Based on my experience coming in as the new head coach, it is always a challenge to be the head man during a transition season.
I took over teams at Wyoming and at Auburn that were shambles as far as the players were concerned. There was potential at both places. Of course, at Wyoming the potential wasn't nearly as great as it was when I came to Auburn, but they can have a competitive program at Wyoming although when I got in there they hadn't had a winning team in eight years.
One thing that was similar at Wyoming in 1980 and at Auburn a year later, those kids on those teams had no idea of who I was. After we started working them they probably wished they had never found out, but we had a winning season that year at Wyoming with the kids working hard to make it happen. It was a lot like the 1981 season at Auburn except we didn't play as tough a schedule.
We were close in every game that year at Wyoming with the exception of our loss to BYU and that game was close for 3 1/2 quarters. They had Jim McMahon at quarterback and back then Brigham Young never pulled the starters out. McMahon was still throwing it on every down although the game was over.
Coming to Auburn the team had not won a conference game the year before. I?remember seeing the same looks and the same frustration in the eyes of the players. I certainly wasn't any household name to those guys, but I wasn't afraid of the challenge and believed we could get the job done.
The things I thought and felt about Auburn at the time, that we could put together a championship program, were correct. I remember I didn't really have much of an understanding of the spirit of Auburn, and what that was all about and how important it is, but I knew when I played against Auburn as a player they were a great football team and Coach Jordan was a great football coach.
I knew the potential to compete at the highest level was here in Auburn. It was just a matter of putting all of the pieces together and going to work.
Gus Malzahn has his work cut out for him, too. Even though the team won the national championship three years ago, it is hard to get much lower than what happened with last year's team when the only wins were vs. Alabama A&M, New Mexico State and Louisiana-Monroe, and the Tigers almost lost to Louisiana-Monroe.
The way the team got beat last year gave me a headache and I am sure I am not alone. The Tigers have to do a 180 degree turn this year and that always starts with who you hire as the head coach. I know his team hasn't played a game, but I am excited about Coach Malzahn and what he has already done. I also think highly of the coaching staff he has put together.
I am so proud of the Auburn people for their support with 84,000 folks showing up for the A-Day Game and I want to see those people rewarded for their loyalty with a lot more happy Saturdays this fall.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.