Day 4 of SEC Media Days saw The Auburn Tigers take center stage. Bryan Harsin was the first head coach of the day to take the podium. And, unsurprisingly, a range of subjects were addressed. From the offseason drama to the new coaching staff. From building cars to recruiting and building a football program – nothing was off limits. But in very classy fashion, Harsin began his opening statement by honoring a recently lost member of the Auburn family:
“Before I get started, I do want to recognize someone that was a large part of Auburn history and Auburn football. I’ve got the privilege to hear some of the stories here, but Buddy Davidson, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 82, many called him Mr. Auburn. His life-long devotion to Auburn is second to none.
He came to Auburn as a student manager as a freshman from Montgomery, was part of the 1957 national championship season, became the SID after graduating. Also did that for 20 years. In 1981 became an A.D., assistant A.D., handling football and travel, other special projects. Retired in 2007.
This is what was fascinating to me: He saw every game, home and away, for 61 years, so 1957 to 2017, and he stopped his streak at 700 games as he suffered a stroke in 2014 that limited his mobility and speech.
Anyhow, to his family, our condolences, and thank you for the support and War Eagle.”
Under the lights, with the media ready to ask some rather uncomfortable questions, the Auburn head coach reminded everyone that family is one of the few things that comes before football.
Addressing ‘The Gorilla In The Room’
After keeping his counsel since February, Harsin felt that SEC Media Days was the ideal opportunity to close the book on the toughest chapter in his Auburn career to date. Tackling the offseason inquiry that nearly cost him his job after just one season, Harsin was emphatic:
“Second time here. Excited to be here. I know some of you out there looking at me didn’t expect me to be here at this time. I’m going to dive into that here in just a second, address the gorilla in the room.
Really proud of where our team is at. I’ll talk about some of those guys that are with us today, the work we’ve been putting in.
Going back to what happened back in February, what I’m going to do now is address it. Moving forward, that will be the last time I talk about this subject.
There was an inquiry. It was uncomfortable. It was unfounded. It presented an opportunity for people to personally attack me, my family, and also our program. And it didn’t work.
Right now our focus is on moving forward. What came out of that inquiry were a lot of positives. There was a silver lining in all of this. What I saw from our players and our coaches was leadership opportunities for them to step up, which is exactly what they did. You got a chance to see guys provide leadership. You got a chance to see coaches provide leadership.
What it did is it united our football team, our players, our staff, our football team. I’m really proud of our guys. I’m proud of what something like that that could be very challenging and difficult for a lot of people, how our guys stepped up and handled it.
We had coaches and players that could have went to different places, avoided all the adversity and challenges. They didn’t do that.
They’re here working extremely hard. They’re doing a fantastic job, in my opinion, getting themselves ready to go for this season. That will be the last I talk about that. There’s plenty of interviews on it. If you want any more information on it, just go Google it.”
Let it never be said that Bryan Harsin avoids the issue. In forty-five seconds, he set the tone of the presser; Auburn football is looking forward, not backwards.
The newest @HuddleWithHars episode is out NOW!!
Being great on the field begins in the weight room. We get to hear @coachpit_au share how he prepares the team physically but also as high quality men for life. Tune in below⤵️#WarEagle🦅 https://t.co/7kTiKzB7sZ
— Bryan Harsin (@CoachHarsin) July 10, 2022
After lauding the work of his coaches and players through the offseason, Harsin opened up the press conference to questions. And the crowd seemed to appreciate his candid approach to the hot topics and were generally friendly. After praising his new podcast ‘Huddle With Hars’, one member of the media asked Harsin which was tougher to rebuild, a car or a football program? The coach smiled and reminisced about his fondness for cars, but was quick to point out that football has been his priority since arriving on The Plains.
When asked about self-evaluation, we got a real glimpse into the Harsin ethos. In his own words, self-evaluation was the ‘number one thing we should all do every year’. He explained that it was a daily ritual amongst him and his staff, and that ‘anybody that thinks they’ve got it all figured out, they’re wrong.’ Harsin preached an ethos of getting better every day, and that begins with introspection.
Questions about the new coaching staff, as well as roster additions such as Zach Calzada were answered with predictably effusive praise. Despite the many losses to the program following season one of the Harsin era, there is a positivity at Jordan-Hare. The Tigers head coach frequently preached how the team and the staff were all ‘aligned’, and was excited for the season ahead. Speaking of which…
2022: A Look Ahead
Despite all the adversity of the offseason, Bryan Harsin will ultimately be judged on wins and losses. The upcoming season is a crucial one for the new regime. See enough progress, and people will start to believe. Struggle to translate the changes into results, and people will start to get antsy. Consequently, Harsin was asked about five home games to start the season, and the importance it of seeing success early:
“Home or away, you want to get off to a fast start regardless. It’s great to be in Jordan-Hare Stadium. It’s so unique. People have asked me. I’ve never been a part of that. How it was all set up and done, I’m not asking questions. We got five home games. When we were flying over here with Tank and Shenk and Derick Hall, we were talking about different places they played, venues and all that.
Our stadium, I don’t think there’s a better one in the country. Just being a part of a couple games last season, it’s phenomenal. To be around our fans, to have those teams coming in, playing in Jordan-Hare. We’re excited about that, to have a chance to be home for five straight games. Doesn’t provide that travel and some of those things you talk about as a coach, we’re going to face adversity on the plane, all those other things. Who knows, maybe the bus breaks down on the way to the hotel? There’s something that goes on that we’ll have to challenge ourselves to overcome.
Yeah, we’re excited about it, and I’m looking forward to those five games at home, having great crowds, great support. That environment that we all know is the best in the country, to be out there going crazy and cheering on our football team. Hopefully we’re having success through those five games.
We get into the back half of the season. It doesn’t really matter who you play, you get into that half of the season, that stretch right there, that’s the one that really determines, especially in November, who’s going to have a chance to be in those Playoff games, who has a chance to play for championships.”
Asked about the frustrations early in the current recruiting cycle, Harsin accordingly pointed to the upcoming season as an opportunity to change the narrative:
“I think the message is: watch. We got to go out there and play. That’s the beauty of what we get a chance to do every Saturday, all right? When you get into the arena, you have the opportunity to go out there and settle the score, all right? You have a chance to compete. That’s really what we do this for. We do it so that we can get into that arena and have that opportunity.
We’ve told our recruits: watch. I think the ones that have been on our campus, they see the energy and the vibe, what’s happening, how the players are responding, coaches are connecting, everything that we’re doing.
There’s a great energy in our program right now. There’s alignment in our program right now. I know those recruits and families feel that when they step on campus.
Auburn sells itself. It’s a beautiful campus. It’s a phenomenal stadium. The people there are fantastic. Everything about it is what you want to be a part of.
Now we got to put a product on the field that players want to be a part of. We want to go out there and be successful. Our guys know that. We know that. And hopefully soon, the recruits will know that too.”
Buckle up folks. 2022 is going to be a wild ride. WDE!
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