Auburn Fires Bryan Harsin; What’s Next?

On Halloween, Auburn president Christopher Roberts announced what everyone had seen coming and fired Bryan Harsin as head coach. Auburn is currently sitting with a 3-5 record and at risk of not playing in a bowl for the first time since the 2012 season. That 2012 season, the Tigers finished 3-9 and winless in the SEC. That season led to the firing of Gene Chizik. Harsin only coached 21 games as the Auburn head coach going 9-12 in those games. Bryan Harsin is the first Auburn head coach to have a tenure end with a losing record since Earl Brown. He was 3-22 from 1948-1950.

Auburn Fires Bryan Harsin

What went wrong?

Bryan Harsin became the Auburn head coach after the 2020 season when Gus Malzahn was fired from the same position. It truly was a surprising hire when it was made, and it was all Allen Greene. The former athletic director took a huge risk by hiring a Boise State head coach who had never coached in the Southeastern Conference.  That risk proved to be a bad one, and neither of those two gentlemen is no longer part of the Auburn Family.

Year one under Harsin did not start poorly. The Tigers started the season 6-2 and were ranked in the top 15 in the nation. Then in a loss against Mississippi State started a tailspin and the loss of quarterback Bo Nix did not help matters. The team went on a five-game losing streak to end the season to close out at 6-7. Several players left the program including Nix. Several coaches left as well like defensive coordinator Derek Mason. The former Vanderbilt coach left for Oklahoma State and took a pay cut.

That brought on an inquiry to investigate why players and coaches were leaving. The character of Harsin was called into question that included some internet speculation. Enter the 2022 season, and the issues of the five-game losing streak from 2021 remained. The team has just got worse since that 6-2 start from a season ago. The offensive line play has remained a weakness, and not having a viable option at quarterback has limited the offense. Not utilizing the transfer portal has been a huge failure for Harsin. The defense is the worst in the SEC against the run. Like the offense, they have regressed since Harsin became the head coach.

Cadillac is the interim

A big question all season during the rumors around Harsin was who would be the interim? A few hours after the announcement of the change in leadership for the football team, running backs coach Carnell Williams was tabbed as the interim head coach. Williams, better known as Cadillac, is an Auburn legend. During his time as a running back (2001-04), he rushed for 3,831 yards and 43 touchdowns. He was also a key part of the 2004 undefeated team. Williams is in his fourth season as the Tigers’ running backs coach.

Williams made some swift changes to the coaching staff.  Four assistants were relieved of their duties including offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau, tight ends coach Brad Bedell, football chief of staff Brad Larrondo, and director of recruiting Darren Uscher. Who calls the plays will be something to pay attention to. With Williams leading the way it would be expected to see the offense more focused around running backs Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter.

John Cohen is the new AD

The firing of Bryan Harsin was not the only big news on the plains on Monday. The school also introduced a new athletic director John Cohen who held the same position at Mississippi State. He reportedly is getting a five-year contract worth $1.5 million a year. Previous athletic director Allan Greene was only making $625,000 a year. Cohen was a Mississippi State alum that played for the baseball team and served as head baseball coach from 2009 to 2016. Prior to leading the Bulldogs he also served as the head coach at Kentucky. He became the athletic director in 2016. Current Auburn baseball coach Butch Thompson served as an assistant under Cohen at Mississippi State from 2009 to 2015.