‘We’re Gonna Have a Ton of Success Here’: Andrew Aurich Ready to Keep Harvard Football Rolling

By Jack Silvers
By Addison Y. Liu

The last time Harvard had a new football coach, Bill Clinton was halfway into his first term. Mariah Carey had just released her first holiday album, with one track that looked set to become a Saturnalia standard. “Pulp Fiction” had just delivered Quentin Tarantino his first blockbuster, and Joe Biden was just a junior senator.

In 1994, when Tim Murphy was beginning his first season at the helm of the Harvard football program — a tenure that would bring 10 Ivy League titles to Cambridge and solidify his reputation as the most impactful coach in Harvard history — the man who would eventually succeed him was just 10 years old. But Andrew Aurich’s love for football was already growing.

“I got into coaching because my dad was a head football coach for over 25 years,” said Aurich, who was named the next Thomas Stephenson Family Head Coach for Harvard Football in February of this year. “I would see the relationships he was building with his players and the impact he was having on their lives. And I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Now, Aurich will hope that his head coaching tenure at Harvard can rival Mike Aurich's run as head coach of Concordia Academy in Roseville, Minn. In more than two decades on the sidelines, the elder Aurich won three conference titles while also serving as the school's Athletic Director. He was inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Aurich began his coaching career at Concordia, his alma mater, where he served as the varsity assistant coach. In his first coaching stint at the collegiate level, he was the tight ends coach for the Albright College Lions, a small liberal arts school in Reading, Pa. that competes at the Division III level. Working under John Marzka, a bona fide D-III guru who built Albright into a contender, Aurich filled in the gaps in his football knowledge left over from his playing career.

As an offensive lineman for Princeton, a guard who The Daily Princetonian praised in 2005 as having a “surfeit of athleticism,” Aurich gained an early familiarity with the dynamics of the run game. However, it was in Reading that he first expanded his offensive mindset beyond the ground-and-pound.

“I was an offensive lineman in college, I knew nothing about the pass game,” Aurich said. Praising Marzka’s mentorship, he said that the coach created an environment of growth on the coaching staff. “He would bring in really young coaches like myself, who really didn’t have any experience, and he would basically teach you everything.”

Aurich made the jump to D-I in 2009, joining the Rutgers coaching staff after two years in Reading. Then, in 2011, he moved over to a different New Jersey program, a team that was familiar to him and all-too-familiar for Crimson fans: the Princeton Tigers.

Toughening Up the Tigers

The eight-year coaching run that Aurich spent at his alma mater definitively shaped the leader he is today. Interrupted only by a one-year stint at the professional level as a defensive assistant for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012 — an experience he described as a “completely different animal” — the Princeton years gave Aurich the chance to develop an independent coaching philosophy.

Starting as a running backs coach in 2011, Aurich saw the inside of four position-group rooms before taking on additional responsibilities as a coordinator toward the end of his tenure. From 2013 to 2015, he spent half of his time on special teams, an opportunity that he savored for its growth potential and the chance to chart the course of an entire unit.

“What you get as a special teams coach is you get the entire team in front of you multiple times a week, all season,” Aurich said. “That’s invaluable experience, because not a lot of coaches get an opportunity to address the entire team.”

The position groups that Aurich coached often shined for the Tigers. In 2011, under Aurich’s watch, freshman tailback Chuck Dibilio rushed for 1,068 yards, becoming the first Ivy League rookie to surpass the millennium mark. Dibilio, who suffered a tragic stroke in 2012 that ended his playing career, was one of several talented players Aurich coached in his position-group years. On the special teams side, placekicker Nolan Bieck blossomed into an effective long-range kicker who finished his career in 2015 with the second most field goals in Princeton history.

The year before Aurich joined the staff, Princeton went 1-9, but it didn’t take long for the team to return to contender status. Aurich’s first taste of competitive glory as a coach came in 2013, when the Tigers shared the Ivy League title with the Crimson. The conference title was the first of three during Aurich’s stay, including the 2018 campaign, when the Tigers ran the table for the first time since 1964. As offensive line coach that year, Aurich oversaw a unit that allowed all parts of the offense to fire on all cylinders: with the second fewest sacks in the conference and a conference-leading 296 rushing yards per game, the Tigers bulldozed the competition on offense.

Despite the bevy of on-the-field growth he could point to, Aurich put special emphasis on the growth that he made as a recruiter and as a leader of men at Princeton. In the first dimension, Aurich officially added recruiting coordinator to his job title in 2016, giving him a stake in the high-investment, high-reward endeavor that is college football recruiting.

Describing his approach to recruiting at the Ivy League level, Aurich once again stressed the importance of durable and genuine relationships. “What I learned is that you have to be consistent as a recruiter, with building relationships with recruits. Recruiting is not selling.”

In addition to developing familiarity with the recruiting process, Aurich’s later years at Princeton exposed him to some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of coaching at the collegiate level, where player development is paramount. He gave the alumni mentorship program he oversaw as Associate Head Coach as an example of the type of work he enjoyed off the field.

Aurich will inherit a team that went 8-2 and tied for the Ivy League title. In an interview, he didn't commit to a starting quarterback, between Jaden Craig and Charles DePrima.
Aurich will inherit a team that went 8-2 and tied for the Ivy League title. In an interview, he didn't commit to a starting quarterback, between Jaden Craig and Charles DePrima. By Courtesy of Harvard Athletics

“I was in charge of connecting alumni with freshmen on the team and helping them build a relationship with them,” Aurich said. “How they could be of help to them throughout their college career and then help them figure out what they want to do with their life.”

What is abundantly evident in listening to Aurich talk about his time at Princeton is that he loves the special combination of athletic commitment and all-around dedication to self-improvement that permeates Ivy League athletics. The way he speaks about the athletes he’s worked with demonstrates an admiration and an understanding that comes from his own personal path to coaching.

“They love to be challenged and coached hard,” he said of his players at Princeton. “They were self starters, and they were all about trying to be the best they could possibly be at everything.”

His affection for the Ivy League helps contextualize his next career pit-stop, a return to the Scarlet Knights to take on much more significant roles than the ones he had a decade earlier. Looking back at his move to Power-5 coaching, Aurich traced his path as one that was always fated to bring him back to the Ancient Eight.

“I firmly believe that if I would have stayed at Princeton, I would not be ready to be a head coach in the Ivy League when the opportunity presented itself.”

A “Ph.D in Head Coaching” in Piscataway

Aurich returned to Piscataway just as another ex-Rutgers coach made the decision to return to northern New Jersey: Greg Schiano, the legendary program-reviver whose trademark catchphrase, “Keep choppin,” was forever enshrined in the college football lexicon when he led the Scarlet Knights to their first-ever bowl-game victory in 2006. Aurich and Schiano both began their second stint at Rutgers in 2020, hoping to turn around a program that had struggled since Schiano left, playing to a 2-9 record in 2019.

During his two years as offensive line coach, Aurich dealt with a number of key injuries to the five men up front, forcing him to be creative with the starting lineup. The Scarlet Knights had playmakers at the time — including future Kansas City Chiefs star Isiah Pacheco, who rushed for 647 yards as a senior in 2021 — but often struggled to utilize them effectively, finishing 5-8 in the first full season since Aurich rejoined the program.

Rutgers stagnated in 2022, missing out on a bowl game and being shut out 38-0 in its final game against Maryland. Aurich took on the new role of running backs coach that year, a difficult assignment given the loss of Pacheco to the draft earlier that year. With an untested group of tailbacks, Aurich’s unit averaged only 3.6 yards per carry, the same as the season before.

Turnarounds don’t happen overnight though, and the steady progress that the team made since the 2019 season seemed to finally bear fruit last season. The Scarlet Knights went 7-6 and beat Miami (Fla.) in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York. Aurich had moved to tight ends coach, but the work he put into coaching up the team’s linemen and tailbacks during the two years before showed: Rutgers allowed the fewest sacks of any team in the Big Ten and junior back Kyle Monangai led the conference in rushing yards.

Aurich credits Schiano with giving him the technical knowledge of football necessary to make him head-coach ready. Pointing to Schiano’s close relationship with Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots legend who has been called “the greatest football mind to ever live,” he said that Piscataway was the best place in college football to up his football I.Q.

“I knew that being around him was going to put me in position not just to be ready to be a head football coach, but to be ready to be a really good head football coach,” Aurich said of Schiano. “These last four years have basically been a PhD in head coaching in football. The amount of football I learned, from X’s and O’s to situational football to culture building to how you recruit, is better than you could get anywhere else in the country.”

Catalyzing the Crimson

So what does Aurich think the Crimson has in store for next season, coming off its 18th conference championship? On offense, he described his approach as prioritizing the team’s playmakers, no matter the position.

“My general philosophy on offense is get your playmakers the ball. So whoever your playmakers are, it’s about getting touches to the guys who deserve the touches,” the coach said.

He and longtime offensive coordinator Mickey Fein, who will also serve as Assistant Coach for the first time, will have a wealth of options to choose from when it comes to distributing touches. The offensive lineman in Aurich will surely enjoy having senior Shane McLaughlin, the Ivy League rushing leader last year who averaged 5.4 yards a pop, for one season. McLaughlin will try this fall to solidify his place in a lineage of Crimson ball-carriers who dominated their competition as seniors, including Aidan Borguet ʼ23 and Aaron Shampklin ʼ21.

Aurich was announced as the next Thomas Stephenson Family Head Coach on Feb. 16 of this year. A Princeton alum, he will be the first Harvard Head Coach to have played at another Ivy League school.
Aurich was announced as the next Thomas Stephenson Family Head Coach on Feb. 16 of this year. A Princeton alum, he will be the first Harvard Head Coach to have played at another Ivy League school. By Addison Y. Liu

Through the air, the team will rely on junior wideout Cooper Barkate, who was the highest-ranked recruit in Harvard history when he committed in 2021 and who has just scratched the surface of his potential so far, to jumpstart a passing attack that ranked a paltry sixth in the Ivy League last year. Beyond Barkate, the other seven wide receivers combined for just 290 yards last year. Most of that total was accounted for by rising seniors Scott Woods II and Ledger Hatch, two speedsters who will look to make the most of their final season wearing crimson.

Aurich stayed mum on whether the man to start under center will be Barkate’s roommate Jaden Craig, the junior who impressed in his three starts down the stretch last season, or senior Charles DePrima, who began last season as the starter but lost the coaching staff’s confidence after a three-pick loss at Princeton. Calling it a “really talented room” of signal-callers, the coach described both players as developing talents.

“Jaden had a lot of great things he did in the spring, and he has things that he needs to continue to work on,” Aurich said, referring to the junior’s performance in spring practices. “Just as Charles does as well.”

On defense, Aurich looked set to defer to Scott Larkee ʼ99, who the new Head Coach called a “really, really good defensive coordinator” and who will take on the added title of Associate Head Coach this season. Larkee will need to replace standout starters along the defensive front — graduating seniors Thor Griffith and Nate Leskovec — to keep Harvard’s traditionally-stout rush defense in shape, while hoping to revamp a secondary that recorded the most interceptions in the conference but also allowed the most yards.

Aurich will ask a lot of his players, as he has already preached a type of high-focus, high-effort style of practice that differs from the Murphy approach. If his mantra to players, that they should be “obsessed” with the football once they step on the field, seems intense, it is perhaps because Ivy League football has been his obsession for the past 20 years.

“I knew what I was working for,” said Aurich, looking back at his time at Rutgers. “I had an end goal to this whole thing. I wanted it and I got it at the best Ivy League school out there. So it worked out really well for me.”

When the season begins on Sept. 21 against Stetson and the Aurich era officially begins, Harvard fans will be eagerly watching. It could take time for the ex-Tiger to convince diehard Crimson fans that his heart lies in Cambridge, not New Jersey, but the hope is that his tenure will be long enough for the years he spent on the opposing sideline to fade distantly into memory.

“We’re gonna have a ton of success here.”

—Staff writer Jack Silvers can be reached at jack.silvers@thecrimson.com.

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