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Arkansas State’s One-And-Done Era Coaches: Which One Gets Fired First?

Gus Malzahn, Hugh Freeze, and Bryan Harsin could be looking for a new job soon. But who gets the pink slip first?

Auburn v Mississippi Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

The one-and-done era of coaches began in Jonesboro on that fateful day in December 2010 as Hugh Freeze was elevated from offensive coordinator to head coach, replacing Steve Roberts after nine years. No one that follows Red Wolves football or college football for that matter, could have predicted where that hire would lead a program that had struggled mightily since elevating to 1-A status in 1992.

The Freeze hiring would lead to a familiar pattern for ASU, hire a new coach, win the conference, and coach then leaves for a bigger payday at another program, repeat again. With the recent NCAA violation rumblings in Oxford with now Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, we take a look at the odds on favorites from the one-and-done era at ASU that will be in the unemployment line first.


Bryan Harsin was bailed out of a bad situation as the University of Texas’ co-offensive coordinator coming to Jonesboro for the 2013 season, following Gus Malzahn’s departure to Auburn. Harsin proceeded to go 7-5 at ASU and shared the Sun Belt Conference title with Louisiana-Lafayette. Boise State found itself in need of a coach after Chris Petersen left for Washington and turned to its former QB and offensive coordinator. Surprisingly, Boise State was willing to pony up the $1.75 million buyout clause to get him. Harsin has won two Mountain West Conference titles since his return but has been unable to sustain the high bar set by his predecessor Chris Petersen. With that said, he will probably be in Boise until a larger program targets him.


Coach Anderson now begins year four of his tenure at ASU and will be remembered as the coach that helped stop the carousel in and out of Jonesboro. In three seasons he has two Sun Belt Conference titles and just had a contract extension into 2021 which would place him at a $3 million buyout after next season.


Gus Malzahn made the improbable return to his home state after jumping off Gene Chizik’s sinking ship at Auburn at the conclusion of the 2011 season. Gus would steal some of the spotlight normally reserved for the SEC Razorbacks by winning 9 games and an outright Sun Belt title by demolishing Middle Tennessee 45-0 in the season finale before returning to Auburn after Chizik’s imminent firing. Malzahn would lead the Tigers to the 2014 BCS Championship Game in his first year back on the plains, only to fall to Florida State 34-31 but would win SEC and various national coach of the year honors. After that 12-2 record in his first season, Auburn has gone 23-16 since including an 11-13 SEC record. If lack of drastic improvement or another backslide season occurs in 2017, Malzahn may be looking elsewhere in ‘18.


No matter what happens to Hugh Freeze in the aftermath of the current NCAA investigation, he will always hold a special place for ASU fans as the coach that showed what could be in FBS football in Jonesboro. His dream job was to return home to the magnolia state and coach the Rebels. That opportunity came in 2011 after he had led the Red Wolves to a 10-2 regular season record and the Sun Belt title. His impact in Oxford caught national attention when his 2013 recruiting class was considered in the top five nationally by most services with several future NFL draft picks. The NCAA would launch a multi year investigation into the program amid rumors of illegal recruiting and now awaits an NCAA hearing on twenty one violations. The university took an early stance that most of these issues were before his coaching tenure but now seem to point to multiple infractions during his time at the head of the program. Some have speculated that he might not survive the summer. Whether directly or involved or just not aware, he may be looking elsewhere very soon.