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Sources: Auburn Faced With Decision to Pay Full Buyout or Keep Bryan Harsin

Auburn coach Bryan Harsin’s future with the football program remains in limbo, but the university could be faced with an ultimatum soon enough.

Sources tell Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger and Richard Johnson that Harsin’s representatives have resisted attempts by Auburn officials at settling for a price lower than the coach’s full buyout, about $18 million. This has forced Auburn into a corner: fire the coach for cause, hoping evidence for such is strong enough; pay the full buyout; or retain him.

“That’s where the fight is,” an Auburn source tells SI. “From the moment [Harsin] got hired, it seems like people on the outside looking in, those people wanted to go in a different direction.”

Rumblings about the coach’s relationship with players and coaches, and a high-amount of transfers, led to an official internal inquiry led by Auburn president Jay Gogue. The source tells SI the leaked information around Harsin was an “attack on his character,” adding “there’s a contingent of people trying to make stuff seem worse than it is.”

The same source says the staff is incredibly frustrated, feeling like they are twisting in the wind with spring football set to start a month from this Monday. “Make a decision one way or the other. It’s f----- up.”

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Wednesday, Auburn implemented a new policy for employees centered on cooperation with investigations, which went into effect this past Tuesday, Feb. 8. According to the new policy, violations of the policy “may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.”

The policy states, in part: “Employees have a duty to cooperate fully and truthfully with investigations, inquiries, and reviews relating to their university responsibilities and professional obligations. For example, employees must do the following: cooperate in sharing requested information and participating in interviews; produce all requested university documentation within their custody or command; disclose additional information relevant to the investigation or review; and maintain confidentiality as advised.”

The school is looking into the football program, which has lost 18 players to transfer (including quarterback Bo Nix) and five assistants since the end of Harsin’s first season leading the team, per ESPN. The Tigers lost their last five games, finishing with a 6–7 record, and to add fuel to the fire, Auburn didn’t sign a single player on the late National Signing Day.

The school said in a statement earlier this week, “The Auburn administration is judiciously collecting information from a variety of perspectives, including from a variety of perspectives, including our student-athletes, and moving swiftly to understand any issues in accordance with university policies and procedures. Decisions regarding the future of Auburn and its athletics programs, as always, are made in the interests of our great university and in fairness to all concerned. We do not make institutional decisions based on social media posts or media headlines.”

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