Auburn Tigers fire football coach Gus Malzahn after eight seasons

Auburn has fired head football coach Gus Malzahn, the school announced Sunday.

The decision comes less than 24 hours after the Tigers finished the regular season with a 6-4 record after beating Mississippi State 24-10 on Saturday.

"After evaluating the state of the Auburn football program, we've decided that it was time to make a change in leadership," Auburn director of athletics Allen Greene said in a statement. "We appreciate everything that Gus did for the program over the last eight seasons. We will begin a search immediately for a coach that can help the Auburn program consistently compete at the highest level."

Sources told ESPN's Chris Low that Malzahn was informed of his firing just before a team meeting on Sunday.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will take over as interim head coach.

Malzahn finished with a record of 68-34. He is owed $21.7 million, 50% of which is due in the first 30 days.

The program reached the BCS National Championship in his first season in 2013 and competed in two other New Year's Six bowl games.

Malzahn signed a seven-year extension worth $49 million in Dec. 2017 -- a season in which Auburn won 10 games and appeared in the SEC championship game.

But Malzahn's Tigers fell short in subsequent seasons, finishing fifth and third in the SEC West in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

The offense, in particular, stagnated in recent years.

Malzahn's up-tempo attack, which he wrote a book about and became famous for popularizing as a coordinator and then as a head coach, slowed and regressed in some aspects, as Auburn ranked seventh in the SEC in points per game since 2018.

Another source of consternation was Malzahn's struggles against top teams in the SEC, as Auburn went a combined 8-17 against Alabama, Georgia and LSU.

What's more, Auburn was 20-24 against teams that entered the game with a winning record.

All that said, Malzahn was one of the few coaches in the SEC who had any success against Alabama's Nick Saban. Since the start of the 2013 season, Saban is 65-6 against SEC opponents, and three of those losses were to Malzahn.

"Coach Malzahn led the Auburn football program with honor and integrity," Auburn president Jay Gogue said in a statement. "We appreciate his service to Auburn Athletics, Auburn University and, in particular, our student-athletes. We wish him and [wife] Kristi all the best."

Candidates who might be considered for the vacancy include Steele, Indiana's Tom Allen, Liberty's Hugh Freeze, Oregon's Mario Cristobal, Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin, Louisiana's Billy Napier, Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, former Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

ESPN's Mark Schlabach contributed to this report.