AUBURN, Ala. — Though the calendar has turned to 2014, Gus Malzahn hasn’t been allowed to move past his accomplishments last year just yet.
Auburn’s coach accepted the Bobby Bowden Coach of the Year award in Birmingham, Ala., on Sunday night. Malzahn won the award in January, beating out fellow finalists Art Briles (Baylor), David Cutcliffe (Duke), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) and Jimbo Fisher (Florida State). Fisher and the Seminoles gave the Tigers one of their only losses last season, coming from behind to win the BCS championship game 34-31. Still, Malzahn engineered an incredible turnaround on the Plains this past season, as the Tigers went 12-2 and won the SEC championship.
Bowden, the legendary former coach at Florida State and the namesake of the award, attended the ceremony to personally present the award to Malzahn.
The Over the Mountain Touchdown Club of Birmingham created the Bowden award five years ago. In that time, the trophy has never left the state. Alabama’s Nick Saban is a three-time winner (2009, 2011 and 2012) and then-Auburn coach Gene Chizik captured the award in 2010.
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The Bowden award represents just one of the plethora of coaching distinctions Malzahn received for the Tigers’ 2013 campaign. Malzahn won five other national coaching awards (Associated Press, Home Depot, Eddie Robinson and Liberty Mutual awards) in addition to multiple honors as the top coach in the SEC.But the man who authored one of the best debut seasons of any coach in college football history has refused to take too much credit for Auburn’s success last year.
“It’s a tribute to our assistant coaches, which have done a wonderful job, and a tribute to our players,” he said in December. “When you win you get awards. But this is a group award. Anytime you get a head coaching award it's a group thing.”
Malzahn wasn’t the only coach recognized Sunday night.
Vince Dooley, who won 201 games at Georgia from 1964-88 — which included six SEC championships and the 1980 national title — was given a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to college football.