Former Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn has been named as the new head coach at UCF, the school announced Monday.
UCF signed Malzahn to a five-year contract worth $2.3 million annually. In the memorandum of understanding between the school and Malzahn, if he accepts another college or professional football coaching position before Dec. 31, 2021, he will owe a $7 million buyout. That number drops to $5 million if he leaves before Dec. 31, 2022; $3 million if he leaves before Dec. 31, 2023; $2 million if he leaves before Dec. 31, 2024 and $500,000 if he leaves after Dec. 31, 2024 but before the first regular-season football game of 2025.
Malzahn, 55, was fired on Dec. 13 after eight seasons at Auburn. He was 68-35 overall and 39-27 in SEC play. Malzahn took the Tigers to the national championship game in his first season in 2013. They won 10 games and made an SEC championship game appearance in 2017, but went just 14-12 against SEC opponents over the next three seasons.
He emerged as UCF’s leading candidate on Sunday and replaces Josh Heupel who left last month for the Tennessee head-coaching job.
“I’m thrilled to be the head coach at UCF, and I’m truly looking forward to being part of Knight Nation,” Malzahn said in a statement released by the school. “It’s exciting to be head of a program where the future is extremely bright. I will be hitting the ground running in terms of getting to know our team and everyone else connected with UCF. Our goal is to be ready to win championships.”
Malzahn signed a seven-year, $49 million contract with Auburn following the 2017 season and was owed a $21.7 million buyout when he was fired by the school in December. Per the terms of his contract, he received half of that money within 30 days of his termination on Dec. 13 and will receive the rest in equal annual installments over the next four years, regardless of his contract with UCF.
Malzahn was just 8-17 against SEC rivals Alabama, Georgia and LSU, but he was also one of the few coaches in college football to have any success against Nick Saban at Alabama. Since the start of the 2013 season, Saban is 65-6 against SEC opponents, and three of those losses were to Malzahn.
New UCF athletic director Terry Mohajir’s and Malzahn’s paths crossed briefly at Arkansas State. Three months after being named the Arkansas State athletic director in 2012, Mohajir had to find a replacement for Malzahn when he left for Auburn.
“When I started the search process, it became very evident very quickly that, based on the conversations I had with the players last week and what they told me were looking for, Gus Malzahn was the guy for the job,” said Mohajir in the school’s statement. “He has won at every level, and he has coached a Heisman Trophy winner and NFL draft picks. There has never been a better time for Coach Malzahn to lead this program than right now.”
Kent State coach Sean Lewis also was among those considered for the UCF job, according to sources.
ESPN’s Chris Low and Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report