Official: Gus Malzahn agrees to contract extension to stay at Auburn

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn watches teams warm up before the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship vs. Georgia. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Gus Malzahn is staying at Auburn.

Malzahn, who has been linked to the opening at Arkansas even before it was an opening, has agreed to a contract extension with Auburn after leading the team to an SEC West title. The news was first reported by Brandon Marcello of 247Sports.com, who said Malzahn’s new deal will “stretch at least five years and could include a raise to as much as $7 million.”

Per AuburnSports.com, the agreement includes “a raise, stronger buyout protection, more money for assistants and iron-clad assurances about upgrades to football facilities.”

Auburn confirmed the news Monday , saying the “broad outlines” of the new contract were agreed to Sunday with details to be finalized in the coming days.

“Strength and stability go hand-in-hand, and we have both in Coach Malzahn,” Auburn President Steven Leath said in a statement. “We’re excited for the future of Auburn football. This means a lot to the Auburn family.”

Malzahn is in his fifth season at Auburn and just won the second SEC West title of his tenure. The Tigers beat rivals Georgia and Alabama in two of the final three weeks of the regular season, but fell to Georgia, the SEC East champion, Saturday in the SEC title game. A trip to the College Football Playoff was on the line in that game. Instead, Auburn (10-3) will face AAC champion Central Florida (12-0) in the Peach Bowl.

Auburn lost to Florida State in the national championship game in Malzahn’s first season as head coach. Expectations were sky-high after that, but the Tigers went 8-5, 7-6 and 8-5 in the three years that followed. Malzahn was on the hot seat entering 2017, and his status was up in the air after Auburn blew a sizable lead and lost at LSU on Oct. 14. But after that, the Tigers reeled off five straight wins to win the division.

All the while, there was speculation about Arkansas’ interest in Malzahn. Malzahn is an Arkansas native who played receiver for the Razorbacks and it became clear pretty early this season that it would be Bret Bielema’s final year with the program. Bielema was fired on Nov. 24, and the attention turned directly to Malzahn.

After Saturday’s SEC title game loss, Malzahn, as Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde wrote, “toed the line of commitment” to Auburn with this press conference exchange:

“I’m happy here at Auburn,” Malzahn said after his Tigers lost the Southeastern Conference championship game to Georgia in resounding fashion, 28-7.

That’s a nice statement, but not a firm statement. So the questions kept coming.

“I want to be the head coach at Auburn,” he said.

And you will be?

“I want to be.”

Arkansas was apparently ready to offer Malzahn a significant amount of money, but the coach did not need to go to Fayetteville for a new payday. He’s getting one at Auburn.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!