They finally did it. After 22 months of almost scandals and disappointment on the field, Auburn finally fired head coach Bryan Harsin Monday, hours after a 41-27 home loss to Arkansas.
Who does Auburn hire next?
They’re taking their time, naming running backs coach Cadillac Williams as interim head coach. That move may have already complicated things. More on that later.
As Williams takes the reins on The Plains, the discussion around who Auburn hires next will focus on three candidates: Hugh Freeze, Deion Sanders and Lane Kiffin. Let’s take a look where each coach could lead the Tigers.
HUGH FREEZE (LIBERTY HEAD COACH)
Freeze has been a winner everywhere he’s coached. He’s one of four people to have beaten Nick Saban more than once – even winning in back-to-back seasons. His offenses are always innovative and scary. He put a quarterback from Liberty in the NFL.
Freeze would buy into the Auburn Creed more than the other candidates. Having the baggage that got him ousted at Ole Miss will make him humble to be coaching in the SEC again.
Some might say that Auburn would be foolish to hire someone with the same type of baggage the school tried to pin on Harsin. But what better redemption story than Freeze’s?
It all depends on how the school spins it.
DEION SANDERS (JACKSON STATE HEAD COACH)
Auburn hiring Coach Prime Time Neon Deion Sanders as their next head coach would be one of the biggest splash hires ever in college football. Coach Sanders would make an immediate impact on the recruiting trail.
It’s unclear how long Sanders’ ego would be accepted if results weren’t shown immediately on the field. If the coach flips out at a reporter for addressing him as Deion, how long until that shtick runs thin with fans and boosters?
Sanders is probably a worse fit than Freeze is for Auburn, and that’s even before we get to his inexperience as a head coach.
LANE KIFFIN (MISSISSIPPI HEAD COACH)
Remember when Lane Kiffin was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders for two entire seasons? Wild. Anyway.
Kiffin is the most comfortable choice out of the three. He’s 47 years old with 13 years of head coaching experience in addition to his championship stops as offensive coordinator with Alabama. Kiffin can recruit with the best and his attitude pulls you in as a fan, as long as he’s wearing your colors.
Still, Lane Kiffin still hasn’t broken through to the next level as a coach with all that experience. He’s struggling with the same expectations that Freeze would at the same school – and in the same conference – if Hugh never got caught.
Kiffin’s record just doesn’t give a dramatic leg-up on the connection Freeze makes with Auburn.
SO, WHO’S NEXT?
Freeze should edge out Kiffin and be seen as a much more likely – and better – hire than Sanders. The only hurdle is how much this will cost Auburn.
Bryan Harsin will collect a $15 million buyout from Auburn for being fired. Hugh Freeze just signed a contract with Liberty that would pay him a total of $40 million over the next eight years. The buyout for Freeze is unclear, but will only add to the price tag of what will likely be north of $8 million per year for Auburn’s next coach.
Who are we kidding? Money is no object in college football. It’ll be Freeze.
WAIT. DID AUBURN ALREADY SCREW THIS UP?
Mentioned earlier, Cadillac Williams is now Auburn’s interim head coach. To say he is beloved in Auburn is an understatement.
He rushed for nearly 4,000 yards and haunted Bama fans for three years. He was a top-5 pick in the NFL draft and found a way back home in 2019 to coach the Tigers’ running backs.
What happens if he wins?
Auburn can beat Mississippi State in Starkville. Would you really be surprised if they beat Texas A&M at home? Or Western Kentucky? What happens if they take that momentum and beat an Alabama team that could already have two losses?
Would you be surprised if coach Cadillac then beat some schmuck like Minnesota in the whocares.com Bowl?
How does Auburn explain that they’re going to spend upward of $100 million on buyouts and Hugh Freeze’s next contract, only to kick Carnell Lamar Cadillac Williams – son of Gadsden, Alabama – to the curb?
They’re going to win out and fire their most successful head coach in decades. That’s how Auburn may have already screwed this up.