On Friday, it was announced that Auburn University and Athletics Director Allen Greene have mutually agreed to part ways after the two sides failed to come to an agreement on extending Greene’s contract, which expires in January.
“The decision to step away from Auburn Athletics is not an easy one, but it is the right time for me to begin the next step in my professional journey,” Greene said in a statement. “I am very proud of the work that we have done together to move our athletics program forward. Christy and I want to thank the Auburn Family for allowing us to be a part of something truly unique, and I wish Auburn nothing but the best in the years ahead. I’m confident we leave Auburn Athletics stronger than when we arrived.”
Greene is the first Black Athletics Director in Auburn history, and all of Auburn’s athletics programs have enjoyed stellar success under Greene’s tenure – all of them except football. The football program’s struggles have led to much discord between the powerful boosters at Auburn University and Greene.
“Allen arrived on The Plains with vision, passion, and experience to elevate Auburn Athletics to the next level,” Auburn President Chris Roberts said in a statement. “In the brief time that I have worked alongside Allen as President, he has proven to be an asset to Auburn, enhancing our athletics programs and facilities, and has been dedicated to our student-athletes, to integrity, and to our University. We’re grateful for his commitment and contributions to Auburn over the past four and a half years, and we wish Allen, Christy, and their children all the best as they embark on a new chapter in their lives.”
Greene’s last day on the job will be Wednesday. Marcy Girton, currently Auburn Athletics Chief Operating Officer, will take over as interim AD while Roberts and the Board of Trustees begin a formal search for Greene’s replacement.
Greene was hired by then Auburn President Steven Leath. Leath also made the controversial decision to renew head football coach Gus Malzahn’s contract. Greene inherited Malzahn and the bitter discontent of powerful Auburn boosters and trustees. Leath was fired not long after that and former Auburn University President Jay Gogue came out of retirement to take his place. The decision to fire Malzahn in the middle of his contract cost the school $21.45 million.
The “unrealistic expectations” at Auburn made the coaching search to find Malzahn’s replacement very difficult. After a number of high-profile candidates publicly announced they were not interested in the job, the coaching search came down to two candidates. The powerful boosters and their allies on the Board of Trustees wanted former Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to get the job. Greene said no to that and instead hired Boise State Head Coach Brian Harsin.
Harsin’s tenure was troubled from the beginning. Seventeen players left the program through the transfer portal, and the 2020/2021 recruiting season was Auburn’s worst in decades. The 2021 football season started respectably well at six and two. The lack of depth and a number of key injuries left Auburn fans disappointed as the team lost their last five games to finish 6 and 7. More players left the program through the transfer portal, and Harsin fired a number of assistant coaches. An investigation was launched into the football program, but ultimately President Gogue decided to keep Harsin.
Harsin stayed, but the football recruiting has been criticized both by the boosters and in national publications for its recent performance on the recruiting trail.
Auburn also made the mistake of committing $92 million to a new football facility. The 233,400 square foot football-only facility was supposed to wow recruits with the best football facilities on the planet; but changes to the NCAA’s name, image, and likeness rules means that other universities are able to simply pay players to commit to their school coming out of high school or through the transfer portal. Other SEC schools are among the leaders in NIL money payouts. Meanwhile, Auburn’s boosters are absorbing $113 million in payout for a building that now seems unnecessary and the Malzahn buyout.
The boosters were not supportive of Harsin to begin with, and the new AD is likely to want to choose his own coach. All of this is aligning, so if Auburn football does not have a good season in 2022, it is very possible that Coach Harsin could follow the man that hired him out the door at the end of this season.
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