Auburn in The Coaching Carousel?

by Aaron J. Bass

Photo courtesy of Auburn athletics

In a year where we saw college athletes featured in nationally-televised commercials and coaches at elite programs leaving for lesser opportunities, we had yet to see a significant controversy. That was the case until Thursday night.

Following a rumor that shook the Southeast, Auburn head football coach Bryan Harsin has found himself in a situation many would never have anticipated. The former Boise State head man had worked himself to the top of many college football fans’ head coaches list.

With a 69-19 record and four straight Mountain West Conference titles, it is easy to see why Harsin became the replacement for former Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. In his first season unfortunately, he disappointed. After a 6-2 start, Auburn dropped its final five games to finish with its first losing season in 13 years.

Some Auburn fans quickly placed Harsin on the hot seat for the poor season. However, all that was amplified late Thursday night. Reports came through that Harsin had an illicit affair with an assistant.

First seen on message boards and Reddit, the story caught fire as many, including Harsin’s wife Kes, took to social media in response.

“Rumors are carried by haters, spread by fools, and accepted by idiots,” she said on Instagram.

Many quickly took it upon themselves to investigate the matter. The rumor stated the female party was an assistant to Harsin during his tenure in Boise. Following his move to Auburn, she followed and retained her role as an assistant.

We will not comment on the validity of the rumor and reports. However, if these claims carry any merit, it is likely Auburn will terminate Harsin’s contract with cause. So in preparation of that outcome we have compiled a list of names we are likely to see in an Auburn coaching search:

Ed Orgeron, formerly LSU

In a name that may surprise some, it is easy to see why The Tigers may target the former… Tiger. In his time in Baton Rouge, “Coach O” won a national championship. LSU was the first non-Alabama SEC team to win the natty in almost a decade.

The undefeated 2019 Tigers quickly joined the conversation as one of the greatest teams ever. Unfortunately after that championship season, Coach O’s Tigers fell from grace.

LSU went an underwhelming .500 (11-11) since raising the hardware in New Orleans. Orgeron has since been replaced by former Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. Even though his time in Louisiana came to slow end, it is clear Orgeron is a winner. Carrying a 67-47 career record, many see Orgeron as sleeper name for future head coaching rolls.

Having coached at two different SEC schools (LSU, Ole Miss), one could speculate a third stint may be on the horizon. He built a standard of winning that carried all the way to the practices and beds at LSU. However, lets be honest: the real reason Coach O may go to Auburn is simply so he can keep on saying “Go Tigers”.

Hugh Freeze, Liberty

The second former Ole Miss head coach to join this list, Hugh Freeze has shown a little more consistency than the previously-stated Orgeron. During his tenure at Ole Miss, Freeze boasted an impressive 39-25* record, including some big wins over Alabama. Currently coaching at Liberty, Coach Freeze has shown he has the ability to coach at the SEC level.

Freeze can not only ‘coach’ but has shown he can beat Nick Saban — something Auburn can surely appreciate. Aside from his coaching accolades, Freeze is also a devout Christian as he has spent the majority of coaching career at Christian institutions.

In his years both at Ole Miss and Liberty, Freeze has boasted electric offensives and fast sideline-to-sideline defenses. Having coached the talents of Chad Kelly and Malik Willis, Freeze shows the ability to mold and develop quarterbacks into talented NFL-caliber athletes.

Given the recruited foothold Auburn has in the Southeast, it would be very interesting to see how Freeze could develop a young signal caller from Alabama, Georgia, or Florida. If given the opportunity, we may be able to see that scenario fold out before our very eyes. By all accounts, Freeze should expect a phone call or two from an Alabama number.

Tom Herman, Chicago Bears

A bounce-back indeed, Tom Herman is name many have forgotten in years past. After an underwhelming stint at Texas that Longhorn fans may want back, Herman has recently found himself in the NFL ranks. Another great offensive mind like Freeze, Herman could very well create a dynamic attack at Auburn.

Creating his name at Iowa State with his recruiting and then under the highly-regarded Urban Meyer as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator, Herman moved to build a Group of 5 powerhouse in Houston. In his two years as a Cougar, Herman boasted a remarkable 22-4 record and quickly found himself back at his alma mater in Austin.

In his return to Texas, Herman governed a 32-18 record along with a Big 12 Championship berth. Herman also had an undefeated record in bowl games, including an impressive win over SEC foe Missouri. Auburn has lost six out of its last eight bowl games, so it would be advantageous for The Tigers to bring in a guy with a plethora of bowl wins under his belt.

Urban Meyer, formerly Jacksonville Jaguars

In competition with his former protégé, Urban Meyer is a name that has become synonymous with winning. Coach Meyer has won three national titles and also boasts one of the best winning percentages in college football history.

Many may see his recent shortcomings in the NFL as a disqualifier, but not so fast. Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier are both two NCAA greats who, too, saw a form of failure at the professional level. So to hold a stint in Jacksonville against Coach Meyer is a bit selective in thought.

Meyer is legendary coach and has won everywhere he has coached in college football. He has beaten Saban when it has mattered most on numerous occasions and has won multiple SEC championships, too. It may cost a pretty penny or two, but the Tigers should attempt the grind to get Meyer.

Bobby Petrino, Missouri State

A true journey to say the least, Bobby Petrino is someone who may not last a while in Auburn. With his longest stint coming at Louisville, Coach Petrino is a guy who may be able to fix the foundation at Auburn to pave way for a new coach.

Seeing his best success come way of a stint in the SEC at Arkansas, one could think he shows the potential to do it again. Along with his success in Arkansas, Petrino also coached former Louisville Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson.

Petrino has built some of the most explosive offenses in the NCAA during his tenures. His coaching style is like a motorcycle. It produces high power and break-neck speeds.

Petrino could be a force to wreckin’ with again in the SEC.

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