Auburn fired coach Bryan Harsin on Monday, ending a two-year tenure for the former Boise State coach in the SEC. The Tigers went 9-12 under Harsin’s watch, which included a four-game losing streak heading into November. Harsin was a surprise hire at Auburn after going 69-19 at Boise State from 2014-20. Former Auburn player and running backs coach Cadillac Williams is expected work as the interim coach for the remainder of the season.
Who could replace Harsin at Auburn? Here are some names to watch in the coaching search:
Coaching Candidates to Replace Bryan Harsin at Auburn
Jamey Chadwell, Head Coach, Coastal Carolina
Chadwell has emerged as one of the top Group of 5 coaches over the last three years. He guided the Chanticleers to a No. 14 finish nationally with an 11-1 mark in ’20 and followed up that season with an 11-2 finish in ’21. Coastal Carolina is off to a 7-1 start in '22 and on the doorstep of the Top 25. Chadwell is 37-20 as the head coach at Coastal Carolina and previously went 35-14 at Charleston Southern from 2013-16. Overall, Chadwell is 97-55 as a head coach. He doesn’t have any SEC experience but would bring a successful track record and a background in offensive innovation to Auburn.
Bill Clark, Former UAB Head Coach
Clark’s name was mentioned in the last search for a coach at Auburn. Could he get another look this time around? Clark retired as UAB's head coach due to health reasons prior to 2022 but could be interested in a return to the sidelines. Clark is a native of Alabama and had an extended stint in the state’s high school ranks before landing on South Alabama’s staff from 2008-12. He left to be the head coach at FCS Jacksonville State in ’13 and guided the Gamecocks to an 11-4 mark. Clark left Jacksonville State for UAB in ’14 and faced difficult circumstances after finishing 6-6 in his debut. The Blazers disbanded their program for two years but made quite a return with an 8-5 mark in ’17. Under Clark’s watch, UAB went 49-26 and has won two conference titles.
Hugh Freeze, Head Coach, Liberty
Will Auburn consider bringing Freeze back to the SEC? Freeze resigned at Ole Miss due to off-field conduct after going 39-25 from 2012-16. The Rebels went 7-6 in his first year and steadily improved to a 10-3 mark in ’15. In addition to his tenure at Ole Miss, Freeze went 20-5 as the head coach at Lambuth (2008-09), 10-2 at Arkansas State (2011), and is 33-12 through four years at Liberty. Although Freeze recently signed an extension at Liberty, he could still get consideration for this job.
Jeff Grimes, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor
Grimes has previous ties to Auburn as the program’s offensive line coach from 2009-12 and had another stint in the SEC as an assistant at LSU from 2014-17. The Texas native became BYU’s offensive coordinator in ’18 and guided the attack to an average of 43.5 points a game in ’20. Grimes took over at Baylor in ’21 and was instrumental in helping the program win the Big 12 title. The Bears improved their scoring average from 23.3 points a game in ’20 to 31.6 in Grimes’ debut last fall. He has no previous experience as an FBS head coach.
Lane Kiffin, Head Coach, Ole Miss
Would Kiffin consider a move within the division? A move to Auburn would certainly represent a step up in the SEC food chain. Kiffin is 23-9 at Ole Miss since taking over in 2020 and is 84-42 overall as a head coach including stops at FAU, USC and Tennessee. Few coaches have navigated the NIL and portal era as well as Kiffin and it's no secret he's well-suited to thrive in the SEC.
Matt Rhule, Former Head Coach Carolina Panthers
Rhule was fired after a 1-4 start with the Panthers in 2022, which dropped his overall record to 11-27 in the NFL. He previously went 47-43 at two stops in college (Temple 2013-16 and Baylor 2017-19). Could Rhule be interested in a return to college? Or will he live the buyout life for a year?
Deion Sanders, Head Coach, Jackson State
In three years as the head coach at Jackson State, Sanders is 23-5 overall and guided the Tigers to a No. 19 finish in the FCS' Top 25 in '21. The former NFL standout is likely to be mentioned as a candidate for Power 5 openings this offseason.
Kevin Steele, Defensive Coordinator, Miami
Although it’s probably a longshot, we have to mention Steele here since he worked as the defensive coordinator from 2016-20 and served as interim coach for the Citrus Bowl after Gus Malzahn’s dismissal. Also, Steele's name popped up the last time this job was open. Although Steele has a wealth of experience as a coordinator, his only stint as an FBS head coach came at Baylor from 1999-2002, where he went 9-36 overall.