War Eagle Extra

Gus Malzahn reacts to consolidation of school district where career began

AUBURN, Ala. — Earlier this week, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported the Arkansas Board of Education had decided to fold the Hughes School District into the West Memphis School District. The decision was made due to Hughes' declining enrollment, falling below the state's minimum threshold of 350 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in consecutive years.

The school district holds a special place in the heart of Auburn's Gus Malzahn heart, as it was the place he got his start in coaching back in 1991. Last summer, the football field at Hughes High School was named in Malzahn's honor.

But Thursday's ruling means the school will no longer exist once the 2015-16 calendar year begins this fall.

If he was disappointed, Malzahn didn't show it publicly Saturday. Instead, he seemed to know this day was coming.

"That was something they talked about the last time I was there," he said. "That was a possibility."

Though Malzahn may have broken into the coaching ranks as Hughes' defensive coordinator 24 years ago, the school's football program had fallen on hard times recently. Hughes hasn't fielded a team since 2010. And before the football team went on hiatus, it had lost 39 straight games.

Malzahn's hope is that the consolidation helps the players who would have once suited up for Hughes walk into a more competitive situation in their new district.

"West Memphis is right up the road," he said, "and there's gonna a lot of good athletes at that school."