Life in the SEC can be tough. College football’s perennial top conference features some of the nation’s best teams — Georgia and Alabama are frequent visitors to the College Football Playoff, while squads like Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas, and Florida usually put up strong (and sometimes surprising) seasons, too. If a head coach can’t find success early and often, they may not last very long.
Nowhere is that more evident than at Auburn. The Tigers won the 2010 National Championship and reached the 2013 title game, but it’s been tough sledding since then. The school has only had one 10-win season and two bowl victories. And despite what those bowl hosts might say, wins at the 2015 Birmingham Bowl and 2018 Music City Bowl aren’t moving the needle.
Auburn fired coach Gus Malzahn in 2020 after his teams had been on the decline. They hired Bryan Harsin to replace him and Harsin promptly put up a 6-7 season in his first year. After starting 3-5 this season and putting Auburn in danger of missing a bowl game since 2012, the university parted ways with Harsin. He spent less than two seasons in Auburn after leaving Boise State and signing a six-year, $31.5 million deal.
Here’s where life gets good for an SEC coach. Because it’s such a prestigious job, coaches can usually negotiate a hefty buyout as part of their contract. And despite that 9-12 record, Auburn owes Harsin $15.5 million. He’ll get half of that within the next 30 days and the rest in four installments.
If this story sounds familiar, it’s because Auburn also owes money to Malzahn as part of his firing. Malzahn, who went 68-34 in eight seasons, scored a $21.7 million buyout from the university. That means in a span of fewer than two years, Auburn has committed $37.2 million to two coaches who are no longer with the program.
So, sure, Harsin might feel a little down because he won’t get to lead the Tigers into the future and perhaps back to championship contention. He even conveyed that feeling in an official statement. But it’s a good bet that this buyout will help ease his pain.