Auburn’s got a new bag, man.

Well, shit.  Just as I was getting geared up to have a jolly time with the Auburn is finally talking to Hugh Freeze news, they up and go hire somebody completely different.

The announcement of Auburn University’s new head football coach Tuesday night came out of left field.

Make that a blue field.

Boise State’s Bryan Harsin, who has compiled a 69-19 record with the Broncos the past seven seasons on their famed blue turf, agreed to become the 28th football coach in Auburn’s 127-year history that contains eight Southeastern Conference titles and consensus national championships in 1957 and 2010. Harsin is replacing Gus Malzahn, who went 68-35 the last eight years with the Tigers in a stretch that was highlighted by the 2013 SEC crown and a journey to the BCS title game that same year but averaged 4.7 losses in the seven seasons that followed.

“I’m incredibly excited and humbled for the opportunity to be at a place like Auburn University,” Harsin said through a statement. “I knew it would take a special opportunity to get me out of Boise, and Auburn is exactly that — a chance to compete at the highest level for one of the greatest programs in college football. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the coaches and players in the Southeastern Conference, but I am ready to help build a foundation at Auburn where we can consistently compete for championships.”

Weirdly enough, it marks the second time that Harsin has succeeded Malzahn as head coach at a school.  But while taking over at Arkansas State is one thing, following a guy who was just paid a whopping $21 million buy out because he wasn’t winning more conference championships while sharing a division with Nick Saban is a horse of a completely different color.

As for the hire itself, as a Georgia fan, I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it, either.  I’m definitely of the “it’s always preferable to hire a head coach with previous head coaching experience” school, and in that regard, Harsin certainly checks the right boxes:  eight years running a program and an impressive 69-19 record directing one of the very best mid-major programs.  He ain’t no Shane Beamer, that’s for sure.

I’m also guessing, based on this Dan Wolken column, that he wanted the job for himself.

Harsin, who is expected to get a significant raise from the $1.85 million package he had at Boise State, had grown clearly frustrated with his situation there and was ready to move on. Recently, the Idaho Press had obtained a series of emails in which Harsin urged Boise State to leave the Mountain West Conference and seemed to push for certain roster size commitments for 2021 that the school was hesitant to meet due to scholarships costs.

Well, one thing’s for sure.  He won’t have resource problems at Auburn.  Which isn’t to say he won’t have problems at all.

I have no doubt we’ll be hearing the BS spin that he was on Auburn’s radar from the get go, but that’s not the reality of things.  The Auburn brass had clearly reached out to other coaches first and been rebuffed.  There is a faction at the school that was lobbying for Kevin Steele to replace Malzahn.  Harsin comes across as a compromise candidate, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing at a place like Auburn, where there are competing power bases fighting over control of the program.

But one thing to watch is whom Harsin hires for his staff.  There have been some fairly strong rumors out there that the Auburn brass insisted that any new coach had to commit to retaining Steele and Rodney Garner from Gus’ staff, which is why the likes of Napier turned down the opportunity.  I don’t know if those rumors are true, but we’ll know soon enough.  (Keeping Steele on board, in particular, seems quasi-suicidal, but would be an indication of how badly Harsin wanted out of Boise, I guess.)

Garner brings up another potential problem.  Harsin has been a decent recruiter at BSU, but he’s not in Idaho anymore.  Here’s what Barrett Sallee, in a piece that’s largely a cheerleading effort over the hire, has to say about that:

Sure, Harsin has limited knowledge of the SEC recruiting landscape. There’s no denying that. That’s why hiring a staff with deep recruiting ties is imperative for him to break through that glass ceiling that Malzahn couldn’t crack. That will come later.

Sure, Barrett.  It’s not as if Malzahn didn’t have that kind of staff and look where it got him:  year after year of being behind Alabama and Georgia.  Keeping Garner only lets Harsin tread water, so unless he’s got some magic way of raiding Saban’s and Smart’s staffs (Auburn fans are already predicting he’ll be going after Georgia’s McGee), it’s hard to see grounds for improvement.  It’s also worth mentioning in that regard that he’s already behind the eight ball with the 2021 class.

But, 69-19!  Even that comes with a cautionary note.  His winning percentage at Boise is an impressive .793, but his immediate predecessors, Chris Petersen (.885) and Dan Hawkins (.828) were even better, and there’s a faint sense that the program simply isn’t the same juggernaut it once was.

That being said, this is Auburn, a program that’s been known to catch lightning in a bottle now and then.  I mocked the Chizik hire, but they got a national championship banner out of it before… well, you know what.  And Chizik’s Iowa State track record wasn’t in the same zip code as Harsin’s.  So there’s that.

I dunno.  It’s Auburn, so anything’s possible.  But, bottom line, it just feels like Auburn spent over twenty million dollars to replace Gus Malzahn with someone who’s going to do about as well as Gus Malzahn did.

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21 Comments

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21 responses to “Auburn’s got a new bag, man.

  1. RangerRuss

    Auburn sucks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hogbody Spradlin

    There must be some serious issues for Billy Napier to turn down the kind of money Auburn can pay. That or another suitor lined up.
    Making him keep Kevin Steele sounds like keeping a spy in the room. They just can’t leave things alone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Down Island Way

      The SEC has proven, this Ca$h is good, when you can get it…this new hire will be there 3 maybe 4 years, finding out how the prettiest little cesspool on the plains flows down hill in circular fashion, both of those coaches before him lasted 4/5 years and went elsewhere, the barners will bury this guy fast…

      Like

  3. College football coaches are like wives: If you’re gonna shell out upwards of $20 million to get rid of your old one and find someone new, the “someone new” had better be a stunner—the wife had better be early-90s Elle Macpherson, or the coach had better be a moonshot guy like Saban or Meyer.

    Harsin’s a good coach, but he ain’t a moonshot guy. He did slightly worse at Arkansas State than Malzahn, and slightly worse at Boise than Hawkins or Peterson. And if his southeastern recruiting inroads are dependent on keeping any of Malzahn’s staff, that’s a recipe for problems. He’ll win a few against Georgia, but not enough to stop the pro-UGA trend that’s settled into that rivalry over the past ~15 seasons.

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  4. Needless to say, I didn’t wake up this morning thinking, “What’s Kirby going to do now?”

    I imagine Little Nicky read the news then called Bootch to have black roses sent to Hardin.

    Hawkins flopped at Colorado. Peterson has been decent at UDub. I don’t see Harsin doing much.

    Speaking of Garner, with this recruiting class, it seems Mr. Garner has returned to his old ways of mailing it in.

    Liked by 2 people

    • *Harsin- damn autocorrect

      Like

      • SoCalDawg

        peterson retired from uw last year, ee. just fyi. jimmy lake is the hc there now. doesn’t affect your point, he had a good run at uw (1 playoff)

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        • Thanks for the clarification. Needless to say, I don’t follow much Pac 12 after dark like you guys get. Everyone thought Peterson was going to bring Washington back to national relevance when he came to Seattle. It didn’t happen even though they did make the playoff once.

          It seems really no Boise coach who has gone on to greener pastures has brought his winning percentage with him.

          Throw in that Harsin’s winning percentage is lower than the other guys and getting into the SEC recruiting wars make me think the Greater Opelika Cow College will be doing this all over again in a few years.

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  5. Harsin did replace Malzahn at Arkansas State, so perhaps that “experience” has prepared him for, well, something.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. willypmd

    It feels like Malzahn’s record represents the upper end of possible outcomes and the most likely out come is for Auburn to end up behind A&M and Bama most years with fewer head to head wins against Bama.

    Maybe the program recruits itself, but I just don’t see Auburn winning many recruiting battles over the next 5 years to keep up with the Jones’s

    Liked by 2 people

    • siskey

      Harsin was going to take the Arizona job and then Auburn swooped in at the last minute and he choose the Plains. I would have made the same decision but I don’t think he will do as well there as Gus.
      My guess is that they will keep Gardner and maybe Steele. If they get rid of Steele I expect the defense to revert to where it was pre Muschamp and Steele which helps us on the field and in recruiting.
      If the pundits who laud this hire as “out of the box” and good because Harsin isn’t a Saban disciples are correct then maybe it will serve as an example for Tennessee and whoever else fires their Coach next year.
      Of the last 3 Boise coaches he had the worst record and his teams didn’t generate the wins on the big stage like Hawkins and Petersen. As someone said above I don’t see this altering the momentum that we have re Auburn on the field or in recruiting.

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  7. practicaldawg

    Hard to see this guy just showing up in Kirby’s backyard and having instant recruiting success

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Russ

    So what’s the story on Freeze? I know Auburn doesn’t have morals, so why didn’t they go after him?

    Like

  9. Another advisor in waiting for Saban.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. David D

    Maybe he can coach, but Auburn finds itself near the back of the talent line in the midst of the most intense talent war this Conference has ever known. One bad class can set you back several years (i.e. Georgia, 2013). He’d better bring in at least a top 10 in 2022 or he’s going to be looking up from a long, dark pit that he might not be able to ever climb out of.

    Like

    • Mom & Dad Gaines

      Auburn had a chance to replace Gus in 2017 following his Peach Bowl
      loss. Rather than “reward” an embarrassing loss with a big contract, he should have been shown the exit door. Gus can coach, but better as an
      assistant.
      Allen G.

      Like