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Bryan Harsin... To Stay?

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I guess.

NCAA Football: Birmingham Bowl-Houston at Auburn Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

We had an entire article written up talking about the imminent departure of Bryan Harsin, outlining why he was being dismissed and putting together a somewhat serious list of possible replacement candidates.

And then Auburn did its thing in the best way.

Instead of following through on a storm of uncertainty that was definitely created through a mixture of who knows what kind of sources and nuclear Auburning critical mass, the administration did nothing except offer some blase support for a head coach who hasn’t really earned it on the field or in recruits’ living rooms.

The facts of the matter remain that Auburn blew second half leads in enough games that would’ve given the Tigers 10 wins, and then Auburn signed zero players on the second portion of National Signing Day. Now, Auburn sits at 18th in the 247 recruiting rankings for 2022, but when 8 SEC teams plus Penn State (on the 2022 schedule) sit above you, it’s a problem. Missouri shouldn’t have a better class than Auburn, they just shouldn’t. Yet they do because of the efforts of the coaching staff on the Plains.

Let’s not mention than there are a number of departures and entries into the transfer portal, and WE CURRENTLY DO NOT HAVE A FULL COACHING STAFF WITH SPRING PRACTICE THREE WEEKS AWAY.

Bryan Harsin went on vacation with an incomplete coaching staff and showed back up in the states to attend the SEC coaches’ meeting in Birmingham (which was rumored to have been one of those could’ve-been-an-email type of affairs), and then presumably headed back to Auburn.

So, today we got this update.

Whether or not there was actual talk before last week of Harsin getting fired, the folks that broke the news that the very notion was being considered accomplished what they set out to do, which was gain clicks and viewers and stir up the shit storm. It worked. We got to see the basement light turned on and the cockroaches scattered. But we know that they’re in the mix, and we now know who’s on which side.

With different players who were taking sides and saying fairly explosive stuff about Harsin and the atmosphere that he created, it was clear that two factions were at play. Not unlike a split locker room with a quarterback battle, Auburn had a split locker room based on who liked the head coach and who’d rather have just about anyone else.

So, what’s going to happen with all of this?

Auburn could’ve paid out the buyout, stroked a check for $18M (barely a year after doing the same for $21M to Gus Malzahn), and tried again. Let’s be honest, that’s a bad move, and just a waste of money, but there was a group that would’ve done it.

What we’re going to get to see now is a team that likely endures more attrition after spring practice, and heads into fall camp with open positions galore. Once we get to the season... well...

...once those first two cupcakes go by the wayside (which won’t be automatic if Georgia State is any indicator), then Auburn will likely be an underdog in five straight games. What happens if the Tigers go worst case and are 2-5 at the bye week? Are we going to do any of the following:

  • Ride the wave and give Harsin the time he needs? The rest of the schedule features three teams that beat us last year, Arkansas, and Western Kentucky. It’s not getting easier after the bye week. You risk a losing season there and another slip in recruiting.
  • Or do you get rid of him once it’s clear that the season is going off the rails? Try to be first off the block to nab a new coach. The buyout reduces after the season’s over, but if you want to fire him then for a discount, there’s no reason not to do it now.

I’m afraid that all this little exercise has done is to split the fanbase. There were those that were unhappy with the way things were going, but I doubt there was a large serious faction that wanted to actually fire Harsin at this point in his tenure. Now, we’ve got everyone’s feelings out on the table, and it’s going to be quite the awkward spring and summer.

There’s only one way to make everyone forget how they feel, and that’s by winning. Unfortunately, I don’t see much that would indicate we’ll be doing a ton of that this fall.