A Sun Belt Conference title isn’t the only thing on the line Saturday for Arkansas State Coach Gus Malzahn.
Malzahn could earn a $50,000 bonus if the Red Wolves beat Middle Tennessee State and win the league championship. Malzahn, who makes $850,774 annually, has a number of incentives built into his football contract with ASU, including the payout for a conference title/bowl appearance.
Should ASU (8-3, 6-1) make a postseason bowl and not win the SBC title, Malzahn could still earn an additional $25,000. The $50,000 payout is the most Malzahn could earn this season, but he has the potential to earn $125,000 in bonuses with the Red Wolves.
Arkansas State hired Malzahn from Auburn in December 2011. Malzahn replaced Hugh Freeze, who left for Ole Miss after guiding ASU to a conference championship.
Malzahn, an Arkansas native, was making $1.3 million annually at Auburn as offensive coordinator. His name has come up in speculation surrounding an opening at Auburn, which recently fired Coach Gene Chizik.
Asked on Monday about being linked to the Tigers’ opening, Malzahn told media in Jonesboro, “I'm focused on what we're doing here. I got my hands full with what we've got going."
ASU is only obligated to pay Malzahn’s bonus if he is “still employed by the University at the time the event occurs.” That means the $50,000 payout for the conference championship/bowl participation could only come after the final game of 2012.
Per his contract, leaving for another opportunity after this season would cost Malzahn $700,000. His buyout — payable within 10 days to Red Wolf Club, Inc. — drops to $350,000 after year two, then falls from $200,000 to $100,000 to $50,000 in the final year.
Malzahn is owed $2.45 million if terminated without cause before Jan. 31, 2013. ASU’s payout to cut ties with Malzahn drops to $1.96 million after the second year, $1.47 million in year three, $980,000 in year four and $490,000 in the fifth year.
Middle Tennessee visits Liberty Bank Stadium at 2 p.m. on Saturday.