Why I'd like to see other college coaches follow in Bryan Harsin's footsteps and start podcasts
Everyone has a podcast. I know.
Saying the words “I have a podcast” in this age almost feels like saying “I own clothes.” It’s assumed, especially if you’re in sports. If you don’t have some sort of platform to voice your thoughts, you’re the last of a dying breed.
Podcasts aren’t just for sports media personalities. Former and current athletes have them. Former and current coaches have them, too.
On Sunday, we found out that another current coach joined the crowded field. It’s actually a coach whose future was unknown as recently as February — Bryan Harsin.
The Auburn coach announced that he launched the “Huddle with Hars” podcast. The first guest is new Auburn offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau.
It’s ALL about the people. Auburn Family, check out our podcast @HuddleWithHars! Excited to share an inside scoop on the fantastic people in our program & allow them to reveal their journey.
— Bryan Harsin (@CoachHarsin) May 29, 2022
Listen and you’ll learn more about Kiesau than you ever could from reading his Auburn bio page or listening to a 20-minute press conference with him.
“Huddle with Hars” isn’t some postgame coaches show, nor is it midweek availability with the media.
Crowded space or not, it’d be refreshing to see college coaches follow in Harsin’s footsteps.
Why? Will they result in more wins on the field? Doubtful. In fact, if the team doesn’t perform well and Harsin still has an obligation to continue to record podcasts, those might actually be his most popular episodes. But as Harsin shared in the first minute of his first episode, there’s an easy opportunity for fans to feel more connected to his program by learning about the people who run it.
“The purpose of these podcasts are for those of you that follow our program, and those of you just looking for good stories, life lessons, keys to success and more from our coaches,” he said. “And to get to know these coaches like I do. As husbands, fathers, leaders and hard-working men that care deeply about what they do.”
Yeah, this won’t exactly be Draymond Green teeing off on officiating in the minutes after a playoff loss. We’re not even sure what that schedule will look like in-season for Harsin. He could take a page out of The Ringer’s “Flying Coach” podcast playbook and make it strictly an offseason show. Season 2 of that show was with NFL Network’s Peter Shrager and Sean McVay. Season 1 actually started during the pandemic, and it was hosted by Pete Carroll and Steve Kerr.
It was a smart, effective way to give high-profile coaches a platform that’s a bit more relaxed than any other regular media setting they partake in. Of course, McVay, Carroll and Kerr were all established coaches at the professional ranks … and they didn’t have their programs come out with multiple statements about their job security earlier in the offseason. That was Harsin.
In Harsin’s defense, that situation from February was (mostly) outside of his control. Clearly, he’s taking steps to show the Auburn community (and the people deciding his future) that he’s not just a robot who spent 21 of the previous 25 years of his life in Boise. Sure, it’s still the SEC. Your future still (mostly) comes down to winning football games.
But we do know that public sentiment can sometimes be a dealbreaker for coaches. Having a platform like this will allow the public in and, ultimately, allow Harsin to have a little more control about his own narrative even more than firing off tweets (Harsin definitely ramped up his social media this offseason).
Shoot, Harsin could have a little more control over his own staff by conducting interviews with them. That’s not to say that if Derek Mason had gotten a chance to go on Harsin’s podcast that he’d still be on The Plains, but think about this. Most times when you sit down with someone for an hour, you find common ground with them. How many times in life have you sat down with someone for an hour and gotten a better impression of someone?
The first time I sat down and talked with, ironically enough, former Auburn coach Gene Chizik, it changed my entire perception of him. I realized I might’ve had impressions of him as a coach or as an analyst, but that was such a small part of him. To this day, there are few people I look forward to talking to more than Chizik because he allowed me to see who he is as a man, and not what his football acumen told me about him.
That’s the ongoing challenge for Harsin and really all coaches. We want insight. We don’t need deep and dark secrets. We want personality. Personality isn’t taking the stage at SEC Media Days and answering just 3 questions in 29 minutes at the podium. Yes, that’s exactly what Harsin did last year (via AL.com).
It’s not Harsin’s job to entertain us, nor is it his job to provide constant access to his program. The 29 minutes Harsin spoke at SEC Media Days felt like the exact opposite of that, and perhaps by design.
Harsin does, however, seem to feel a sense of obligation to break down more of those walls. That’s not just oddly handing out Auburn hats to members of the media (we can all agree that was weird and still overblown). Even if Harsin had been Mr. Personality in Year 1, the masses could’ve still run with those unsubstantiated rumors of infidelity in February. You can bet that Harsin would’ve loved to have had his own platform to nip that in the bud instead of hoping that doing an interview with ESPN would paint him in the best light.
Now Harsin has a place where he put out whatever sort of message he wants. It sounds like his podcast will be mostly interview-focused with him serving as the host role to carry on the conversation. Still, though. I can’t imagine that fans, players and recruits view this as anything but a positive.
That’s what this boils down to. The upside far outweighs the downside, which might not exist. It’s not like he’s about to release all of Auburn’s secret sauce and have coaches revealing game plans for the upcoming week.
We don’t know what the future holds for Harsin. Maybe this is his last season, or maybe this is his turnaround season that’ll establish year-to-year stability that Auburn has rarely had even during its best moments.
Either way, I tip my cap to Harsin for embarking on a new challenge. He’s showing that he wants to put himself out there more. After an offseason in which his treatment of players was dissected ad nauseam, hosting a podcast and giving them a chance to tell their story is a smart way to change that narrative.
Here’s hoping Harsin’s platform becomes the new normal for college coaches.