With Auburn’s firing of Bryan Harsin on Monday, Auburn is now faced with hiring another head coach. Harsin only lasted 21 games, and while the Tigers are still paying Malzahn and owe Harsin over $15 million, it seems the school is ready to back up another Brinks truck to pay a new coach.

Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss head coach

Lane Kiffin is a name every Auburn fan has seen as a potential top get for the school. This notion is a hard one to pin down because no one can quite be sure about Kiffin’s next move other than Kiffin himself. Remember, this is a coach that once trotted out Sebastian Janikowski to try a 76-yard field goal. There are two reasons why Kiffin could become Auburn’s next head coach and they both deal with money. Kiffin is openly upset about the lack of NIL support that Ole Miss has provided. Auburn on the flip side is one of the nations forerunners in acceptance of NIL and is actively hiring staff to run an NIL department within athletics. With NIL money, comes recruits. With recruits, comes potential wins. Kiffin sure likes winning, but he even more so likes sticking it to guys like Jimbo Fisher, who think they run NIL. The other idea is that the state of Mississippi only allows for four-year contracts. Auburn would only have to buy out Kiffin’s remaining three years, and could in theory offer him more money over a longer period of time as Alabama has no such rule on contract length. The check is blank at Ole Miss and the bar is lower, but only time– or for Kiffin, Twitter– will tell if he is interested.

Jeff Grimes, Baylor offensive coordinator

Jeff Grimes is a guy who has Auburn ties — he coached the offensive line from 2009 to 2012 — and is someone from the south. He may not be as flashy a name as Kiffin, but he is someone with proven success through multiple big stops. Since leaving Auburn, he has coached at Virginia Tech, LSU, BYU and now Baylor. He is clearly someone looking to make the jump to a head coach. I would imagine Auburn thinks to only handpick their next guy from an SEC school, but Baylor can be considered close enough, especially if he has legit SEC experience. As Grimes is a lifelong offensive line guy, the Bears use a strong run game on offense. If Tank Bigsby comes back for a senior year, he may be an early candidate for SEC Player of the Year under a coach like Grimes. Or Kiffin for that matter.

Kevin Steele, Miami defensive coordinator

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Yes, Kevin Steele. Auburn fans are probably pretty torn on the idea of a reunion with Steele, especially as the head man following Harsin’s tenure, but his resume and knowledge of Auburn has to be considered. If due diligence is the name of the game, then Steele has to be on your shortlist. He was the Auburn defensive coordinator from 2016-2020, and served as the interim head coach when Gus Malzahn was fired. Teams under Steele are good, not great. But Auburn has not been good, nor great, in some time so having a bridge guy like Steele may not be the worst move. Miami is probably going to disassemble its staff anyway after a messy year, so Steele could be hired on the cheap.

Luke Fickell, Cincinnati head coach

First off, yes, Luke Fickell is not from the south and has no prior experience coaching in the south. He is from Ohio, and has only coached at Ohio State, Akron and now Cincinnati. However, Fickell’s resume is fantastic and he is a surefire winner. He is a no nonsense coach that has turned overlooked players into NFL Draft talent. He has a career record of 54-17 (Auburn has lost 12 games in a season and a half) and has won two straight AAC Championships. Yes, the AAC is not the SEC, but when his best team played UGA, the Bearcats came within a field goal of winning. When was that last true for an Auburn and UGA game? The main detractor here is that Cincinnati is jumping to the Big 12 in 2023. He does not necessarily need to make a move to a bigger conference. He ultimately will probably stay put at Cincinnati, but he will be a name that I think gains more and more traction as the weeks go on.

As for big names left off this list, are Deion Sanders and Hugh Freeze.

Freeze just signed a huge contract with Liberty, and has not coached in the SEC since 2016. There is a reason he is at Liberty of all places afterall, ask Ole Miss fans. I actually think he has a decent chance of being the next guy, but his almost decade-long contract in Lynchburg is going to be a tough one to overcome. According to Sports Illustrated, his buyout is “friendly” for Power-Five teams, though. If that number leaks, and it seems reasonable, Freeze will shoot up the candidate list.

Sanders’ name is flashy, and will likely pull in recruits, because who would not want to play for Primetime? But what about coaching in the SWAC equates to coaching in the SEC? One of his best recruits was his son too. FSU had the chance to hire the former Seminole legend a year ago, when incumbent Mike Norvell’s seat was hotter than ever. FSU stuck with Norvell, which I believe is telling. If the Seminoles did not think that Sanders was better than a coach with a losing record through two years in Tallahassee, then why would Auburn take the chance? He will remain atop Auburn’s board, but if Harsin’s lack of big time coaching experience is a cautionary tale, then Sanders is likely staying at Jackson State.

Henry Zimmer is sports editor for The Outlook and Dadeville Record. He may be contacted via email at henry.zimmer@alexcityoutlook.com.