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Bryan Harsin launches his own podcast

Auburn's second-year head coach has a football problem, but he also has a public-relations problem. 'Huddle with Hars' could fix that.

In normal circumstances, the absolute last thing a coach coming off a 6-7 debut season needs to do is launch his own podcast. Moonlighting as a talk-show host is territory reserved for established coaches with tenure in their day jobs -- the Jim Harbaughs and the Mike Krzyzewskis of the world.

But Bryan Harsin's situation is different than that of the typical 6-7 coach.

Auburn 6-2 and finished 6-7, closing the year by blowing a 10-point fourth quarter lead in the Iron Bowl and then losing to Houston in a de facto home game in the Birmingham Bowl. 

What followed was worse. Defensive coordinator Derek Mason left for a lateral position at Oklahoma State. Harsin fired his first offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo, and his replacement, a 32-year-old with no college coaching experience named Austin Davis, left after six weeks on the job. 

And so after that disastrous January, Auburn opened February by announcing that, after considering doing so, it would not fire Harsin after one year on the job. Quite a way to begin an offseason weeks removed from your two rivals playing each other for the national championship, eh?

It's with that backdrop that Harsin launches this podcast. (Obviously, Auburn's media people will handle the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting.) 

Think about it: Harsin and the Auburn fan base are essentially strangers to each other. He is Auburn's first head coach without prior ties to the program and/or the SEC since Earl Brown, who got to the Plains way back in 1948. Brown went 3-22-4 and was out by 1950. One or two more seasons like 2021 and Harsin will repeat Brown's early exit.

Harsin has a football problem, but he also has a public-relations problem. The typical Auburn fan did not make a habit of staying up late to catch Boise State games on CBS Sports Network. Considering how provincial fans can be in the ESS EEE CEE, a sizable chunk of Harsin's new fan base likely had never heard of him when he got the job back on Dec. 22, 2020.

Huddle with Hars is a chance to mend that problem. For an hour a week, Harsin speaks directly to Tiger Nation, educating them on his philosophy, his coaching style, the hows and whys of the way he runs their program. 

It's also an opportunity for Harsin to introduce his staff to the fan base, and his first choice is the perfect one.

Eric Kiseau was one of the handful of coaches Harsin brought along from the Pacific Northwest to the Deep South. Kiseau joined Harsin's Boise staff in 2017 as wide receivers coach, was promoted to co-offensive coordinator in 2019, and then spent 2020 as his sole offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Yet he was Harsin's third choice to run his offense at Auburn. Kiseau was the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator under Bobo in 2021 and, with Bobo out, Harsin first chose Davis to coordinate the offense before that blew up in his face. Only then did Harsin appoint Kiseau his coordinator. 

In Episode 1 of Huddle, the listener follows Kiseau's winding path to coaching and, eventually, to Auburn.

A quarterback at Portland State in the mid-90s, Kiseau initially took a corporate job out of college. He got married and started a family. One day, while on the phone with a client, an epiphany moment arrived: he found himself doodling Four Verts during the call.

Soon, Kiseau took a job at his family's apparel company while volunteering with the Glendale Community College staff at night. It was one afternoon there that a young Oregon assistant named Chris Petersen called asking about a Glendale receiver. Kiseau picked up the phone and, two days later, Petersen called back offering a job as Oregon's recruiting coordinator. The pay was $17,000 a year. Kiseau took it. 

"I was wheat trading stocks to help pay the bills. Your back's up against the wall. You've got a wife, a daughter, you just find a way to find a way," Kiseau said.

Working under Mike Bellotti, Kiseau took the job promising he wouldn't leave for a coaching job, as the recruiting director before him had. Two months went by, and the coordinator Kiseau played for at Utah State called with a job offer. Days before the 2000 season was to begin, the Aggies' running backs coach had taken an NFL job. Utah State needed someone who already knew the system. 

"In my mind I'm like, 'Hell yeah I want this job.' But then I'm thinking, I've got to go down the hall and tell Mike Bellotti I'm leaving for a coaching job when I promised him I wouldn't leave for a coaching job," Kiseau recalled. "I'm freaked out, I'm scared. He looked at me like was crazy. 'You have to do this. You're taking 10 years off your career by jumping into a Division I job.'"

Kiseau took the job, of course. By 2002 he was the wide receivers coach on Jeff Tedford's Cal staff, pushing that program to the cusp of the Rose Bowl. Before long he held coordinator jobs in the Big 12 and the Pac-10, won a national championship as an analyst at Alabama, served as interim head coach at Fresno State and, in 2017, joined Harsin's staff at Boise State. Now the two are at Auburn, carving out time for a podcast while they try to unite a splintered program.

Ultimately, Huddle with Hars won't save or cost Harsin and staff their jobs on its own. Huddle could win a Webby Award for best podcast and it wouldn't make an ounce of difference if the Tigers go 4-8. Conversely, if Auburn shocks the world by going 12-0 this fall, Harsin could skip each Tuesday practice to sing German show tunes a capella into the microphone and Auburn fans delightfully tune in.

It's in that middle range -- think 7-5 -- where letting the fan base get a glimpse of his personality and his philosophy could make the difference.