Auburn didn’t lose a football game on Saturday for lack of effort. The effort was there. The Tigers fought to the end. And that can be attributed to coaching.

It can also be attributed to coaching that Koy Moore threw a pass on what could and should have been a game-winning drive late in the game. It was a narcissistic coaching decision to basically allow Moore to give one final middle finger to the school he transferred from. But that’s another story for another time.

The point is, Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin still has the eyes, ears and focus of this football team. That should account for something. It should be a sign that Harsin is doing what coaches do when their intention is to build a foundation.

The Tigers didn’t lose on Saturday because Harsin has lost this team, or because the program is in shambles. They lost it because they don’t have the overall talent that LSU has. And that won’t change overnight, unless those big-money donors at Auburn who wanted Harsin gone from the start pony up the NIL money necessary to bring the next Cam Newton to the Plains. It’s legal now.

That’s just where we are in college football today. Or maybe it has always been that way, I don’t know. I’ll have to ask Nick Saban at that other school down the road. He builds programs. He did it at LSU, and he rebuilt the program at his current location.

But given today’s climate, given the rules in which Harsin is forced to toil under at Auburn, it’s a real possibility that Saban’s coaching career may not have made it out of LSU alive. His 1st team at LSU lost to UAB, at home, in his 4th game in Baton Rouge. LSU was 3-3 in his first 6 games on the bayou.

By today’s standards, he would have already been on the hot seat. He finished that season 8-4, but he started the following year 2-2. He was 4-3 by the end of October. Given today’s climate, he may not have made it beyond that point.

Too bad, isn’t it Auburn big-money donors, that LSU got behind its coach instead of setting up road blocks? Too bad, isn’t it, that LSU gave him 4 years to build a program into championship caliber?

Too bad, isn’t it, that Alabama didn’t panic when Saban failed to win a championship in his 1st year there? To bad, isn’t it, that they didn’t fire Saban after going 6-6 his 1st year, including an unthinkable home loss to Louisiana-Monroe?

Too bad, isn’t it, that they gave him 3 years in which to build the foundation for a championship program there, too? Too bad he was given the time and the backing to change the view of how Auburn and other football programs chase success.

Of course, I’m not saying that Auburn is guaranteed a championship program if Harsin remains, and that ship has already sailed, it would appear. There are no such guarantees, but when Shug Jordan himself finishes 6th and 12th in the SEC in his first 2 years at Auburn but is given time to build a program — a program so successful over a 25-year career that it names the stadium after him — well, maybe those hyperactive big-money donors might want to hold their water just a little bit longer.

I know that’s the environment we find ourselves in right now in college football, trying to catch lightning in a bottle rather than having the patience to build a lasting program. One false step and your coach is out the door. No room for error.

Well, if that’s the case, my question has to be: Why are you paying tens of millions of dollars on long-term contracts to these coaches? I’ll tell you why: Because no self-respecting coach would take the job otherwise.

And if that’s the case, what difference does it make who the coach is? Why not go cheap, get some GA and use the money instead to bring the best talent to campus?

You’re laughing at that? So is Ed Orgeron as he sits on the beach with Candy, I think her name is, while lighting cigars with $100 bills. He caught lightning in a bottle. So did Gene Chizik.

If that’s the aim, at least until Saban retires, then there are going to be many, many disappointing seasons. I mean, how many times can you win the lottery?

Auburn won’t win a lot of games this season. It will be lucky to become bowl eligible. But you have to start somewhere. Until Auburn gets on the same page, from coaches to players to administration to big-money donors, there won’t be many successful seasons on the Plains.

I’m certainly not saying that Harsin is the answer. What I am saying is that he has his football team playing as hard as it can. Some might even say it’s overachieving, given the talent level. And that’s a start.

The next step in building a program is, of course, to bring in top talent. Harsin has yet to do that, and he won’t without unfractured support. Just ask Saban.