Bryan Harsin Reportedly Hired as New Auburn HC After Gus Malzahn's Firing

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Bryan Harsin Reportedly Hired as New Auburn HC After Gus Malzahn's Firing

Steve Marcus/Associated Press

Auburn is hiring Bryan Harsin as its next head football coach, according to The Athletic's Bruce Feldman.

Harsin spent one year at Arkansas State before succeeding Chris Petersen as the coach at Boise State in 2014. The Broncos won the Fiesta Bowl in his first season and compiled a 69-19 record under his watch. They didn't reach the heights they enjoyed with Petersen yet remained one of the top Group of Five schools.

Hiring Harsin isn't a bad outcome on its own, but the result can't be fully separated from how Auburn got here.

According to The Athletic's Stewart Mandel, Auburn paid $21.45 million to buy Malzahn out of his contract, yet seemingly didn't have a plan for how to replace him.'s John Talty and Matt Zenitz reported Dec. 14 that defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was emerging as a top candidate. Firing Malzahn, only to promote one of his top assistants would've been an odd move.

Then came the reports about who turned down the Tigers' advances. Billy Napier chose to stay at Louisiana amid interest from Auburn. According to Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables also removed himself from the running. UAB head coach Bill Clark fell by the wayside, though Talty reported he didn't receive a firm offer.

The situation didn't reflect well on a program that one would expect to have a line of candidates out the door.

The Tigers clearly thought they were heading in the wrong direction under Malzahn after going 6-4 in the regular season.

Auburn won 12 games and reached the BCS National Championship Game in 2013, Malzahn's first season at the helm. Since then, the program has had only one more 10-win campaign.

Winning a national title with Gene Chizik in 2010, finishing runner-up in 2013, and going 13-0 with Tommy Tuberville in 2003 have all collectively raised the bar. Seeing Nick Saban turn Alabama into a powerhouse has only heaped more pressure upon whoever is in charge of the Tigers.

Because of that, it seems fair to wonder how good this job is and whether Harsin can deliver the kind of consistent results that will satisfy the fans.

For as long as Saban is in Tuscaloosa, Auburn enters almost every year as the second-best team, at best, in its own state and division. Mandel outlined the kind of scrutiny Harsin will be facing in his new job:

"Auburn is a tough job, no question. You will face Alabama, LSU and Georgia every year, and they, not your own program's history, will become your measuring stick. You will almost never not be on the hot seat, though you'll be granted a 12-month reprieve by beating Alabama. Your boss is not really your boss, because ultimately you serve at the whim of a small group of over-involved boosters who don't see any reason why you shouldn't be able to beat Alabama every year. Also, there's a prominent nationally syndicated radio show in which fans will call in almost every day, year-round, year after year after year, to debate whether you're really the right guy for the job."

However, Mandel also went on to explain why taking this challenge was a no-brainer.

Auburn is one of the select few programs that can realistically capture a national championship with the infrastructure it has in place. Because of the sums of money it requires, building a team to that level is extremely difficult now. There's a glass ceiling for a lot of Power Five schools across the country.

Plans are underway to construct a new football complex at Auburn, and the amount of money spent to oust Malzahn indicates the booster base is willing to spend what it takes.

But you can hire the best coaches and build the best facilities, and it may not amount to much without the requisite talent.

Here's where the Tigers finished in 247Sports' composite team rankings with Malzahn:


The problem becomes apparent when you limit the scope to Auburn's ranking in the SEC:

Malzahn was able to build top-10 recruiting classes on an almost annual basis, but that was dulled somewhat by the fact that he was staring up at one or more of Alabama, Georgia and LSU. 

Although Auburn is situated in fertile recruiting ground, it's not as if the Tigers routinely get their pick of the best prep stars from the Southeast.

Much like how LSU achieved greater things with Ed Orgeron after having plateaued with Les Miles, Harsin may take Auburn to new heights.

Or perhaps the same issues that hamstrung Malzahn will hinder his successor, thus ensuring the team is unable to make the improvement it so clearly covets.

from Bleacher Report

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