How Bryan Harsin To Auburn Was The Biggest Mistake for Both Parties
There is no doubt among the biggest Bryan Harsin detractors that he is a great football coach. The book on Harsin from multiple sources is that he's a great football coach on the field but lacks the skills as a people person off the field. Harsin left Boise State last year for the greener pastures of the SEC.
Those pastures are full of manure due to a failure of both parties to understand the complexities of coaching at Auburn University. In business terms, both sides failed to do their due diligence before committing to each other. National and local publications speculate that Harsin will be gone from the Plains by the end of next week. Sources within the region tell us is now only a matter of negotiating Harsin to the lowest amount of money he will take for his buyout.
Harsin is owed 18 million dollars if paid in full and fired without cause. If Harsin is fired for a reason, he will get nothing, leading to litigation from both parties. We've also been told that the big-money boosters never wanted Harsin. In addition, these folks have allegedly been compiling a list of transgressions against Harsin since day one. One can blame Auburn Athletic Director Allen Greene for poking the bear when he hired Harsin and proudly proclaiming that he makes the decisions at Auburn and not the big boosters.
Harsin's Poor Decision To Leave Boise State
Bryan Harsin's Tour of Coaching Jobs
It has been well documented why Coach Harsin left Boise State. Publication of internal emails between Harsin, the athletic director, and the president revealed that the school took a huge hit financially due to Covid. Harsin wanted the school to be more aggressive in moving to another conference that offered the Broncos a bigger and more competitive stage; the university replaced the long-time beloved athletic director with a new hire from Baylor. Harsin has always been one of the most sought-after Group of Five coaches, and when Auburn called, he pulled the plug and left his hometown. (We first heard the story from our sources in Alabama before it was reported in Boise.)
How Boise State Did Not Prepare Harsin for Auburn
Famous Boise State Coaches
I have had the blessed experience of living and covering SEC Sports for over six years while living in Alabama. It is not an understatement to say that their religion is SEC Football. Football is a nice alternative to skiing, hiking, or other activities in our area. Except for the Chris Petersen Era, Boise State Football has never been close to what is experienced within the SEC and, more importantly, the SEC West.
In Boise, the university controls the small sports press coverage. There are no hardball questions, and the press acts live as an amplifier to the university's press releases. Harsin, and all BSU coaches, have always controlled the fledgling press corps. If someone asks an aggressive question, they usually find themselves at the other end of a scolding from the athletic department.
Harsin had no idea what he was in store for when Auburn hired him. The reporting in that region is outstanding through talk radio, blogs, newspapers, digital publications, and any other entity known to humanity. Harsin tried to charm the media by giving them Auburn hats. They immediately turned that into a story about how the coach from Boise was out of touch with the South.
Auburn losing their last five games, including the Birmingham Bowl to Group of 5 Houston, has not helped his status. However, the release of material that we cover here concerning players, losing assistants, and alleged personal misconduct shows an untenable situation for the coach to continue at Auburn. Harsin told ESPN he's not leaving; someone forgot to tell him the university will decide if he stays or goes.
If Auburn had beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl, the former BSU coach might have had a chance for year two, but since they lost, it appears he will be out as well. How can you keep a coach who has players saying he treated them like dogs? That he never met with their parents? The lackluster recruiting under Harsin says it all, Auburn is regressing, not progressing forward as a football power.
Auburn's Failure of Hiring Harsin
Both sides underestimated the headwinds that hiring an outsider, including Harsin, would cause throughout the Auburn community. Auburn is a football program dominated not by successful football coaches but by the not-so-secret world of influential big-money donors. Donors who decided that now Senator Tommy Tuberville needed to be replaced while still coaching the team.
Tuberville found out about the attempted coup to hire then Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino and shamed the university into keeping him. A year later, he took the Tigers to an undefeated season. Eventually, time ran out on 'Tubbs,' and he got the boot. Gene Chizik, who won a national title at Auburn, was fired two years later. His replacement Gus Malzahn was fired after a challenging 6-4 season.
Malzahn had won an SEC Title and taken the Tigers to a national title game. Gus had to go because he was paid too much money. The prior president and athletic director signed him to a lucrative extension that kept him at Auburn and away from possibly returning home to coach Arkansas.
The university president the athletic director were all fired. Greene's job was to come in and find a replacement for Malzone; instead of collaborating with the boosters, he antagonized them. Green's contract is up this year and is expected to not be renewed.
In his arrogance to prove that he was in charge, Greene hired the wrong coach. College football is a regional sport. Coaching in the Mountain West, where stadiums rarely sell out, cannot correctly prepare someone for the intense world of the SEC.
The donor class already looking for a reason not to embrace the new coach, we now can see that this hiring was doomed from the start. Does anyone want to live and work in a place they're not wanted? Both sides made terrible calls, and it looks like the Auburn football fans will have to pay the price. And the buyout.