears Illinois will focus on Buffalo’s Lance Leipold, Army’s Jeff Monken, and former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, among others.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will take over as interim head coach of the Tigers while the school conducts a search, presumably to lead Auburn in a potential bowl game. Steele will also be under consideration for the full-time gig.