This Bryan Harsin-Auburn football mess will end in one of two ways

The five-game losing streak Auburn football endured to end the 2021 season pales in comparison to the mess unfolding this offseason.

AU has pinned itself into a corner as it continues evaluating coach Bryan Harsin’s future. Auburn officials are “collecting information from a variety of perspectives” before deciding Harsin’s fate, the school announced Monday.

Perhaps the only thing less appealing than firing a coach in February, just 14 months after ousting the previous coach, is retaining a divisive coach whose future has been scrutinized by AU’s administration and whose leadership style has been publicly criticized by multiple former players.

Behind Door No. 1: Fire Harsin.

Firing Harsin now would put Auburn at a hiring disadvantage. Many of the coaches who might have been willing to change jobs already have secured richer contracts or new jobs.

TOPPMEYER: If Bryan Harsin can’t win the locker room, then Auburn football cannot succeed

Also, some job candidates will view Auburn as a no-fly zone if it fires a second coach in a span of 14 months. Already, the school has a reputation for meddling boosters.

AU fired Gus Malzahn in December 2020 despite him never posting a losing record in eight seasons. That made Malzahn the fourth consecutive Auburn coach to be fired despite either playing for a national championship or recording an undefeated season. After ousting Malzahn, Auburn endured a muddled coaching search that resulted in Harsin arriving with seemingly divided support. Athletics director Allen Greene wanted Harsin. Some powerful boosters reportedly did not.

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Plus, Harsin would be owed a buyout of about $18.2 million unless Auburn negotiates a settlement or fires him for cause, which could…

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