We need to talk about Auburn and Bryan Harsin.
On Halloween, Auburn gave Bryan Harsin a trick and the War Eagle fan base a treat by firing their embattled head coach after a 3-5 start to the season.
Now, two things can be true. You can have toxic working conditions, and a bad head coach. Some people might try to make it seem like Bryan Harsin was doomed from the start because he was brought in to a school that is notorious for dictating to its coaches which assistants to surround themselves with, but at the end of the day, for the school to be at blame, you still would have needed to see maximum effort from the coach in order for him to remain blameless.
Now, I don’t think Bryan Harsin is worried about blame. He’s got another $15 million coming his way on top of about $8 million dollars worth of checks cashed for less than two years’ work. Nobody’s crying for Harsin, much less anybody with the last name Harsin.
But let’s get into what exactly made Bryan Harsin such a bad coach.
First, you can’t come into the SEC without a plan to recruit. Boise State spent over a decade as the Alabama of Group of 5, and if a west coast three-star recruit wasn’t getting offers from USC, UCLA, Oregon or Washington, they had as good of a chance at ending up at Boise State as anywhere else. Auburn doesn’t recruit itself, and even if it did, it’s not a task you can pawn off on assistants… and even if you can, you have to be surrounded by assistants that you trust and treat with dignity.
It took just four games into Harsin’s tenure to fire wide receivers’ coach Cornelius Williams, a Birmingham native, who was then scooped up by rival Alabama.
Bryan Harsin kicked offensive coordinator Mike Bobo out the door after one year, only to replace him with a 32-year-old Austin Davis, who resigned after six weeks. Defensive Coordinator Derek Mason took a $400,000 paycut just to not have to see Bryan Harsin’s face around the office anymore when he bounced to Oklahoma State.
But at least the players had Harsin’s back right?
Well, sort of. Every player is built differently, and you saw a pretty clear split between the Auburn players that wanted someone that was invested in who they were on and off the field, and the players that didn’t need anything but a coach to push them on the gridiron.
Of all the players that left Auburn, one of the most common criticisms was that Bryan Harsin had no interest in who they are or where they came from. Smoke Monday, now with the Saints, said Harsin had no curiosity or interest in him as a person.
Former Auburn WR Kobe Hudson, now at UCF, said, “If Harsin learned to relate to the people … he’ll be the next Nick Saban.”
Maybe the best evidence that Harsin was an uncaring football robot came in his refusal to discuss the issue of vaccination publicly in fall 2021, when the state of Alabama was being ravaged by Covid deaths and hospitalizations.
Harsin’s interpersonal issues, along with the program’s worst record in a decade and massive roster exodus, led to one of the uglier attempted booster coups in college football history, with rumors of an affair with a staffer dominating the headlines. Once that happened, it was only a matter of time before the situation became untenable. Not only are the Tigers 3-5 at the end of October, their 22 total touchdowns this year is nine less than their former QB Bo Nix has produced in the last seven games alone.
So now Auburn is back in the situation of needing a new coach while two dozen influential boosters likely make some more of the “too many cooks in the kitchen” mistakes they made the last time around. Auburn is a circus, and a circus needs a clown.
Jimbo Fisher already identified two clowns in the SEC, and you ain’t getting Saban, so it might be time to hop on the Lane train.
Lane Kiffin, come on down.
As for Bryan Harsin, he’ll be fine. His track record and reputation out west will get him in the door for every interview that comes open, and it’s not crazy to consider him as a clubhouse leader for University of Colorado, or any Mountain West job that opens this offseason.
The marriage between Auburn and Harsin severely exposed the flaws of everyone involved.
If Auburn’s boosters can’t back off and let their next coach build his own program, and if Bryan Harsin can’t find a way to relate on a human level to everyone around him, the next chapter for both parties involved in this debacle is going to have the exact same ending.
Let that sink in.
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