If there’s one thing we can all agree on with college football in this day and age, it’s that there’s never a dull moment, no matter where you are or which team you follow.
The ongoing situation at Auburn is a case in point. When we wrapped up the 2022 regular season, nobody thought the Tigers would be looking for a new head coach this soon, but here we are.
In the few short months between Auburn’s close loss to Alabama and the second national signing day, an investigation occurred that will most likely cost Bryan Harsin his job on the Plains. How did we get to this point? Well that’s up to interpretation from many different folks around the program.
The Auburn president Jay Gogue is on his way out the door, making way for newly-hired president, Dr. Chris Roberts, who will officially take office on May 16th. Allen Greene continues to run the athletic department on a daily basis, but not without retired Lt. Gen. Ron Burgess looking over his shoulder in regards to the football and basketball programs. You’re probably confused as you read this right now. But that’s what Auburn is. They are confusing. They are also quite possibly delusional, but that’s a story for another day.
Which brings us to Harsin. The chatter that Harsin may soon lose his job was first made public last week. Why was he suddenly in danger? Well, when a coach runs through multiple assistant coaches in his first 14 months on the job, it raises questions about his ability to be the leader that his players need. It was also concerning that Derek Mason decided that he’d seen enough and started engaging with other schools to find another landing spot. The same could be said for the other coaches who have either been fired or have left the program since Harsin first took the job.
But it should be noted that this investigation into the daily coaching practices of Harsin has been going on for a while now. It didn’t just start last week. Folks inside the Harsin camp may try to put this all on the board of trustees, but there are other factors at work here. If the human resources department decides to look into a coach’s practices as a leader, there’s not much that can be done until a determination is made.
On Monday afternoon, Auburn released a statement in regard to the ongoing investigation into Bryan Harsin.
“The Auburn administration is judiciously collecting information from a variety of perspectives, including our student-athletes, and moving swiftly to understand any issues in accordance with university policies and procedures. Decisions regarding the future of Auburn and its Athletics programs, as always, are made in the interests of our great university and in fairness to all concerned. We do not make institutional decisions based on social media posts or media headlines.”
This feels more like a stall tactic more than anything else, but Auburn has hired outside counsel to interview some of the current and former coaches, along with people inside the football program about the ongoing issues.
Now let’s not act like the mess that was thrown up against the wall last week just came out of nowhere and didn’t have the fingerprints of some highly influential people. Surely it did. This is Auburn. It’s not hard to remember the coup that they tried last year when they worked to get Kevin Steele the head coaching job before the Harsin deal was finished. The inner workings of Auburn are why some coaches in the industry don’t trust the university to do things the right way, especially in football.
I am in no way saying that Harsin is innocent of whatever the folks in Samford Hall are investigating. But I am saying that last week was surreal. The head coach of a football team makes an appearance at the Senior Bowl to support his player, then meets with the local media for roughly five minutes, then speaks at an event alongside Nick Saban the same night. The coach then heads out of the country for a pre-planned vacation with his family that folks around the program knew was happening.
Not even 24 hours later, the online onslaught begins and rumors start circulating about him.
I think it’s pretty easy to recognize that this was planned. Either that or Harsin has the worst luck of any man in college football. He was on vacation while the university began talking publicly about his job. But Harsin isn’t naïve. He had a hint the school was already looking into a few things and checking some boxes when it came to his coaching leadership.
If a school thinks there are problems with the leadership of a program, then asking questions and getting the truth is the smart thing to do. If they find that these allegations have merit, then they will likely decide to investigate further.
Have you had enough yet? I hope you’ve realized what the fans of Auburn football are working with here: an athletic director who’s already looking over his shoulder, a president who will make the final decision, a newly-appointed president who officially takes over in May, and a head coach who has dug himself such a big hole inside Auburn that cave divers might not be able to rescue him now.
We’ll find out soon what Auburn decides to do, but from a public relations standpoint, I don’t see how the school can bring him back. Auburn should be prepared to spend some money to rid themselves of another coach, which is common place around that college now, and to spend even more money to bring a new guy in.