Column: Thoughts on Auburn and Bryan Harsin

by Connor Jackson

Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn athletics

As it approaches 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 5, Bryan Harsin is still the Auburn head coach. By the time this is published, who knows?

If you would have said a few months ago that Harsin was headed towards losing his job after one season, most would have been shocked. Say it now and few would be.

When you pair a 5-game losing streak with five different coordinators and a mass exodus of players, it looks like Auburn is on its way to the bottom.

Fans wish they could say that reinforcements are coming, but they aren’t. Auburn’s 2022 class is one of the worst in school history — at least rankings-wise.

Rankings don’t mean everything, but they paint a pretty broad picture. Even more shockingly, Auburn didn’t sign any players during the second signing period.

It wasn’t because spots were full.

The Tigers signed 18 players. For comparison, Auburn currently has 18 players leaving through the transfer portal.

Not All is Lost

Not all is lost, however. Harsin and staff managed to bring running back Tank Bigsby back for another year and will return most of his offensive line. The Tigers also brought in three quarterbacks through the portal and high school ranks.

Quarterback play for Auburn was an issue down the stretch of the 2021 season.

A Locker Room Divided

Even with all of this smoke and uncertainty around the program, numerous Auburn players — both former and current — took to social media to let their thoughts fly.

Lee Hunter, who has since transferred to UCF, said that Harsin “has a terrible mindset as a person”. Smoke Monday, a 4-year difference-maker for Auburn, said Harsin never once had a conversation with his parents.

There are two sides to every story. John Samuel Shenker, Auburn’s starting tight end, delivered a strong message on Twitter.

“If you have a problem with his Discipline, Toughness, and Conviction that he instills in his players then get your entitled, selfish, and soft tail out away this program,” he tweeted.

Chandler Wooten, who opted back in for Auburn after opting out in 2020, said that Auburn “needs a football coach, not a best friend.”

There is a trend here. The players who decided to stay at Auburn are all for Harsin and his culture. The ones who have since left, certainly are not on the same page.

Regardless, the locker room is divided. The rumors of misconduct have put Harsin’s job in jeopardy.

What’s True? What’s Not?

That’s not to say that there is no validity to any of the rumors floating around Harsin, but the timing of the allegations is interesting.

The other day, Harsin was having an affair. The next day, he was verbally abusive. On Friday, he became a racist.

Today? Well, it’s only 10 a.m.

If Harsin is guilty of any of these things, then he should be fired. If not, it is an attempt by someone with their feelings hurt to push Harsin out of Auburn.

Someone powerful behind the scenes at Auburn is pushing all the buttons and hoping one of them happens to strike.

We’ve mentioned that we believe Harsin has the perfect personality for Auburn. While it has not necessarily translated onto the field or the recruiting trail, he is abrasive enough to fight back against Auburn’s corruption.

Harsin went out and made statements solidifying his position at Auburn. The general message was one of unity, saying that Auburn needed to back the head coach.

Moving Forward

Going forward, Harsin or not, that message needs to resonate with Auburn. Without full support, Auburn cannot compete the way it knows it can.

For Auburn, this has always been an issue. To say there is a disconnect in the athletic department would be an understatement. There were moves to fire Gus Malzahn for years, and now, the administration is already doing the same to Harsin.

Does Auburn not want to be successful? It makes no sense.

Rivals Alabama and Georgia are running a college football monopoly. LSU is sure to be back after hiring Brian Kelly. Texas A&M just signed arguably the best recruiting class in history.

Auburn?

Well, the powerful people have let their egos get in the way and continue to handicap the football program.

Without probable cause, Harsin should not be fired. Does something need to change with how he treats the people he works with? It looks like it.

Does he need to change how he develops personal relationships with players and recruits? Clearly.

Unfortunately, it seems like it is too late to go back. If Harsin does return, it’s hard to see how he will be able to turn recruiting around after all of this. With a divided locker room and fan base, it will be tough to win enough games to be back for a third season on the plains.

If Harsin does return and turns the ship around, the Tigers might just have their next Pat Dye. However, that does not seem realistic as it currently stands.

Someone at Auburn is doing everything he or she can to push Harsin out. Whether it is for the better or not, or if he even deserves it, it looks like the Tigers are going to get their wish at some point.

What happens after?

Well, this is Auburn — home to arguably the most dysfunctional and selfish power people in the country. Don’t expect those powers to make the right decision.

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