Bryan Harsin got a quick lesson in priorities at Auburn.
The Tigers' new coach, fresh from a successful seven-year run at Boise State, meandered through a more than half-hour opening statement Thursday at his introductory news conference. The first question when he finally finished was, fittingly, about competing against Nick Saban and No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl.
He said those kinds of moments “become too big” if teams don't treat every day and every game as important.
“I’ve got nothing other than respect for (Saban) and what they’ve done and I’m certainly looking forward to competing against him and we’ll have our opportunity to do that,” Harsin said. “But we’re going to focus on what we need to do at Auburn and how we need to do it so we can put ourselves in position to compete when it’s time.”
Auburn's struggles against Southeastern Conference rivals Alabama, Georgia and LSU were among the reasons the school fired Gus Malzahn a day after completing his eighth regular season with a 6-4 record.
The 44-year-old Harsin built an impressive track record at his alma mater. He led Boise State to a 69-19 record with three Mountain West titles in seven seasons.
Auburn won the 2010 national title when Boise State went 12-1 but was shut out of a shot at the BCS championship. It was an example of how hard it is for even elite Group of Five programs to get that kind of chance that is routinely an award for winning the SEC.
“I know my personality. Heck yeah, I was pulling against them," Harsin, who was the Broncos offensive coordinator at the time, said. “I was all about where I was at. I don't remember all that, but knowing me, I'd be certainly pulling against them.
"And if I'd had any sort of voting power at that time, I'd have put us ahead of them.”
The Tigers fell to Florida State in another championship game to end the 2013 season. That was Malzahn's first year, and the Tigers lost at least four games in each of the next seven.
Saban, meanwhile, has led Alabama to five national titles since 2009. Ed Orgeron led LSU to the championship last season. Kirby Smart has led Georgia to a national title game.
Now, Harsin will compete against those guys and the rest of the SEC on the field and the recruiting trail.
His introduction to Auburn athletic director Allen Greene actually came while traveling for an event about five years ago, and it certainly didn't hurt Harsin's chances of landing this job.
Greene said Harsin made a strong impression in “a chance meeting” in a swimming pool.
“I remember thinking, ‘I like that guy,’” Greene said. And now: “The dude flat-out knows how to win.”
Auburn is set to play No. 15 Northwestern in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is serving as the Tigers’ interim coach, and the players are scheduled to return on Saturday.
Auburn President Jay Gogue issued a letter to fans in which he denied reports that the coaching candidates faced mandates to retain certain staff members.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25