For his lone football hire as Boise State’s athletic director, Mark Coyle chose Bryan Harsin. Now the athletic director at Minnesota, Coyle has a vacancy to fill after Tracy Claeys was fired Tuesday.
The connection is hard to ignore, and Harsin has been rumored to be on the Gophers’ short list, though no reports have thus far confirmed any formal interview.
On Thursday afternoon, the Broncos’ current athletic director, Curt Apsey, appeared on KTIK 93.1 FM and all but squashed that talk.
“What I can tell you about coach Harsin is he is interested in being the coach at Boise State and that’s where his focus is. He is, without a doubt, 100 percent focused on getting his staff and his team prepared for 2017,” Apsey said. “... my conversations with Bryan over the last 30 days have been very, very positive. In my opinion, he is not interested in the opportunity at Minnesota, he’s interested at being the coach at Boise State.”
Click here for the full audio from Apsey’s interview.
KSTP-TV’s Joe Schmit reported Wednesday night Coyle met with Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck.
A Michigan radio host, Bill Simonson, said Fleck is Minnesota’s top candidate, and Harsin is “Plan B.” The Associated Press reported Minnesota inquired with Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, but he was not interested.
Harsin was hired in December 2013, two years after Coyle replaced Gene Bleymaier as the Broncos’ athletic director. In three seasons at the helm, Harsin has compiled a 31-9 record. A Boise native, former Bronco quarterback and assistant, he has spent all but four years of his life here.
Coyle fired Claeys after posting a 9-4 season, the school’s best since 2003, following a tumultuous December in which Coyle decided to suspend 10 players following a Title IX investigation into a sexual assault. The team threatened to boycott the Holiday Bowl, and Claeys tweeted support for the players, which Coyle said did not help his status. Coyle left Boise State in June 2015 for Syracuse and was hired at Minnesota in May.
Harsin could fit in Minnesota if Coyle aims to find a coach that is in line with how he wants to run the department, though Harsin has very few ties in the Midwest and East Coast. Harsin reportedly interviewed for the Oregon vacancy in December, but has never confirmed or denied it when asked since. He could eye a Power Five conference job for a better shot at a national title, or perhaps a place where the 10-3 season like he had in 2016 is not a disappointment.
Only two players on the Gophers’ current roster are from California, and nine from Texas, two of Harsin’s recruiting pipelines. Claeys was set to make $1.5 million next season, actually a bit less than the $1.55 million Harsin is slated to make at Boise State, though it’s likely Minnesota is willing to pay more for its new coach.
Stability could be an issue in Minneapolis, as senior quarterback Mitch Leidner said players have threatened to transfer after Claeys was fired. Leidner said to ESPN: “I don’t know who would want to be part of this program at this time.” After Lou Holtz left in 1985, no Minnesota coach has moved on to another head coaching job, all being fired or resigning.
For what it’s worth, on Wednesday night, Harsin tweeted something below. Fleck has not tweeted from his account since Sunday.