ATLANTA — During the SEC Media Days finale, the two coaches at the center of the biggest controversies of the offseason (Jimbo Fisher and Bryan Harsin) insisted they had left them. First there was Harsin, who addressed the elephant in the room head-on: Auburn power brokers wanted him fired after just one season and did their best to create something thing via an official university investigation to make it happen. They failed while Harsin dug his heels in, and he remains their coach. Harsin was able to take a victory lap during SEC media days.
“I know some of you watching me weren’t expecting me to be here at this time,” Harsin said. “There was an investigation. It was uncomfortable. It was baseless. It was an opportunity for people to attack me personally, my family and also our program. And it didn’t work.
“What he’s done is he’s united our football team, our players, our staff. I’m really proud of our guys. I’m proud that something like this could be very difficult and difficult for a lot of people – how our guys stepped up and handled the situation.
Then there was Fisher, whose impromptu press conference after Nick Saban accusing Texas A&M of buying out his recruiting class was passionately provocative and featured multiple personal barbs on his former boss’ character. But Fisher did nothing to advance the beef; much like at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Florida, he spent most of his time downplaying the fact that it had happened.
Saban took the spat as a time to reflect on becoming a better person and coach, and Fisher said he did the same.
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“You have two competitive guys who had a disagreement of opinion that we both expressed publicly for the first time we had both done this. We can both grow from this and hopefully we will. … I have a lot of respect for Nick and his program and everything he’s done. We have been very good friends for a long time. Isn’t that who you fight the most? Your brothers you are closest to? »
While Fisher was expected to downplay what happened with a likely directive from the conference not to proceed further, it’s still a far cry from the charged statements he made about Saban in May, including pleading with reporters to dig into Saban’s past and call out “the narcissist” in him. Fisher told CBS that the hatchet was buried and their spat was natural for the people of West Virginia.
There’s a way these subplots go away: by winning on the pitch, which is the easiest way to make any distractions go away off the pitch. Harsin faces a tough test early in the season with Penn State traveling to Auburn in Week 3, along with its normally loaded SEC slate. For A&M, everything points to the Oct. 8 showdown against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. If the Aggies stumble, where the stories go is anyone’s guess.
Don’t count on the fact that Auburn’s boosters are certainly capable of dragging everyone into another saga to oust a head coach (it would be the third such fiasco in 18 months if they did). For Fisher, his team will have to put its money where his Mouth is – as if the Tide needed some extra motivation after last year’s loss at College Station.
Fisher and Harsin insist on moving on, and they may have personally done so, but they will be boiling below the surface this fall whether they like it or not.
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