Day 52 of South Carolina’s search for a new football coach passed without any official word from the university, but there was plenty going on behind the scenes.
Former Florida coach Will Muschamp, who has interviewed, got most of the buzz Friday, but other names continued to emerge as athletics director Ray Tanner searches for a successor to Steve Spurrier.
Muschamp, 44, has made a strong push for the job and has even reached out to former South Carolina star running back Marcus Lattimore about a position on his staff – should he get the Gamecocks job, a source told The State on Friday.
Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, 32, also has had conversations with Tanner about the job. South Florida coach Willie Taggart, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez and former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano also interviewed with Tanner on Friday, Sports Illustrated reported.
University president Harris Pastides predicted Friday evening that the search was nearing its end.
“I think (Tanner) is in the very, very final stage,” Pastides told TheBigSpur.com. “I think he knows, and I think I’m going to get a call from him very soon, and I’ll find out who that person is.”
A deal with Muschamp would lead to his second stint as a head coach in the SEC, and make him the second straight South Carolina coach whose previous head coaching job was at the University of Florida. Unlike Spurrier, who created the Gamecocks’ opening when he resigned in October after 10-and-a-half seasons, Muschamp didn’t leave Florida by choice. He was fired following the 2014 season with a 28-21 overall record and spent the 2015 season as Auburn’s defensive coordinator.
Muschamp’s Gators were 7-9 in the SEC in his final two seasons and his team’s offenses were consistently among the worst in the conference. Muschamp’s defensive prowess and recruiting acumen – plus the respect he has developed in the coaching community – have led many to believe he’ll get another shot as a head coach.
Muschamp’s allowed to leave his position at Auburn with no financial penalty. Auburn finished the regular season No. 90 in the country in total defense. Muschamp signed a five-year deal with the Tigers at the time of his hiring. It paid him $1.6 million this year and is set to increase by $100,000 in each of the next two seasons.
Riley would become the youngest head coach at the FBS level. He was East Carolina’s offensive coordinator for five seasons before joining the Sooners staff. Oklahoma, which is expected to play in the four-team College Football Playoff, is seventh in the country in total offense this year with 542.9 yards per game.
Taggart, a former Jim Harbaugh assistant, spent three years at Western Kentucky before being named South Florida’s coach. He has improved each season, going 2-10, 4-8 and 8-4 with the Bulls.
Rodriguez, a 52-year-old considered one of the creators of the zone read run game, is the veteran of the search. He’s 152-104-2 as a coach at West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona. The Wildcats were 10-4 in 2014 but fell to 6-6 this year. He was Clemson’s offensive coordinator in 1999 and 2000.
Schiano, 49, has never been a college football head coach in the Southeast. He had a successful 10-year run at Rutgers before taking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coaching job. He was fired after two seasons in the NFL with an 11-21 record.
The next coach will be USC’s 33rd.