Auburn University is reportedly on the cusp of hiring Mississippi State alum, former head baseball coach and now-former athletic director John Cohen to fill its athletics director (AD) role.

Cohen received some pushback since first being reported as the frontrunner, but it appears Auburn University president Chris Roberts has decided to move forward with his hiring.

Cohen's first big hiring as Auburn's AD could be what makes or breaks his legacy.

Auburn on Monday fired Bryan Harsin, who went 9-12 in his two-year tenure on the Plains.

Who will Cohen look to get Auburn back on track to being a consistent top-25 program?

Let's look at the top five names Cohen could consider to replace Harsin.

Prime Time on the Plains?

Jackson State football coach and former NFL star Deion "Prime Time" Sanders is heavily considered a lock to get a Power 5 gig after this season ends. Could Cohen bring some more Mississippi flavor with him by making the big splash for Coach Prime?

Sanders, who has the backing of Auburn legend Bo Jackson, is believed to be someone who could go toe-to-toe with Alabama's Nick Saban and Georgia's Kirby Smart on the recruiting trail. The big concerns with Coach Prime are if he would leave for his alma mater, Florida State, if there were a vacancy, and if he is ready to coach in the SEC and build a top-level staff.

Lane Train

Another name with ties to Mississippi is Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin. The Rebels are currently 11th in the country, but Kiffin has expressed disappointment in attendance.

Could Kiffin follow Tommy Tuberville's path from Ole Miss to Auburn, where the fanbase has been showing up despite the poor showing on the field? Unlike Harsin, Kiffin has plenty of SEC experience and could immediately turn around the Tigers, although the team usually known for its defense could soon lose that identity. Maybe a welcome change after a recent run of stagnant offenses.

Mr. Freeze

Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze also has Mississippi ties. Is the disgraced Ole Miss coach who has seemingly gotten his life back on track at Liberty ready for the SEC again?

Coming off a recent contract extension, Freeze would likely sprint to Auburn to coach the Tigers. One thing Freeze has under his belt that not many other college coaches have is two wins over Bama's Saban.


Baylor offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes is seen as a future head college football coach. The former Auburn offensive line coach has plenty of SEC experience as an assistant, but his lack of head coaching experience could be a concern for a team looking to rebuild in the grueling SEC, especially with nearby Alabama and Georgia at the top.

Mullen over another opportunity?

OK, one more Mississippi tie - this time with someone Cohen has worked with in former MSU head football coach Dan Mullen. Mullen saw plenty of success in Starkville, but he petered out in Florida.

Would Cohen try to reunite with Mullen? The concern with Mullen is if he couldn't succeed at Florida, how could he succeed at Auburn?

BONUS - Just for fun

Want a head coach with plenty of SEC experience who has success against Nick Saban? Look no further than Central Florida head coach Gus Malzahn. He's still on the payroll after receiving a hefty buyout in 2020.

Trent Baker is the managing editor of 1819 News. To connect with him, or to comment, email

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