Auburn's Gus Malzahn Wins Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award
"When you're growing up, he's the man," Malzahn said. "The fact that I'm from the state of Arkansas and he's from Fordyce, Arkansas, and one of my best friends is coaching high school there makes it even that much more special."
Malzahn won the award over four other finalists -- Baylor's Art Briles, Rice's David Bailiff, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Stanford's David Shaw.
The Tigers lost to LSU on September 21 and then reed off nine straight victories, including a win over Georgia on November 16 on a Hail Mary tipped pass, and a now legendary win on November 30 over Alabama when the Tigers returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a last-second score.
Malzahn's Tiger squad got better as the year went on, closed strong and sent the message to the SEC West that the crowded house that already included Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Kevin Sumlin, would be even further crowded.
"There's no doubt," he said. "It's hard to get better each week. I bet we're one of the few teams that actually did that, and the fact that we were playing our best football toward the end of the year, it was a lot of fun to watch those guys grow and end up where they did."
Former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum was the ceremony's other honoree, receiving the Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award. Slocum coached the Aggies from 1989 to 2002.
"I did have a chance to know him, and certainly his accomplishments I'm very aware of," Slocum said of Bryant. "Just to have a lifetime achievement award, there are so many people that are involved in that, and to me it's a sort of validation of the work of all those people, all those players."