Harvard’s New Football Coach: A Real Tiger

The magazine’s football correspondent advises fans to deal with it.

Andrew Aurich at a press conference Thursday afternoon 

Andrew Aurich at a press conference Thursday afternoon | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF HARvARD ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS

On February 15, Harvard introduced Andrew Aurich as the new Stephenson Family head coach of football. A product of St. Paul, Minnesota, the son of a high-school football coach and father of three young children, Aurich has a Sisyphean act to follow as he replaces Tim Murphy, who stepped down after 30 years, 10 outright or shared Ivy championships (including one in 2023), and 200 victories—the most in Harvard history.

A well-traveled assistant coach (including a stint with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Aurich most recently was tight ends coach for four years at Rutgers, which plays in the Big Ten. But among some of the Crimson faithful, there were two main concerns: first, Aurich has no previous head-coaching experience; and second, his pedigree is orange-and-black. Aurich is a 2006 graduate of Princeton, where he played offensive line, and he was an assistant or associate head coach at Old Nassau for eight years.

 

Andrew Aurich coaching players at Rutgers University
Andrew Aurich at Rutgers | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF RUTGERS UNIVERSITY

 

On February 11, the Harvard Crimson published a scathing critique of the choice. Passed over (among others) were internal candidates Joel Lamb ’93, who was Murphy’s assistant head coach-quarterbacks, and Scott Larkee ’99, assistant head coach-defensive coordinator and linebackers. (Another onetime potential choice, former assistant coach and special teams wizard Jon Poppe, is the new head coach at Columbia. Watch for the Lions to get good, and fast.) The critique also contained complaints about the selection process, during which Erin McDermott, the Nichols Family director of athletics, chose not to use a national search firm (as many schools do these days), instead keeping the process in-house. Many alumni quoted by the Crimson thought McDermott should have sought someone who already had head-coaching experience. It’s worth saying that the choice of Aurich has the support of Harvard gridiron immortals Andrew Berry ’09, Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05, and Eion Hu ’97.

The other nit is that Princeton connection. (It doesn’t help that Crimsonians are feeling bruised, having lost six straight to the Tigers.) Aurich shrugs off any enmity. He says that he always pondered coaching at Harvard. “I thought often about how being at Harvard would be an unbelievable opportunity, because to me, this is the top of the totem pole when it comes to Ivy League athletics and I wanted a place like this,” he said on Thursday. His fellow Tigers, he said, “were all very excited for me. They know this is an unbelievable opportunity.”

It’s a little early to know exactly what kind of product Aurich will put on the field. But he gave a few hints in a brief session with the media after Thursday’s formal conference. “We're going to emphasize three things,” he said. “Ball turnover margin is the single biggest indicator of win-loss percentage. And we're going to be a team that's going to obsess over the ball on offense and defense….The next part will be execution. That’s something that gets built through how you install offense and defense and how you practice….And then the last part is attack. [That] is defined as strike first…and then swarm and finish.”

We say: Good luck, Coach Aurich! Swarm, swarm! And here’s a hint: If you beat Princeton and Yale, you’ll suddenly be bleeding crimson.

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