Auburn Coach Brian Harsin was sacked on Monday after a 41-27 loss to Arkansas, bringing an end to an inconvenient and unsuccessful streak on the Plains. Harsin was relieved of his duties as the Tigers fell in two games under 0.500 to 3-5 in the season with the program dropping 10 of the last 13 games and nine of the last 10 against strength-five opponents dating back to last season.
“Auburn University has decided to make a leadership change for the Auburn University Football Program,” the school said in a statement. “President Christopher Roberts made the decision after a thorough review and assessment of all aspects of the football program. Auburn will begin the immediate search for a coach who will bring the Auburn program back to a place where they consistently compete at the highest levels and represent the winning tradition that is Auburn football.”
Harsin finished 9-12 (4-9 SEC) in less than two full seasons in the business after taking over as Gus Malzahn after the 2020 campaign. Malzahn was 67-35 (38-27 SEC) in eight seasons at Auburn.
Harsin entered the 2022 season on one of the hottest seats in the country despite spending just one year on the Plains. After a 6-7 debut in 2021 that ended with five straight losses, the school’s power brokers attempted a coup to oust Harsin from office. Frustrations over crew turnover and coaching, as well as Harsin’s failure to sign a single player on the traditional National Signing Day in February, kicked off a week-long saga that the powerful people linked to Auburn’s athletic department are said to have sought to sack Harsin over a prompt. The move would have allowed those in power to avoid paying nearly $15 million.
The effort eventually failed. Auburn retained Harsin for the second season, although he was by no means on solid ground. In August, athletic director Allen Green, who was instrumental in hiring Harsin, announced that he was stepping down from the program. With the Tigers needing to hire a new announcer, Harsin’s survival has become even more precarious.
Auburn is in progressFor the same role, according to multiple reports.
Harsin did little to calm the rising tension in the second year. Auburn beat San Jose State by just eight points in Week Two, a win that preceded a home loss. Pennsylvania state And the unbridled victory in overtime over Missouri in the first leg. Tiger followed with losses for LSU, Georgia, Ole Miss and Arkansas respectively to send Harsin’s packages.
Former midfielder in Boise State, 45-year-old Harsin arrived in Auburn after a successful alma mater where he went 69-19 and won three Mountain West titles. His time at Boise came after one season as a coach at Arkansas Where he went 7-5 in 2013 and won a share in the Sunbelt Championship.
The product has fallen to an unsustainable level
When Malzan trained the Tigers, they were at least competitors. At best, they were contenders for the national title. At worst, they were a team from the SEC group. This floor has fallen like a boulder a year or more under Harsin. This is the worst Auburn team since the 2012 team that went 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the SEC. Defense is 11 in SEC in defensive yards per game (5.74), overall defense (407.1 YPG) and scoring defense (29.9 PPG).
The attack lacks explosive ability, hasn’t developed a go-to receiver, doesn’t seem to get the ball back to Tank Bigsby in key situations and struggles to constantly protect the midfielder. As a result, the Tigers average just 22.9 points per game and have only converted 37.38% of their chances for third place.
Meanwhile, the lack of effort in the recruitment game was staggering. The Tigers were ranked 9th in the SEC in the 247Sports team rankings employing in the last cycle, 7th in 2021 and currently 12th in the 2023 conference rankings. This is unacceptable in a place like Auburn with so much tradition, passion and resources available.
New age product
In earlier eras, it would have seemed crazy to fire a coach before he finished his second season. But this is a much different era. Building the program isn’t about hitting the high school career path hard anymore. It is about managing the entry and exit processes of the transfer gate. It is about exposure in the world of name, image, and similarity. Harsin did none of that.
More than two dozen players have left the program through the transfer gate since the start of last season, including just last week when several players – including wide receiver Landen King – jumped ship. At the same time, he did not add many influential players to the program. The most noteworthy transfer incoming in the last off-season was Zach Calzada quarterback, but he hasn’t played a surprise hit this season after sustaining a shoulder injury. Furthermore, the lack of star power across the board, along with Auburn’s absence from the national spotlight, didn’t help matters. This is on Harsin, too.
Timing is everything in the management side
It was somewhat surprising that Harsin wasn’t fired after a 48-34 loss to the Ole Miss on October 15 considering the Tigers were on their way to farewell week. It’s now clear, however, that Roberts was waiting to get all his ducks in a row before stamping his signature on the future of the athletic department.
TheThat Mississippi State Athletic Director John Cohen is debating to take on the same role at The Plains is an integral part of that process. It’s unclear if Cohen was involved in any part of the decision to fire Harsin, but it is clear that Roberts – who started as Auburn chief in May – wants to take off the bandage and start over.
With that, going out in front of this quest for training wasn’t necessary. Across the country a job was supposed to open at Auburn at some point, so it wasn’t as if coaches, agents and players were taken aback by this news. In addition, it is unlikely that Auburn will have the same list of candidates as the schools that currently have vacancies – Nebraska and Wisconsin.
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