HOOVER, Ala. — Gus Malzahn doesn’t like to stay planted on the sidelines when he’s coaching in a game for Auburn football.
But now that a few feet can cost his team 15 yards, Malzahn either needs to change his tactics or get ready to get yanked back by one of his assistants.
A new rule passed by the NCAA gives officials the ability to penalize a team 15 yards if a coach enters the field to protest a call. The SEC’s coordinator of officials, Steve Shaw, said at SEC Media Days last week there will be “a warning, a 5-yard, a 5-yard then a 15-yard penalty” system for leaving the team area.
Malzahn doesn’t take lightly the threat of a 15-yard penalty for leaving the sidelines.
“If you get a 15-yard penalty when you step on the field, that concerns me,” he said last week. “That’s something you’ve got to get used to. Sometimes I like to get out there when the ball is way away and you’re not a factor. It definitely concerns me.”
The Auburn coach hasn’t been involved in many arguments on the field during his time on the Plains. However, he admitted he has a tendency to leave the coaching box during plays — especially when Auburn has the ball — for a better vantage point.
“I have a habit sometimes of getting out there,” Malzahn said. “But I’ve never been in anybody’s way.”
But Malzahn understands the intent of the new rule.
“You’ve got some coaches who go on the field and throw a fit and all that,” Malzahn said. “I think officials just had to do something to control that.”
However, he also knows he can’t roam as much as he used to anymore.
Most football teams have a designated “get back” assistant that corrals fellow coaches and even players when necessary. In years past, Malzahn’s get-back man was Jamie Croley, his brother-in-law and former director of football operations.
Croley resigned in May, leaving a vacancy in the get-back department. The replacement most likely will be strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell.
Now, the man in charge of getting the Tigers in SEC shape could be in charge of limiting their penalty yards.
“We’ll have our strength coach where he can get me,” Malzahn said. “He’s a strong guy. He can get your attention. If it’s a 15-yard penalty, you need to get my attention.”