The writing is on the wall for Bryan Harsin in Auburn, to the point where Paul Finebaum is openly speculate about Hugh Freeze coming out of Liberty — after five years of SEC exile — to take the Tigers’ job.
There’s no point in arguing with Finebaum, or his logic, that with the college coaching carousel done for this cycle and the issue of “getting someone the good old guys know,” Freeze is the most likely replacement for Harsin as he is fired.
What is arguable is the idea that Auburn needs to find a coach that fits a certain profile. Auburn has always stuck to that particular profile, and it has earned them Terry Bowden, Tommy Tuberville, Gene Chizik, Gus Malzahn, and Harsin—a line of mediocre men who each (except Harsin) put together one brilliant season, but then languished three or four losses per year. Auburn has not had continued success since Pat Dye coached there in the 1980s.
Do you really think Freeze or Kevin Steele or whoever is going to change that? Auburn plays not only in the SEC, but also in the SEC West, where the other coaches are Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher, Brian Kelly, Lane Kiffin, Sam Pittman and Mike Leach. Getting a known sucker won’t cut it if the worst rival coach in your division got Mississippi State to the Liberty Bowl last year.
But a known sucker is what it will be, because as broken as the NFL is when it comes to hiring coaches, college football is an even bigger cesspool of favoritism, favoritism and, yes, racism.
A coach is now available who had a better track record of coaching the Miami Dolphins than Saban, who led that franchise to consecutive winning seasons for the first time since before Saban’s time there, who won four Super Bowl rings as assistant to Bill Belichick, and who probably doesn’t expect to work in the NFL anytime soon. you already know that this is brian floresand you also already know that Auburn won’t even call to ask if he’s interested in the job.
There are currently zero black head coaches in the SEC, and only seven – Dino Babers (Syracuse), Karl Dorrell (Colorado), Herm Edwards (Arizona State), Tony Eliot (Virginia), James Franklin (Penn State), David Shaw (Stanford ), Mel Tucker (Michigan State) — in the rest of the Power 5, plus Marcus Freeman at Notre Dame. What the SEC does have are four former Saban assistants: Fisher, Kiffin, Billy Napier and Kirby Smart… in addition to the former Saban assistants who have come and gone from SEC head coaching jobs: Derek Dooley, Jim McElwain, Will Muschamp and Jeremy Prutt. Oh, and another former Saban assistant, Steve Sarkisian, is already on track to become SEC coach once Texas joins the conference.
What good is Auburn to follow the same old trail? None, but they don’t seem to care as long as they get that one good year here and there, and give Alabama a hard time in the Iron Bowl. The all-time roster of Black SEC coaches remains at five, with only Sylvester Croom, Derek Mason, Joker Phillips, Kevin Sumlin and Franklin.
Franklin took Vanderbilt to three bowl games in three seasons and then left for Penn State after getting the Commodores into the season-closing Top 25 twice, something they hadn’t done once since 1948. Mason succeeded Franklin, took Vanderbilt to two more bowl games, was fired for a winless 2020, then went to Auburn and was the defensive coordinator for Harsin, a job he left to take the same position, for less money. , in Oklahoma State – a good sign of the atmosphere under Harsin. Phillips was a disaster in Kentucky, but Croom and Sumlin each won SEC Coach of the Year honors during their tenures.
How come none of those guys come out as familiar faces of the SEC when there’s a coaching search, and instead is Freeze?
You already know the answer, and you already know that whether Auburn keeps or dumps Harsin, the Tigers aren’t going anywhere as long as they stick to the same old formula. If they want it that way, they can keep it.