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Urban renewal: Meyer a darkhorse candidate at Auburn?

As Bryan Harsin clings to the head coaching position at Auburn, the rumor mill is vigorously churning.

Many seem to have already written off the head of the Auburn football program and sent him packing. Discussions are heating up on who would be the appropriate replacement.

One name that has to be considered for the Auburn job is Urban Meyer. The Fox Sports analyst is on the wish list of fan bases across the country.

Nebraska and Arizona State are two Power 5 teams that have already moved on from their coaches leaving vacancies that could interest the former coach.

Auburn would be an appealing destination for a proven winner like Meyer, who has had a stint in the SEC with Florida. Auburn is a storied program that is steeped in tradition with one of the most avid fanbases in college football.

Additionally, the university has made significant financial commitment to the athletics program to ensure it remains one of the pre-eminent in the country. In fact, the football program is expected to move into its new $64.6 million facility at the end of the 2022 season.

Although Auburn has struggled recently on the recruiting trail, especially compared to their rivals Alabama and Georgia, Meyer would immediately be able to make the Tigers competitive again on that front.

He has a track record of attracting and landing top talent, and Auburn would be no different. Add NIL opportunities into the mix, and Meyer has the potential to have Auburn recruiting with the likes of Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State.

Meyer is one of the most successful coaches in college football history. He is one of only three coaches to have won a national title at two major programs (Pop Warner and Nick Saban are the other two). He has won seven conference titles, including two in the SEC, and three national titles.

Despite all of the success and accolades, Meyer would not come without controversy.

While at Florida, player disciplinary issues plagued the Gator program: 31 Florida players were arrested during his six seasons in Gainesville. Meyer was accused of creating a “toxic culture” that set Florida back after he resigned owing to health concerns.

After a year’s leave, Meyer took over at Ohio State. Yet again, despite the success, Meyer was embroiled in scandal.

He was placed on administrative leave in 2018 when the university determined Meyer was aware of spousal abuse allegations levied against one of his assistants, despite Meyer publicly denying any knowledge of the situation. Ohio State suspended him for the first three games of the 2018 season.

Following the 2018 season, Meyer retired again. He spent a couple of seasons as an analyst before accepting a job with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. His latest stint was the most short-lived. Despite the excitement of pairing Meyer with No. 1 overall pick in quarterback Trevor Lawrence, his tenure with the Jaguars was riddled with issues on and off the field.

During the season, a photo surfaced of Meyer inappropriately touching a woman who was not his wife in one of his Ohio-based restaurants. After apologizing to the team and organization, it was widely noted that he had lost the trust and confidence of Jaguars’ team owner Shahid Khan. Furthermore, Jaguar players and personnel began to leak accounts of poor treatment that circulated amongst the national media. It all culminated when a player accused Meyer of physically abusing him. This would lead to the Jaguars terminating him after 13 games.

As it pertains to Auburn, Meyer would step into one of the most challenging roles in college football. He would have to play two juggernauts every year in Alabama and Georgia, not to mention the rest of the SEC. That said, Meyer has proven that he can develop programs that are on par with what Saban and Kirby Smart have created at their respective schools.

The coaching prowess that Meyer has is undeniable. Equally as undeniable are his off-the-field issues that have plagued one of the most successful college football coaches in recent times.

There is no doubt that he would win games at Auburn, but at what cost? Can Auburn’s leadership and fans ignore his checkered past if it meant the football program could be highly competitive once again?

Ultimately, Harsin is still calling the shots at Auburn. While it may seem nearly inevitable that a change is on the horizon, the rumor mill will not slow down until the university commits to retaining Harsin or announces his successor.

One thing is certain: the coaching decision at Auburn will be one to watch and highly consequential for the program and college football as a whole.

Ben Richardson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News. 

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