Bryan Harsin is the new face of Auburn football, but he wasn't a big fan of the Tigers a decade ago.
The former Boise State head coach was the offensive coordinator of the 2010 Broncos, who climbed to No. 2 nationally behind Oregon for three weeks that season before getting bumped down to No. 3 by Auburn. The Tigers would go on to defeat the Ducks for that season's BCS national championship.
"Heck yeah, I was pulling against them," Harsin said Thursday during an introductory Zoom call that lasted more than an hour. "I was all about where I was at. If I had any sort of voting power at that time, I would have put us ahead of them."
Harsin was named this past Tuesday as Auburn's new coach after guiding Boise State to a 69-19 record with three Mountain West Conference championships in the last seven seasons. The 44-year-old replaces the ousted Gus Malzahn, who went 68-35 in eight years but never replicated the success of his debut season in 2013, when the Tigers won the Southeastern Conference and came within 13 seconds of knocking off Florida State for what would have been their second national title in four years.
Auburn has experienced more success against Alabama than any other SEC program in recent years, topping the Crimson Tide four times since 2010, but the Tigers have averaged 4.7 losses in the last seven years and have been on the losing end against Georgia and LSU more times than not.
"We aimed high, and we landed high, too," Auburn athletic director Allen Greene said. "Simply put, he's a winner. He's won divisional championships multiple times, and he's won conference championships multiple times. The dude flat out knows how to win."
Harsin grew up in Boise and is a former Broncos quarterback. Boise State hasn't experienced a losing season since 1997, when Houston Nutt was its coach, but Harsin has to translate his annual success against the likes of Colorado State, Utah State and Wyoming into a Southeastern Conference in which he's never worked.
The last Auburn coach who arrived without any experience in the SEC was Terry Bowden, who did get a similar taste as a graduate assistant for his father at Florida State.
"There is no bigger platform than Auburn University and Auburn football, and that was one of the big reasons I made this decision," Harsin said. "I've followed Auburn football, and I've seen what it's been able to do. We want to play for championships, and the challenge of that is why I'm here.
"It's going to be challenging and it's going to be tough, but isn't that what you want as a competitor?"
Auburn has not been able to keep up with Alabama, Georgia and LSU on the recruiting front in recent years, and Harsin does not want to limit the Tigers in that aspect.
"We've got to compete in recruiting and be committed every single day," Harsin said. "We want to get the best of the best. Where do we do that? All over the country. Those guys from the West Coast? They're going to come here.
"They're going to want to be a part of this. We were able to find our kind of guys at Boise, but they still have to be developed."
Harsin already has met via Zoom with Auburn's current coaches, who are under the leadership of defensive coordinator Kevin Steele through the Citrus Bowl against Northwestern on New Year's Day. Harsin told each of them to enjoy Christmas with their families and that he would begin assembling a staff next week.
Auburn's current staff includes Steele, former Arkansas head coach Chad Morris as offensive coordinator, and defensive line coach Rodney Garner, who has held that role since 2013.
"There is no shortage of interest from coaches who want to be a part of this Auburn program," Harsin said. "My phone has been blowing up. I've had a lot of text messages, and I haven't had a chance to get back to all of them.
"I've been in other positions before when there have been opportunities, but not like this. There is so much interest and so much excitement and so many people who want to be a part of this program."
Harsin was asked about the Iron Bowl rivalry and expressed nothing but respect for Crimson Tide counterpart Nick Saban. He wants to embrace Auburn's past while attacking the future, and he knows an introductory news conference doesn't translate into wins and losses on the Plains.
Nor does achieving success in Idaho.
"I know there are a lot of questions about me, and I know many of you don't know who I am," Harsin said, "but I feel like I know who Auburn is, and I'm excited to learn more. Auburn is about people, and this is what I wanted to be a part of."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.