Against Ole Miss, Auburn began with turnovers on two of their first four possessions and trailed 21-0 less than a minute into the second quarter. They made the final score (48-34) somewhat more respectable, but the team, like Harsin’s tenure, got off to a terrible start.
Harsin’s overall record is 9-11 and 4-8 in SEC at Auburn.
Per Pro Football Focus, Auburn (3-4, 1-3 in SEC) ranks as the worst team in the SEC West and one of three SEC teams outside of their top 50. Auburn is now in a class with Vanderbilt and Missouri.
Two of the Tigers’ losses (Penn State, LSU) came at home against teams that have been outmanned against top-10 opponents the past two weeks. They’ve been outscored by annual rival Georgia 76-20 during Harsin’s first two seasons. ESPN’s Football Power Index predicts they’ll finish with a 5-7 record.
Positions at Georgie Tech, Nebraska, Arizona State and Wisconsin have already opened. For a program that feels like it is steps behind at every turn recently, it’s essential they get a step ahead. Former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule is expected to draw significant interest throughout the sport after being fired from the NFL’s Carolina Panthers earlier this week.
Auburn is already playing catch-up in the SEC. Playing catch-up with schools in the ACC, Big 10 and Pac-12 in the head-coaching search could be disastrous.
Harsin signed a six-year contract worth $5.25 million annually following the 2020 season. Per ESPN, the university would “owe the coach 70 [percent] of his remaining salary” should he be bought out. That would equal $14,700,000 for the 2023-26 seasons, as well as whatever would be due to him for the remainder of 2022. The same report mentions the team already has a similar arrangement with former coach Gus Malzahn.
Buying out two head coaches in two years would be a costly indictment of the athletic department and a sign of how far the Tigers have fallen. Even worse would be falling further behind.
Auburn’s incoming recruiting class in 2023 ranks 12th out of 14 SEC schools, ahead of peers Missouri and Vanderbilt, per Rivals.
Per Yahoo Sports, ESPN’s Pete Thamel told SEC Network’s “SEC Nation” that until the team lands on a new athletic director, movement at the head-coaching position isn’t likely. “There is less urgency…to make a move on Harsin than there maybe was a few weeks ago,” Thamel said.
“There’s some optics that they’re concerned about at Auburn, and they don’t want to look like Auburn being Auburn.”
The most Auburn thing of all is waiting until it’s too late.