Unless you’ve been off the grid for the last few days you’ve undoubtedly heard about the situation at Auburn regarding head coach Bryan Harsin and a staff member who, allegedly, followed him from Boise St. and was having an extramarital relationship with. Until we know more I don’t want to speculate or say I know what happened beyond what the media is portraying but what I do know is that is doesn’t look good for Harsin. If what we are hearing is even partially true it would take an extraordinary stroke of luck for him to be back on the sidelines for season #2 at Auburn this coming fall. Even with these troubles, the gauntlet of the SEC West, and some uncertainties on the roster this job is still very appealing and many top coaches will be connected to it. I’ve picked 5, in no particular order or rank, who I think will all receive genuine interest for the job.
These are some of the names we have heard or may be brought up who I don’t think will end up as Auburns head coach.
Luke Fickell, Cincinnati HC- Hottest name on the market now. I don’t think he will leave for a job like this with issues to correct that isn’t seen as a sure thing. He won’t be at Cincinnati forever but that isn’t to say Auburn is his next top either.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State HC- Another strong name who has done such a good job that many people forget what a football backwater Iowa St. was before he got their. Didn’t have the 2021 the Cyclones wanted. It wouldn’t shock me if he was the guy but he doesn’t crack my top 5 most likely.
Will Muschamp, Georgia Co-DC- The former Auburn DC and Florida and South Carolina HC would be an easy hire in this very unconventional time of the offseason in that they could almost certainly get him but who at Auburn would really be inspired by this move?
Rhett Lashlee, SMU HC- Another former Auburn coordinator. The newly hired SMU head coach spent last season as Miami’s offensive coordinator and surely might be a name thrown out there by some but having just taken the SMU job, his first as HC, I don’t think he spurns them before ever coaching a game. That’s a faux pas in that world.
Dan Mullen, unemployed most recently Florida HC- Surely with the way things ended in Gainesville he can’t get this job so quick can he? I’d doubt it but if they consider how he did at Mississippi St. or the beginning of his tenure with the Gators maybe. Still, I’m not buying this one.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky HC- Few coaches have engineered as successful of turnaround as Stoops has in Lexington. He has the Wildcats consistently winning games and making quality bowls in what was once a bottom dwelling SEC program. Now that things are going well and consistent I don’t see him jumping ship for Auburn just to do all that again. Surely some will bring up his name though.
Bill O’Brien, Alabama OC
College HC record 15-9 (2 seasons Penn St.)
The case for: Don’t let his GM performance with the Texans blind you, O’Brien can coach. He made the playoffs in 4 of 7 seasons in the NFL. It also is criminally neglected how quick he turned around Penn State. He went into the Nittany Lions fresh off of the worst scandal since Death Penalty Era SMU and immediately turned them into a contender and winner. This year with the Tide he inherited an offense that lost a 1st round pick at QB, RB, and 2 WR’s, one of whom won the Heisman and all he did was coach the new QB to another Heisman trophy. The kind of job he did at PSU in the midst of a scandal may be just what Auburn will find appealing.
Bill Clark, UAB HC
Record 60-30 (1 season Jacksonville St., 6 at UAB)
The case for: Very few coaches can boast to what Clark has done. Take a defunct program from scratch and build them to consistency and reliability. The Alabama native has the admiration of the people in-state, connections with high school coaches in the state, and shouldn’t mind battling some adversity. Having led the Blazers to 5 bowl games in a row you can bet some of the boosters, Harsin’s biggest detractors, will be firmly on board with hiring Clark.
Kevin Steele, Miami FL DC
Record 9-37 (Baylor with 1 game as Auburn interim)
The case for: Steele is a respected DC who has only recently joined Mario with the Canes after most recently being at Tennessee. He has done stints as an assistant at Auburn and Alabama and is well versed in the SEC way of things. His first stint as a HC at Baylor was a disaster but the Baylor of those years was not the Bears of today in the Post-Briles era. Steele would be a neutral hire who no one in Tigerland would have too strong of feelings about and would be seen as “one of us”, a courtesy never afforded Harsin. For me it would be an uninspiring hire but he may be the man to steady the ship and bring some stability to Auburn.
Deion Sanders, Jackson St. HC
Record 15-5 (2 seasons Jackson St.)
The case for: No one in college football today has the buzz around them that Coach Prime does. If you think any other FCS coach could sign two of the top 100 players, and a consensus top 3 player, you’re kidding yourself. His ability to recruit and connect with student-athletes is top notch, he is the definition of a “kid magnet.” With the right coordinator hires Deion would be up to the job and hit the ground running in most circumstances. Could he hire the right guys for those spots? No one knows but I wouldn’t bet against that man to do it. His connection with Under Armour at JSU may also prove dividends at the company may get involved for the mutual benefit of all three parties. Surely it is only a matter of time before he gets a P5 job, would you want to be the AD who is saying “we could’ve had him” when he’s pulling in top 5 recruiting classes and bringing in millions in revenue to your program?
Hugh Freeze, Liberty HC
Record 68-43 (2 seasons Lambuth, 1 at Arkansas St., 5 seasons Ole Miss, 3 seasons Liberty)
The case for: The case for Hugh Freeze is longer than the case against him, which is also extensive. The man wins games, which is why he still has a job and is even in consideration for this one. You put him in any situation and he will give you dynamic offenses, balance across the board, and wins. The way things ended at Ole Miss can’t be ignored, using an escort service on the company phone was just dumb and inexcusable. Most guys don’t recover from that mistake, but most guys don’t turn around programs like Hugh Freeze does. Everyone knows the better you are at your job the more rope you get and more chances you’re given, that’s why Hugh Freeze will coach again at a P5 school. Someone will roll the dice on his character because, the trade off is, you’re not rolling the dice on the field. You know you’ll win games and compete. Will that school be Auburn?