Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Wins now would help Harsin
Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin talks with players during warm ups before the start of an NCAA college football game between Auburn and Missouri Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022 in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Auburn is a dangerous opponent.
Unlike what appears to be happening at Texas A&M, Tigers head coach Bryan Harsin is fighting to keep his job.
He doesn’t want a multi-million dollar buyout right now.
Jimbo Fisher appears to have decided that $84 million and no Nick Saban would make for more fun Saturdays than what he’s enduring right now.
Other than a great covid year when the Aggies were 9-1 overall and 8-1 in SEC play, Fisher has been average at A&M. Without that season, he is 28-17 overall and 14-14 in SEC play in his fifth season.
This is the same coach at a school known for its 12th man but allegedly couldn’t find enough healthy players to compete in the Gator Bowl last season.
On the other hand, Harsin has dug his heels in and is trying to salvage his job at a really good school.
Like the Arkansas Razorbacks, he had an extra week to prepare for this game and as a head coach he is 10-1 after an open date.
Plus, the betting line is dropping in favor of Auburn.
Of course, an oddsmaker has Harsin as the favorite to be the next Division I coach fired, but that’s been the rumor for weeks, maybe months, and he’s still the Auburn head coach.
It appears that a few months back the Auburn president, after an investigation, refused to fire Harsin.
Harsin had allegedly lost the team.
In the last few days, the word is Harsin will not allow his players to redshirt for any reason other than medical.
So speculation has run wild that Harsin would be fired after his next loss. Well, he’s lost three in a row and is still on the payroll.
What Auburn might find if it fires him is that there aren’t a lot of folks lining up for the job.
Dating back to 1998, Auburn has fired every head football coach but Tommy Tuberville, and he left before he could be fired. There had been a failed attempt to replace him with Bobby Petrino two years earlier.
What is happening at Auburn, and maybe Texas, is boosters have become too powerful.
The threat of donations being withheld unless the boosters get what they want has led to a slippery slope on The Plains, and it will at any school that puts individuals and money before what’s best for the university.
Granted, last season after beating Arkansas and Ole Miss it appeared the wheels came off the Harsin train.
The Tigers finished the season by losing five consecutive games and that started the rumor mill that Harsin lacked control of the team.
This season seems to have started like the last ended.
The only wins Auburn has are against Mercer, San Jose State and Missouri.
After leading LSU 17-14 at half before falling 21-17, the Tigers followed that by being thrashed by Georgia and lost 48-34 to Ole Miss in a game they never had the lead.
They are a run-oriented team but average only 170 yards per game on the ground. They are next-to last in the SEC in passing with an average of 208 per game but are completing only 52% of their passes and have suffered 10 interceptions.
The issue for Arkansas, as it has been all season, is not making an average quarterback look like a Heisman candidate, and the Hogs are at their best when they can pressure the quarterback.
Both teams went into the bye week bruised and sore. Now they have had an extra week to get well but also to prepare for the other team.
Bryan Harsin has his back against the wall, and the wolves are hoovering close to his front door. He’s not going to go quietly.
An Auburn win keeps Harsin employed, at least for another week, and it allows the Tigers to keep the $21 million buyout it would owe.
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