After investigation, Auburn sticks with coach Bryan Harsin

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Auburn coach Bryan Harsin will return for a second season after defections by assistants and players alike helped prompt a school investigation into unspecified concerns.

Auburn President Jay Gogue announced the decision Friday, a week after telling trustees that his office was “trying to separate fact from fiction” surrounding the polarizing coach who was accused publicly by one former player of treating his team “like dogs.”

Gogue decried the “wild speculation” and misinformation in the “feeding frenzy” surrounding Harsin, whose firing would have cost Auburn millions. His contract runs through the 2026 season,

“Let me be clear – our university, the administration and the entire Board of Trustees stand behind Coach Harsin and are ready to help him succeed as the leader of our football program,” Gogue said in a letter posted on the university’s website.

He said the review, which started after concerns were raised to his administration, included interviews with current and former coaches and administrative staff under Harsin, plus “numerous” players, administrators and others.

But it led to a week of uncertainty for both Harsin and Auburn fans less than 14 months into his tenure.

“This has been one of the hardest weeks of my career and it had nothing to do with my coaching ability,” Harsin said. “The personal attacks on me and my family went too far and were without justification. … We saw and felt the worst of the worst in some people. Fortunately, we also saw the best of the best in others and we will always be grateful for the support of so many through a very difficult time – our players, staff, the Auburn family, and many others.”

Gogue and Harsin both said he cooperated during the process, but the fact that it was deemed necessary at all still cast doubts on the program’s stability for potential coaching hires and recruits.

Auburn has lost 18 players and five assistant coaches in the aftermath of a 6-7 season. That includes three coordinators: Harsin fired offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and Bobo’s replacement, Austin Davis, resigned for personal reasons, while defensive coordinator Derek Mason left for the same job at Oklahoma State. Harsin has not yet hired a new offensive coordinator.

“To be clear, this process, which was never individual- or outcome-specific, did not yield information that should change the status of our coaching staff or football program,” Gogue said. He also took aim at unspecified rumors on social media.

“Unfortunately, social media fueled wild speculation, substantial misinformation and unfair attacks on good Auburn people,” Gogue said. “A feeding frenzy resulted that was beyond anyone’s control. We regret the concern, anger, frustration or hurt that this caused any member of the Auburn family.”

Gogue announced his retirement last June and his successor, Chris Roberts, starts on May 16.

Among the players who left the program was Central Florida defensive tackle Lee Hunter, who had criticized Harsin’s handling of players in a social media post.

“Coach Harsin has the true mindset for a winner but has a terrible mindset as a person,” Hunter wrote on Instagram. “The reason I chose to leave auburn because we got treated like we wasn’t good enough and like dogs.”

Other players rose to Harsin’s defense, however, including tight end John Samuel Shenker and linebacker Chandler Wooten.

Firing Harsin would have been expensive, especially after Auburn had to pay fired coach Gus Malzahn $21.45 million as part of his buyout.

If Auburn had fired Harsin without cause, the school would have been on the hook for 70% of his contract that runs through the 2026 season and averages $5.25 million per season. That would amount to just over $18 million.

Clemson gives raises, contract extensions to staff

Ken Ruinard/USA TODAY NETWORK
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s board of trustees approved raises for special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Mike Reed and defensive tackles coach Nick Eason.

Reed and Eason also received one-year extensions keeping them tied to the Tigers through Jan. 31, 2026.

Reed, who’s been with the Tigers since 2013, had his yearly salary increased $50,000 to $800,000. Eason, the former Clemson standout defensive lineman, joined the staff this past season. He also had his compensation upped by $50,000 to $800,000.

Seven other assistants were given one-year extensions by the trustees’ compensation committee, but without a raise in salary.

Co-defensive coordinators Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn had their contracts extended through Jan. 31, 2026.

Defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall, tight ends coach Kyle Richardson, offensive line coach Thomas Austin, running backs coach C.J. Spiller and wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham all got one-year extensions through Jan. 31, 2025.

New offensive coordinator Garrett Riley last month received a three-year contract at $1.75 million per season.

Clemson will pay its 10 on-field assistants $7.475 million this season, an increase of $925,000 from the total for 2022.

The Tigers went 11-3 last season, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

South Carolina’s Beamer suspends three freshmen from program

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Corey Perrine/USA TODAY NETWORK
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said freshmen Monteque Rhames II, Anthony Rose and Cameron Upshaw were suspended from the football program.

There was no reason given for the suspensions in the school’s statement Friday. Online records showed Rhames, 18, was booked last night and was being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on charges of carrying weapons on school property and obstructing justice.

“Our student-athletes know what is expected of them,” Beamer said. “They know that both the university and the football program will hold them accountable for their actions and decisions.”

None of the three have played for the Gamecocks.

Rose is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back from Miami who enrolled in January 2022 and redshirted this season. Rhames and Upshaw were part of South Carolina’s latest recruiting class and enrolled last month.

Rhames is a 6-5, 235-pound defensive lineman from Sumter and Upshaw is a 6-2, 193-pound safety from Perry, Florida.