AUBURN, Alabama — Some names Bryan Harsin recognizes, some he doesn’t.
Since the 44-year-old was named Auburn’s new head coach Tuesday, his phone has buzzed in his pocket every few minutes. He’s made plenty of connections throughout his rise from Boise State quarterback in the late ‘90s to SEC coach now, and many within his network have reached out. Others found his number and had to shoot their shot.
The biggest job opening in college football this season (so far) has been filled, and fellow coaches from across the country have been contacting Harsin over the past 48 hours about possible openings on his assistant staff at Auburn.
To Harsin, that’s an encouraging sign of what the sport’s coaches think of the Auburn program.
“Let me say this: There is no shortage of interest from coaches that want to be part of this Auburn program,” Harsin said on Christmas Eve during his introductory press conference. “My phone’s been blowing up.”
Not too long ago, Harsin was an up-and-coming assistant at Boise State, his alma mater. As the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Chris Petersen, the Broncos went 61-5 (2006-10) and produced some of the most efficient and electric offenses in college football.
He’s aware of the importance of a quality staff, with Auburn now his third head-coaching job after Arkansas State (2013) and Boise State (2014-20). Harsin thinks his hiring will open the door for talented coaches to make names for themselves by producing at a high level in the SEC.
He likened his assistant staff decisions to a lesson he learned from his father, who is a drag racer.
“When you’re going to go over 200 miles-an-hour in a car in six seconds, that thing better work, right?” Harsin joked. “… We work on cars, we build cars, it takes time and people get extremely impatient. ‘Do you want it done right, or do you want it right now?’ That was one of his favorite lines right there. … ‘I can make it run, it’s not gonna run like you want to.’
“So it’s critically important that we get the right people in here. It’s critically important that we get the right coaches in here. It’s critically important that we get coaches in here that understand, like I feel right now, of what Auburn really stands for.”
And there’s no time to waste — well, the holidays don’t count. Harsin said he’s starting to sort out an assistant coach wish list “now,” though he’s told the coaches blowing up his phone to take a couple days off, enjoy Christmas and circle back to him this weekend.
Harsin made sure to reiterate he will be deliberate about filling out his staff, though also patient. And he won’t be hamstrung about who he wants to hire. Auburn University President Jay Gogue said Wednesday that Harsin will have full control over his staffing choices, and that no “stipulations” about assistant coaches existed for any candidate during Auburn’s coaching search.
As for the current staff, Harsin met them via a Zoom meeting Wednesday, though he already knew a few from coaching events and connections over the years. Harsin gave them the same message as he did with the prospective assistant candidates: Take some time off, enjoy Christmas, and things will get rolling Saturday when the players return to campus for bowl practices.
Speaking of Auburn’s Citrus Bowl date with No. 14 Northwestern (noon CST on New Year’s Day, ABC), Harsin made sure Auburn’s current assistant coaches know that this team has his full attention. He’s said his goodbyes in Boise, and he’s ready to help the Tigers win a bowl game.
“It was simple. What I told them is, what can I do to help you? What can I do to support you?” Harsin said. “What can I do to make sure that you guys have everything you need to get these guys prepared to go play against Northwestern?”
Auburn doled out $6.76 million for its assistant coaching pool in 2020, good for the fourth-biggest mark in the SEC and the sixth-most in college football, according to USA TODAY’s annual publication of its assistant coach salary database.
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