Auburn athletics director Allen Greene spoke with reporters Monday morning regarding the future of the university's football program and head coach Gus Malzahn. AL.com's Wesley Sinor was the first to report Greene's comments.
Though Greene appeared at the Monday Morning Quarterback Club in Birmingham to discuss Auburn as a whole, the team's 4-3 start to the season and recent 30-24 loss to Tennessee controlled the conversation.
Auburn's third loss on the season snapped Tennessee's 11-game conference losing streak and left the Tigers out of the AP poll for the first time since week seven in 2016.
Greene started his Auburn career in February, just two months following Malzahn's seven-year, $49 million extension.
“I recognize that football and Auburn football and the standing of the coach is a hot topic, considering we’re not really where we want to be and not where we expected to be," Greene said. "But as I’ve shared with coach, my responsibility is to support him and his team, and we’ll continue working and working to get better.
“Gus and I meet every week and we talk in the between. I’m out at practices. So there’s nothing that’s changed in that regard.”
Despite starting the season as a top-10 team, reaching a maximum height of No. 7, a disappointing follow-up has not changed the conversation between Greene and Malzahn.
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“I don’t think you ever have to have a conversation with a coach about job performance," Greene said. "They know exactly what's expected of them, and again, it's making sure we're doing the best we can to put our student-athletes in the best possible position to be successful."
Through week seven of his sixth season, Malzahn has compiled a record of 49-25 as Auburn's head coach. His team's 10-win season last year was its first double-digit finish in the win column since 2013, Malzahn's first season.
Before traveling to Oxford to tackle a 5-2 Ole Miss, Greene was questioned on whether Malzahn met his standards as a head coach.
“I shouldn’t have to be the one to answer that," Greene said. "Every one of us who is a former athlete or a coach expects more of us. So when you don’t have the outcomes that you desire, that’s a frustrating thing. But he’s committed to working through it, I’m committed to being there for him, and we’ll continue to grind."
After returning home to play Texas A&M, Auburn travels to play No. 8 Georgia and top-ranked Alabama on the road. With ensuing doubts of finishing the season with bowl eligibility following back-to-back losses, Greene maintained his defense of Malzahn.
“There are elements to when teams are successful, then there are also elements to when teams are not successful," Greene said. "Unfortunately, we’re going through a period of time right now where not everything is clicking, and so part of our responsibility is to make sure that we’re getting the right things in place, sticking with that process and understanding that this isn’t a week-to-week deal here.
"I know that fans go up and down depending on the outcome of the game, but it’s our responsibility to really look down the road and make sure that we’re continuing to put the pieces of the puzzle together to be successful for a long time.”
Now eight months into his time on The Plains, Greene said he is well aware of fan and booster reactions to the season.
"Well, they don't have to tell me anything," Greene said, "I already know. Right, I'm sitting there watching the games like everybody else. Certainly, it's frustrating.
"We're all in this and we're committed to being successful and it's disappointing when it's not. So, again, more people are working at it and just keep on plugging away. That's all you can do."
Malzahn’s buyout as of Dec. 1 is $32.1 million, the nation's fifth highest, and it won’t decrease below $20 million until after the 2021 season. The sixth-year head coach would be owed as much as $38 million if fired before the end of the contract.
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