Gus Malzahn to Bryan Harsin: How much money did Auburn football coaching change cost?

Josh Vitale
Montgomery Advertiser

Moving on from Gus Malzahn after eight seasons as Auburn football coach was never going to be cheap.

Now, we have a good idea of how much it cost – the university released the contracts of new coach Bryan Harsin and his assistants Monday. Harsin signed a six-year, $31.5 million contract that will pay him an average of $5.25 million annually.

But let's start with the former coaching staff first: Malzahn was fired after the third season of a seven-year, $49 million contract agreed to in 2017. Seventy-five percent of that total was guaranteed, placing his buyout at $21.45 million when the decision was made Dec. 13.

Half of that total, or $10.275 million, was due within 30 days of his termination, per the terms of his contract. The other half of the balance will be paid in equal, annual installments of approximately $2.68 million over the next four years. The buyout is not offset by the five-year, $11.5 million contract he signed to be UCF's coach in February.

Auburn said Malzahn will be paid the remainder of his contract.

CONTRACT DETAILS:Bryan Harsin's bonus, buyout structure

ASSISTANT COACHES:What will Auburn coordinators Mike Bobo, Derek Mason make?

Cost so far: $21.45 million

Malzahn is not the only coach Auburn did not retain. Nine of his assistants weren't, either. At least five had years remaining on their contracts.

Their buyout figures:

  • Offensive coordinator Chad Morris: $1.47 million
  • Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele: $5 million
  • Tight ends/H-backs coach Larry Porter: $0 – contract expired Jan. 31
  • Wide receivers coach Kodi Burns: $425,000
  • Offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr.: $500,000
  • Defensive line coach Rodney Garner: $375,000
  • Outside linebackers coach Al Pogue: $375,000
  • Linebackers coach Travis Williams: $0 – contract expired Jan. 31
  • Defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff: N/A – he made $300,000 in 2020, but his contract had not been executed as of Dec. 7, so it's not clear whether he had years remaining on the agreement.

Each of those buyout figures is mitigated by future employment, per the terms of their contracts. Porter (North Carolina), Burns (Tennessee), Bicknell (Louisville), Garner (Tennessee), Pogue (Troy), Williams (UCF) and McGriff (Florida) all have that.

Steele did briefly when he agreed to join Jeremy Pruitt's Tennessee staff, but he was not retained after Pruitt was fired and replaced by Josh Heupel. Morris has not been hired.

So Auburn owes him the full $1.47 million. It owes Steele about $4.1 million – Tennessee will cover close to $900,000 despite him being on staff for less than two months. Garner's 2021 earnings will cover the buyout from Auburn, but Burns' salary will come up $125,000 short. Contract terms for Bicknell and Pogue have not been released.

Cost so far: At least $27.14 million

That's just the money Auburn is paying coaches to not work for the program. It has to pay the ones who will be on the sidelines this season, too.

Harsin will make $5 million this season. Running backs coach Cadillac Williams, the only assistant retained from Malzahn's staff, is set to make $350,000 in 2021.

The nine new assistants the Tigers hired – offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, defensive coordinator Derek Mason, wide receivers coach Cornelius Williams, tight ends coach Brad Bedell, offensive line coach Will Friend, defensive line coach Nick Eason, inside linebackers coach Jeff Schmedding, outside linebackers coach Bert Watts and cornerbacks coach Zac Etheridge – signed contracts that will pay them a combined $6.09 million this year.

Total cost: At least $38.58 million

Auburn football coach Bryan Harsin and athletics director Allen Greene talk during a basketball game against Kentucky on Jan. 9, 2021.

Of course, a portion of that total is money Auburn would have had to pay regardless of whether it made a coaching change. Malzahn and his staff made nearly $13.7 million combined last season, and that number probably would have gone up in 2021 – Malzahn's salary was set to increase by about $100,000, and Porter and Williams were likely due raises.

So, in that regard, Harsin and his staff – which will make a combined $11.44 million in 2021 – represent a cost reduction.

But it did cost more than $27 million for Auburn to get there. We'll soon find out whether it was worth it.

Josh Vitale is the Auburn beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoshVitale. To reach him by email, click here.