It has been a tough past few seasons for the Auburn football program. The Tigers haven’t won more than nine games in a single season since 2017, which is also the last season they finished nationally ranked, ending the year ranked at #10 by the Associated Press. There are also grumblings about boosters having too much sway when it comes to team decisions and management.
The past two seasons, though, Auburn football has seemed to hit a new low. They’ve won just six games in back-to-back seasons and finished with a losing record last year, going 6-7 under head coach Bryan Harsin in his first season on the job. It’s the first time since 2012 that the football team has finished the season with a losing record.
Unfortunately, Auburn’s struggles haven’t been limited to the gridiron. Coach Harsin has found himself in a world of controversy due to personal and professional tribulations which have since become public knowledge and aren’t entirely related to football.
Last week, with Harsin’s future with Auburn up in the air after just one season, outgoing university president Jay Gouge announced his confidence in Harsin, stating, “My most recent conversations with Coach Harsin have me as convinced as ever in his commitment to our student-athletes’ on- and off-field success and his vision for our program” and went on to say, “we are equally committed to providing him the necessary means to achieve that goal.”
What’s Next for Auburn Football?
To say Harsin was unimpressive in his first season with Auburn would be an understatement. The program sank to its lowest point in years as many players have since transferred in the wake of Auburn and Harsin’s collapse at the end of this past season, including losing 5 straight games to end it.
Now that Harsin will officially be returning to the Tigers next season, he has to get his team in order. His biggest issue when it came to football was earning the admiration of his players. As the saying goes, winning cures everything, and in order to prove his value to his team, Harsin will need to successfully navigate an always tough SEC.
A big reason why Harsin is staying at all is because of the upcoming departure of current Auburn University President Jay Gouge who will be retiring in May. Gouge reasoned that he did not want to change coaches in the midst of his final few months as president of Auburn. With a new university president on the way, the pressure on Harsin becomes that much more intense.
As Gouge recently publicly gave his approval for Harsin, it’s unlikely that incoming president and current university dean of engineering Dr. Chris Roberts will change Harsin’s status with the program. However, with all the negative noise directed at Harsin and Auburn football the last few months, Dr. Roberts would be wise to keep Harsin on a tight leash as the season ramps up.
The Pressure is On
After back-to-back mediocre seasons and their conference rivals, University of Georgia and Alabama facing each other in this past national championship, Auburn has to show some improvement this season and the clock is already ticking. The SEC is the best football conference in the country and this isn’t a spot the Auburn Tigers are used to being in.
Recruiting is going to be everything for Harsin and the Tigers over the months leading to the 2022-23 season. Well-run programs simply do not win without strong recruiting, and this is clearly an area that Harsin has been lacking in his short time with Auburn.
Harsin will have to turn the ship around and fast, or he may very well find himself unemployed.
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