Auburn’s quest for the coaching search title belt came up a little bit short on Tuesday night. The Tigers settled on Bryan Harsin has their next head coach, ending what still was a rollercoaster ride of a week.
Auburn moved on from Gus Malzahn, despite sustained success and multiple victories over Nick Saban and Alabama. As outsiders, the move felt strange — it was one you’d only make if you had a big fish on the line ready to sign. Auburn clearly didn’t have that, as they cycled through several different names before landing on Harsin.
The search was just beginning to take on a very 2017-Tennessee-y feel when things wrapped up. Mario Cristobal was the hot name to start. Kevin Steele apparently had plenty of backing from the boosters. Steve Sarkisian was the backup plan, then Tony Elliott, Brent Venables and Billy Napier. Things got downright weird when Napier and Bill Clark reportedly said no. Auburn then reportedly contacted Hugh Freeze — and out of seemingly nowhere, landed on Harsin.
I mean, they didn’t even fire their AD mid search.
Of course, Auburn’s spin was that it was Harsin or bust all along.
Harsin comes from Boise State where he held a 69-19 overall record. He reached double digit wins in four out of five (full) seasons with the Broncos after taking the job in 2014. The 44 year old is a bit out of the box for a traditional SEC power, geographically speaking. Harsin’s one-year stop at Arkansas State is as far east as he’s ever coached, so getting a staff that really knows the southeast for recruiting purposes will be a must.
Is Harsin worth ditching Gus for? That’s the question everyone is asking this morning. It’s certainly different and completely out of the SEC’s cocoon.
Obviously, this leaves Hugh Freeze on the table for the remainder if this year’s coaching carousel and potentially into the 2021 edition. Freeze has been heavily linked to the Tennessee job, despite Jeremy Pruitt still holding the post. Phillip Fulmer seemed to confirm Pruitt’s return in a bowl announcement on Sunday night, for what it’s worth.
We can’t rule anything out — this is Tennessee, after all. But it’s becoming increasingly likely that Pruitt will see a year four. And now, assuming Freeze stays at Liberty for another season, the noise between he and Tennessee is likely only going to get louder.
For now, it seems like we can put these rumors away. However, we’re probably going to pick right back up where we left off in about ten months.