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Auburn has no choice but to keep Bryan Harsin

Between 2002 and 2006, Alabama said goodbye to four head football coaches including Joe Kines and his inauspicious Independence Bowl performance as interim between Mike Shula and Nick Saban.

When Rich Rodriguez suddenly turned down the Tide in December of 2006, ESPN ran the story above the chyron Does Anyone Really Want to Coach at Alabama? Anyone who thought Alabama was mere weeks away from building a dynasty had surely untethered themselves from reality.

Auburn’s not there yet, but head coach Bryan Harsin has had a rough go of it since winning six out of his first eight games on The Plains:

  • He lost five consecutive games to finish the season.
  • He was never able to get his arms around simple questions about vaccines.
  • Fans are still questioning him not attempting a two-point conversion in the Iron Bowl with the lead and an injured quarterback.
  • A total of 18 players, including his starting quarterback, have left since the end of the season.
  • There are allegations from former players about mistreatment, although they don’t seem to rise to the level of Rutgers basketball.
  • Offensive coordinator Austin Davis left Auburn for personal reasons after 43 days on the job.
  • Derek Mason took a $400,000 pay cut to leave and take up the same defensive coordinator post at Oklahoma State.
  • He oversaw Auburn’s lowest-ranked recruiting class in 13 years.
  • Then, there’s the alleged affair. You and I have both read about it as much as we could in the past few days, so I won’t relitigate it here. Harsin, his wife and the assistant coach he brought over from Boise State all deny any impropriety.

When a storm like this brews up in a matter of days, people are usually behind the scenes engineering a coach’s exit. Harsin’s ability as a coach, a mentor, a boss, an employee or a husband isn’t really the point here. As colleges do when these things happen, Auburn has a doozy of a decision to make in the coming days.

If they fire Harsin, Auburn will be on the hook for a total of $40 million paid to people to not coach football. They’ll have to figure out who to hire from within a green staff because there’s no real home run hires out there. They’ll have to write off the 2022 season, hope players stick around and spend the next several months finding coaching prospects.

If they keep Harsin, they’d save money and likely punt his firing nine months down the road when the timing is less embarrassing. Assuming there are no more bombshells coming, this may be the better option of the two. Auburn fans deserve better, but Harsin might be all they have this year.

Auburn has lost much in the past year: games, coaches, players and more than a little dignity. No matter who is at the helm, their 2022 schedule is staring down the barrel of another 6-7 season.

The worst part of the entire situation? It’s distracted all of us from Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding’s DUI arrest.

Although there aren’t the same internal investigations or five-alarm fires in Tuscaloosa, Alabama has experienced its own bit of turmoil. While it comes nowhere close to the coaching fallout that followed the blowout loss to Clemson in 2019, Doug Marrone has disappeared into the night, offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien seems poised to leave again for the NFL, and defensive coordinator Pete Golding decided to jump behind the wheel after Miller Time on National Signing Day. All this would be news for weeks if it weren’t for what’s going on at Auburn.

It won’t last, but let’s take the time to dwell on the idea that the most stable coaching staff in the state is being led by first-year head coach and 2001 Grissom High School graduate Jon Sumrall at Troy.

Click below to listen for a larger discussion on the state of coaching at Auburn, the Super Bowl, coaching lawsuits and more.

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