UCF hired former Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn on Monday, in what’s become one of the most well-regarded staff changes of the college football offseason. After a successful eight season stint with the Tigers, the 55-year-old will take over one of the most competitive Group of Five programs in the country.
Among those that praised the move soon after it happened was ESPN college football analyst Paul Finebaum.
Finebaum called the Malzahn hiring an “upgrade” for UCF after former head coach Josh Heupel left for Tennessee in late January. The ESPN analyst expects the Knights to return to the top of the AAC with the former Auburn coach at the helm.
“They are getting a really good football coach,” Finebaum said on Monday in an appearance on The Roundtable via Jox 94.5 in Birmingham, Alabama. “And rarely do you lose a coach to an SEC school and upgrade, but that’s exactly what UCF has done. Gus Malzahn is a better coach than Josh Heupel. Now, remember, Heupel took over for Scott Frost, who went to Nebraska — that’s a whole ‘nother documentary there.
“But Malzahn went to the national championship game in his first year at Auburn. He had a shot in getting back to the playoffs a couple of years ago. He beat Nick Saban three times. Find me someone else walking around in America who can make that claim there. Maybe one guy out there. And he’s done a remarkably consistent job. It didn’t end well, but he didn’t leave Auburn in disgrace. They did have a winning record during a very tough pandemic season.
“Without having to play Nick Saban every year, without having to deal with Kirby Smart and LSU, Gus Malzahn is going to win and he is going to win big in Orlando.”
"And rarely do you lose a coach to an SEC school and upgrade, but that's exactly what UCF has done."
— 247Sports (@247Sports) February 16, 2021
Finebaum’s opinion was shared around the college football world, as fans found themselves mostly in favor of the hire.
Despite Malzahn’s disappointing end with the Tigers, he boasted a 68-35 record over his eight seasons at Auburn. He led the team to the a National Championship Game in 2013 and captured two SEC West division titles during his tenure.
Although Malzahn probably won’t find himself in any national title contest with UCF, he should expect plenty of success in Orlando, starting as soon as next fall.