Bryan Harsin will return as Auburn football coach next season, the school announced after weeks of rumors and a probe into his first year with the program.
“I am pleased to report that the evaluation of concerns raised regarding our football program is complete,” school president Jay Gogue said in a statement. “I am equally pleased to confirm that Bryan Harsin remains our head football coach.
“As an institution of higher education, Auburn will always take the action necessary to ensure the well-being of its students, faculty, and staff. Recently, individuals raised concerns to my administration about the football program. The nature of these concerns compelled a fact-finding review. To do nothing would have been an abdication of the university's responsibilities.”
Gogue says the administration conducted meetings with staffers, players, administrators, and others around the program “who offered perspective on the issues that had been raised,” but that the process “was never individual- or outcome-specific” and did not lead to anything that prompted firing Harsin. He also credits Harsin with being “completely cooperative throughout this inquiry.”
The decision comes after significant chatter about the possibility that Harsin could be fired after one 6–7 season on the plains, a year which ended with a five-game losing streak and a blown near-upset of Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
In Auburn's statement, Harsin called out the “personal attacks” that he was subject to in recent weeks.
“This has been one of the hardest weeks of my career and it had nothing to do with my coaching ability. The personal attacks on me and my family went too far and were without justification. Their resolve through this experience has been incredible but also completely expected. We saw and felt the worst of the worst in some people. Fortunately, we also saw the best of the best in others and we will always be grateful for the support of so many through a very difficult time – our players, staff, the Auburn family, and many others.”
Auburn lost five assistant coaches—including both offensive coordinator Austin Davis and defensive coordinator Derek Mason—and upwards of 20 players in recent weeks. Defensive tackle Lee Hunter, a recent transfer to UCF, was among the most outspoken, saying that Harsin treated players “like dogs.”
Other Tigers, like tight end John Samuel Shenker, defended Harsin, calling him “the leader I want to have in my corner.”
On Thursday night, Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger and Richard Johnson reported that Harsin’s team “resisted attempts by Auburn officials at settling for a price lower than the coach’s full buyout, about $18 million,” which forced the school “into a corner.” With today's announcement, it is prepared to give the former Boise State coach the chance to elevate things from a mediocre first year.
Harsin, who began his head coaching career at Arkansas State in 2013 before moving on to his alma mater Boise State, has a career record of 82–31.
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