Gus Malzahn does a great job at Little Rock Touchdown Club (Part 2)

I really enjoyed hearing Gus Malzahn speak at the final Little Rock Touchdown meeting on Nov 19, 2012. He covered several subjects that he covered a few days earlier at a touchdown club in Huntsville. Here are some of his comments from that meeting:

But reports that he could be the next coach at Auburn, if the university parts ways with Gene Chizik, or Tennessee or Arkansas, don’t interest him, Malzahn said.

“I’m the head coach at Arkansas State, and that’s my only focus right now,” he told a gathering of media members before speaking to the New Horizons Credit Union 1st and 10 Club at Heron Lakes Country Club.

He echoed that sentiment when responding to a question from a club member after addressing the group: “The only thing I’m in the mix for is the Sun Belt Conference championship, and that’s all that’s on my mind right now.”

Malzahn has Arkansas State at 8-3 overall and atop the Sun Belt Conference with a 6-1 record. The Red Wolves have an open date this week before closing the regular season against Middle Tennessee in a game that will decide the conference’s champion.

Malzahn turned down the chance to be Vanderbilt’s coach when Auburn won the BCS national championship in 2010 before taking over at Arkansas State a season later. On Monday night, he gave several reasons why he’d like to stay with the Red Wolves and outlined his plan for the program in his home state.

“Things are going great,” Malzahn said. “We’ve set attendance records. We’re playing our best football right now. We’ve got a six-game winning streak. We’re playing for the conference championship in two weeks, which is very exciting. The future is very bright.”

But Malzahn has found some things to like beyond the football field at Arkansas State.

He mentioned a couple of times that the college football life can be hard on coaches’ families, and he said his youngest daughter, 18-year-old Kenzie, was “very happy” in their new situation. “That means a lot to a dad,” Malzahn said. He also said Jonesboro, Ark., was three- to three-and-half hours from where he grew up. “I got to see my mom on Mother’s Day for the first time since I started coaching college football,” Malzahn said of his first year at Arkansas State.

Still, the job is football. Malzahn pointed to plans for a $25 million football complex at ASU and said he was “motivated by the challenge of building.”

“I’ve told people I want to make Arkansas State the Boise State of the South,” Malzahn said. “We’re recruiting, not against the Sun Belt, but we’re recruiting against the SEC, we’re recruiting against the Big Ten.

“We want to make Arkansas State a top-25 team year in and year out. If we can finish this thing, we have a chance to do that this year.”

 

gus malzahn.jpg Arkansas State football coach Gus Malzahn was in Mobile on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, to speak to the New Horizons Credit Union 1st and 10 Club at Heron Lakes Country Club. (Mike Brantley/mbrantley@al.com) 

Malzahn said he didn’t want Arkansas State to be “a one-hit wonder,” but hoped to have the type of program that goes to a bowl after every season.

“We are going to a bowl (this season),” Malzahn said, “and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if we came here.”

The GoDaddy.com Bowl, which will be played Jan. 6 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, will match a team from the Sun Belt Conference against a team from the Mid-American Conference.

Malzahn has experience with the local game. He was the offensive coordinator for Tulsa when the Golden Hurricane won Mobile’s bowl after the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Last season, he watched Arkansas State play Northern Illinois in the GoDaddy.com Bowl after being named the successor to Hugh Freeze, who left the Red Wolves for Ole Miss.

“I’m a big fan of this area,” Malzahn said. “I came here for two years back when it was the GMAC Bowl with Tulsa, and now that I’ve been to some other bowls I can say the way that you all roll out the red carpet for the teams that come in is really unbelievable.”

If this year’s GoDaddy.com Bowl rolls out the red carpet for the Sun Belt champion, that team will be the winner of the Dec. 1 Arkansas State-Middle Tennessee game.

“That’s a team that beat Georgia Tech by two touchdowns earlier this year,” Malzahn said of the Blue Raiders, “so you’re talking about a team that can play with anybody.”

Malzahn said he had been impressed by the Sun Belt in his first season in the conference.

“I didn’t know what to think when I first got in because I had been in the SEC for three years,” Malzahn said. “But there are some great teams in this league. And I think you can see the way they’ve played out of conference. There’s some big wins, some close games. You look at Lafayette, the way they played Florida a couple of weeks ago. This is one of those up-and-coming conferences, and there’s a lot of good players and good teams.”

Arkansas State’s losses this season have come against Oregon, Nebraska and Western Kentucky. The Red Wolves lost to Oregon 57-34 on Sept. 1, and Malzahn said he was surprised the Ducks lost to Stanford last week.

“It shocked me they got beat,” he said. “It goes to show you that week to week anything can happen in college football. I thought that bunch was better than the team we played with Auburn (in the 2010 BCS national championship game). (Oregon coach) Chip Kelly, he’s a buddy of mine, and he thought they were, too.”

Before beginning his talk to the 1st and 10 Club, Malzahn said he needed “to take the lay of the land” and asked how many Auburn fans and how many Alabama fans were in the crowd.

Then he told them, “I didn’t wear red for three years until I got on that plane to go to Arkansas State.”

He also had a comment or two for fans of other teams.

To the Ole Miss faithful, Malzahn said of Freeze, “What he’s doing right now at that place is really unbelievable.”

_______

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By Everette Hatcher III, on November 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm, under Current Events. No Comments
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