Pressure mounts on Auburn coach Bryan Harsin as discontent ratchets up across Tigers program

Auburn coach Bryan Harsin has come under fire over the last 24 hours after reports surfaced that his immediate future leading the Tigers is in doubt. Influential people outside and inside the program have taken exception with Harsin over myriad issues that have plagued the program, sources told CBS Sports. Justin Hokanson of Auburn Live reported on Thursday that officials are working to potentially fire Harsin “with cause” over the current state of the program. Meanwhile, John Talty of reports the situation is moving fast as the pressure mounts for Harsin to be ousted. 

Monday morning, Auburn issued a statement updating the situation as Harsin’s future remains very much in doubt after the weekend.

“The Auburn administration is judiciously collecting information from a variety of perspectives, including our student-athletes, and moving swiftly to understand any issues in accordance with university policies and procedures,” the statement read. “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.”

Among the issues at hand include a mass exodus of players through the transfer portal, a five-game losing streak to end a 6-7 season, the inability to recruit at an elite level and multiple coaching departures. Nearly two dozen Tigers have left the program during the offseason, including three-year starting quarterback and Auburn legacy Bo Nix, wide receiver Kobe Hudson, veteran running back Shaun Shivers, wide receiver Ja’Varrius Johnson and six defensive linemen.

Additionally, offensive coordinator Austin Davis, who was hired in mid-December to replace Mike Bobo, resigned on Monday due to personal issues. Former defensive coordinator Derek Mason, who spent seven years as Vanderbilt’s head coach and is widely regarded as a brilliant defensive mind, left to take the same gig at Oklahoma State. That can be considered a lateral move, at best. Harsin also fired wide receivers coach Cornelius Williams just four games into this first season.

“The noise is overwhelming,” said Brandon Marcello, 247Sports national reporter and Auburn insider.

Harsin addressed the situation in an interview with ESPN on Thursday, expressing his desire to remain at Auburn.

“I’m the Auburn coach, and that’s how I’m operating every day,” Harsin said. “I want this thing to work, and I’ve told our players and told everybody else there is no Plan B. I’m not planning on going anywhere. This was and is the job. That’s why I left the one I was in, to come here and make this place a championship program and leave it better than I found it.”

Harsin also went on to attack swirling rumors about his approach to leading the program. 

“Any attack on my character is bulls—,” Harsin said. “None of that is who I am.”

Auburn president Jay Gouge commented on the situation, and Harsin didn’t really receive a vote of confidence from the school’s leader. 

“I just want you to know we’re involved in trying to separate fact from fiction,” he said. “We’ll keep you posted and make the appropriate decision at the right time.”

Former defensive tackle Lee Hunter, a former four-star recruit who transferred to UCF in the offseason, took to Instagram to address the the situation, where he alleged that Harsin treated the players “like dogs.” 

“Auburn is a special place and always will be,” Hunter wrote to begin his post. “The reason I chose to leave Auburn [is] because we got treated like we wasn’t good enough and like dogs. I love you, Auburn nation, war eagle forever. Coach Harsin has the true mindset for a winner but has a terrible mindset as a person.”

That post has multiple “likes” from current and former Auburn players, according to 247Sports.

Former defensive back Smoke Monday, who finished up a stellar four-year career in 2021, added to Hunter’s post in his Instagram story.

“Harsin is a hell of a coach that wants to win, but a– as a person,” Monday wrote. “He truly don’t [sic] understand kids that come from nothing, kids that come from the hood. Like, he truly don’t understand that. But as kids, we try out best to outgrow where we came from. We need people that that didn’t grow up the way we grew up to help us along the way and that’s something Harsin didn’t do.”

Auburn defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding, who was elevated to the position after the departure of Mason, had Harsin’s back on Friday morning amid the chaos.

“I’m loyal and am going to do what I can to make this place the very best it can be, and all I want is that same support,” Harsin told ESPN.

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