New Auburn coach Bryan Harsin embraces challenges
Bryan Harsin received a brief lesson on priorities at Auburn.
The Tigers' new coach, fresh from a successful seven-year run at Boise State, snaked through an opening speech of more than half an hour at his introductory press conference on Thursday. The first question when he finally finished was, appropriately, whether he should face Nick Saban and # 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
He said moments like this would be "too big" if teams didn't see every day and game as important.
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"I have nothing but respect for (Saban) and what they did and I'm definitely looking forward to playing him and we will have the chance," said Harsin. "But we will focus on what to do at Auburn and how to do it so we can put ourselves in a position to compete when the time is right."
Auburn's battles against Southeastern Conference rivals Alabama, Georgia and LSU were one of the reasons the school fired Gus Malzahn with a 6-4 record one day after completing his eighth regular season.
The 44-year-old Harsin has an impressive track record at his alma mater. He led Boise State to a 69:19 record with three Mountain West titles in seven seasons.
Auburn won the national title in 2010 when Boise State won 12-1 but was disqualified from a shot at the BCS Championship. It was an example of how difficult it is for even elite Group of Five programs to get that chance, which is routinely recognized as an award for winning the SEC.
“I know my personality. Damn yeah, I drew against them, "said Harsin, who was the Broncos' offensive coordinator at the time, certainly drawing against them.
"And if I had had any kind of voting right back then, I would have put ourselves in front of them."
The Tigers fell to Florida State in another championship game to end the 2013 season. That was Malzahn's first year, and the Tigers lost at least four games each in the next seven games.
Saban has led Alabama to five national titles since 2009. Ed Orgeron led LSU to the championship last season. Kirby Smart has led Georgia to a national title game.
Now, Harsin will face these guys and the rest of the SEC on the field and on the recruiting route.
His introduction to Auburn Sporting Director Allen Greene came about five years ago while he was out for an event, and it certainly didn't hurt Harsin's chances of getting that job.
Greene said Harsin made a strong impression at a "chance meeting" at a swimming pool.
"I remember thinking, 'I like this guy," Greene said. Now, "This guy knows how to win."
Auburn will play at Citrus Bowl # 15 Northwestern on New Years Day. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is acting as the Tigers' interim coach and the players are expected to return on Saturday.
Auburn President Jay Gogue issued a letter to fans rejecting reports that the coaching candidates were faced with mandates to keep certain employees.
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