Auburn Tigers football coach Bryan Harsin not bitter about internal inquiry

AUBURN, Ala. — While Auburn coach Bryan Harsin would have preferred to avoid an internal inquiry into his handling of the football program and the rampant speculation about his job security earlier this year, he said on Monday that he’s not bitter that it happened.

“I wouldn’t say that anybody really wants to go through that,” he said. “But at the same time, I also saw some things that were really, really positive. I saw support, and some people coming out and just stand up and talk about Auburn and talk about the things that we’re doing, and know that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Harsin wasn’t keen on rehashing the specifics of how it all went down: How rumors about his firing bubbled up while he was on vacation with his family in Mexico; how the university launched what it later called a “fact-finding review” after concerns were raised about Harsin’s actions as coach and why so many players and coaches were leaving the program; and how he was later cleared by the inquiry and retained as head coach.

Harsin wasn’t interested, he said, in “looking back in the rearview mirror.”

But speaking to reporters on the first day of spring practice, he did try to spin the situation as a positive — a learning lesson for him and his team.

“I thought there were some productive conversations that we had,” he said. “… You don’t just go through things and not take something out of it. You don’t just go through things and it’s just business as usual.”

Harsin conceded that other schools will try to recruit against Auburn, using the inquiry to their advantage. But he added that negative recruiting is nothing new and if it wasn’t this it would be something else.

“We battle it and we’re going to battle it every day,” he said.

Asked if he battled it to this extent at his previous job, Boise State, Harsin conceded, “No, not like this.”

“Some people, they take it too far,” he said. “And you know what the problem is? They have no problem with that.”

Harsin was asked whether he learned anything from his first year at Auburn. He grinned, smiled and said, “Yeah, there’s a lot.”

One thing he wished he could have back was how the team finished the season. Auburn started out 6-2 but lost five straight games to end the year, including a 2-point loss to arch rival Alabama at home.

“We didn’t like the way we finished,” he said. “Nobody did. But that’s the key if you’re gonna make a run, if you’re going to make a run or you’re going to play for something at the end of the year, you’ve got to finish. I think through the season there were plenty of things that were self-inflicted that we’ll learn from and get better at and we can coach it better.”

A top priority this spring will be figuring out the quarterback position. Three-year starter Bo Nix transferred to Oregon and Auburn brought in transfers Zach Calzada from Texas A&M and Robby Ashford from Oregon to compete with TJ Finley, who started the final three games after Nix was injured.

Harsin said that while Finley might have received more reps than the other quarterbacks on Monday, the plan is for reps to be split evenly throughout the spring.

“If guys are competing and doing a good job, if they’re all doing well, and they’re all improving, then you want to give them as many reps as you can,” he said. “But you want to also see some guys separate at some point.”

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