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Auburn update: Steele in it; other interviews upcoming

The Southeastern Conference mantra of 'It Just Means More' isn't just for the playing fields.

It extrapolates as well into the world of coaching searches, where a fascinating one continues to unfold down on the Plains at Auburn University.

Just five days after firing incumbent coach Gus Malzahn and eating more than $21 million in buyout-money, Auburn continues its search for the program's next leader with both an in-house candidate with varying levels of support and one less initial candidate, Oregon's Mario Cristobal, now no longer in the equation.

Auburn Interim coach Kevin Steele, the Tigers' well-regarded defensive coordinator, has continued his push for the permanent role. After previous stops running defenses at a number of schools in the South, including time on Nick Saban's Alabama staff and a more recent stint at LSU, Steele's found a home at Auburn.

Steele's got support from multiple key people involved in Auburn's search, including some members of the Tigers' search committee, sources with direct knowledge tell FootballScoop, but Steele also is facing internal opposition.

That resistance comes from school leaders both skeptical of a move to fire Malzahn, who guided Auburn to a runner-up finish in the 2013 Bowl Championship Series, and hire Steele, whose only stint as head coach was a four-stint at Baylor that included just one Big 12 conference win, as well as the financial component of firing a coach to simply make a hire from within the program.

Part of Steele's pitch to keep the job on a permanent basis is a pledge to help Auburn finish its 2021 signing class strong on the recruiting trail -- the Tigers signed 12 players on Wednesday, the first day of the December early-signing period -- and also to assemble a top-end staff. Multiple sources said part of Steele's pitch included potentially adding current South Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, the former Georgia quarterback and play-caller as well as previous Colorado State head coach, to Steele's Auburn staff.

Where else might Auburn turn?

Sources indicate Louisiana coach Billy Napier, South Carolina's first interview last month after the Gamecocks' firing of Will Muschamp, continues to be a coach of interest for Auburn, which now is using Parker Executive Search to assist in its quest for a new head coach.

Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who last year was involved in the searches at both Colorado and Mississippi State before electing to remain on Saban's Alabama staff, is another name to watch with the Tigers' opening.

Additionally, sources tell FootballScoop that Auburn has interviews scheduled this weekend with prospective head coaching candidates.

The Tigers might wind up hiring Kevin Steele; but if they do so, it will be after having considered some of the best coaches in the country.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.