Arkansas State fans found themselves happier than they had been in a long time on December 3, 2011.
The Red Wolves had just won their regular season finale against Troy to go undefeated in Sun Belt play and just won 10 games for the first time since the 1975 undefeated team and the first time since becoming a BCS member.
Two days later the extreme high of winning a conference championship was dampened when first year head coach who had returned ASU to its winning ways Hugh Freeze, stood before his team in tears telling them good bye, that he was taking his dream job in his home state of Mississippi, Ole Miss.
How quickly things can change.
Now fast forward things seven days from the time Freeze announced he was resigning.
Rumors began to swirl Monday December 12th that Arkansas State and Auburn’s Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn had mutual interest in each other.
Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. AStateNation.com confirmed that Malzahn had officially been named the head coach at Arkansas State.
Wednesday December 14th in front of a standing room only crowd on the Arkansas State University campus Malzahn, a native Arkansan had officially returned home.
“My first thought was wow when we heard it was going to be Gus Malzahn,” The Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Ryan Aplin said. “We were disappointed that Freeze left, but it was unbelievable that Malzahn was coming here.”
To say the hire by ASU System President Chuck Welch and Athletic Director Dr. Dean Lee was a home-run is definitely an understatement.
The Malzahn hire shocked the sports world creating more energy and excitement surrounding the ASU Football program in the history of the school.
“We knew the hire was going to be a great one,” President Welch said. “We had no idea it would return dividends for our program so quickly.”
National media swarmed the small town of Jonesboro, Arkansas to find out why Malzahn decided to take the Arkansas State University job.
“This is home to me,” Malzahn told the Red Wolf faithful. “I coached 15 years as a high school coach in the state of Arkansas. This is where my career in football began, it’s only fitting this is where my career as a college head coach begins.”
Malzahn made it clear early that he was going to run things his way and that he would play a big part in everything that has to do with his program.
He assembled a coaching staff in a week and began to recruit the state of Arkansas like it had never been recruited before by any ASU coaching staff.
His staff had less than five weeks to assemble what turned out to be the top recruiting class of the Sun Belt Conference, with 11 of those signees coming from the Natural State. ?
“As I promised when I arrived here, we are going to recruit the state of Arkansas like it has never been recruited before,” Malzahn said again after the end of his first spring football season in Jonesboro. “There is great football played in this state and it’s going to be the home base of our program.”
Malzahn has declared several things in his first few months as the new head coach of the Red Wolves.
“We will have the fastest offense in the country.”
“We will recruit the state of Arkansas like it has never been recruited before.”
He followed up with that promise with an announcement Sunday April 22, only a day after the Red Wolves Spring Football game.
Malzahn introduced the AState Ambush to the state of Arkansas.
“There are 215 schools in the state of Arkansas that plays football,” Malzahn noted. “My coaching staff will hit all 215 schools in just five days. This has never been done before, especially in just five days.”
Malzahn has also been very visible in the state of Arkansas. Part of a state wide marketing plan, there are billboards strategically placed with Malzahn’s picture with the message “Game On”.
Red Wolf fans love it.
Arkansas State Football is relevant again.
Coming off a 10 win season, Malzahn has declared to take the program to the “Next Level.”
What does taking the program to the Next Level means to him?
“We are going to build this football program into a perennial power, a consistent top 25 team nationally,” Malzahn said. “We want to become the Boise State of the South. We want to be that mid major program that is constantly knocking on the BCS Bowl Door. That is what the next level means to me.”
AStateNation is buying what Malzahn is selling.
Over 6,000 fans showed up to the Red Wolves First Spring game under Malzahn.
“The Next Level also means a new commitment from our fan base,” Malzahn said. “By having the biggest crowd in the history of our program for our spring game is a great start. We have to fill our stadium for all of our home games. It takes a commitment from everyone.”
Malzahn is detailed oriented.
He leaves nothing for speculation. He has a plan for everything involving his first college football program.
“I’m very excited about being the Head Coach at Arkansas State,” Malzahn said. “Now it’s time to take this program to new heights. To do things that has never been done before here.”
In his words it’s time for the Red Wolves to take it to the “Next Level.”