Candidates to watch at Auburn, including Lane Kiffin and Deion Sanders

  • College football reporter.
  • Joined in 2008.
  • Graduate of Northwestern University.

Bryan Harsin survived Auburn’s university inquiry in February. He couldn’t survive what happened on the field in September and October.

Harsin is out as Auburn’s coach, just eight games into his second season on the Tigers’ sideline, and no one should be surprised. After going through only-at-Auburn drama this winter, Harsin needed an exceptionally strong start to turn down the heat and give himself a realistic chance at Year 3. He wasn’t helped when the school in late August split with athletic director Allen Greene, who had hired Harsin as an outsider from the Pacific Northwest. (Sources told ESPN’s Pete Thamel that Mississippi State AD Mark Cohen was finalizing a deal Monday to replace Greene.)

The team didn’t deliver, either. After two lukewarm wins to begin the season, Auburn was flattened by Penn State on its home field Sept. 17, and was extremely fortunate to beat Missouri in overtime. Blowing a 17-0 lead at home in a loss to LSU started a four-game losing streak that culminated with a 41-27 loss to Arkansas this weekend. Auburn then pulled the plug on the Harsin era, which some felt was doomed from the start. He finished 9-12 at Auburn.

Harsin had been a strange fit on the Plains, lacking SEC experience and having spent all but four years of his career outside his hometown of Boise, where he played quarterback for Boise State. Although Auburn has chewed up and spit out all sorts of coaches since Hall of Famer Pat Dye, the program is slightly more lenient toward its own. Greene acted independently in hiring Harsin, and both ultimately didn’t last.

This time, Auburn’s top boosters likely will have more say in the hire. A former SEC assistant described Auburn this way: “The worst good job in the country.” Despite all the dysfunction around the program, Auburn has the potential to win big. The Tigers won a national title in 2010, played for another in 2013 and won the SEC West Division in 2017. Despite sharing a state with Alabama and coach Nick Saban, Auburn is in a strong location for recruits and boasts a large and passionate fan base. After the Harsin-Greene exits, Auburn is widely expected to hire someone more connected to the program and/or SEC.

Here’s a look at who Auburn could consider to replace Harsin, starting from several strong candidates to a few longshots. There could be some candidate crossover with Georgia Tech, which got a slight head start in its coaching search.

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