Will Muschamp officially came to South Carolina on Monday. Championships will follow, he told the Gamecocks.
“We embrace the expectations of winning championships here in Columbia,” Muschamp said, “and that’s going to happen.”
The 44-year-old agreed to a five-year contract worth $16 million to become the school’s 34th head coach. He will be paid $3 million in the first year, and that figure will rise by $100,000 every year of the deal. Muschamp also could earn up to $1.075 million in incentives each year if he meets criteria such as winning the SEC or national championship and reaching certain academic standards.
“There is no doubt in my mind he is the man most suited to lead our football program at the University of South Carolina,” athletics director Ray Tanner said. “He has the ability to lead us to the top of the SEC and into the national conversation.”
The hiring, which was approved by the school’s board of trustees, ended a 54-day search that began when Steve Spurrier resigned on Oct. 13. Tanner interviewed five candidates for the job and settled on Muschamp after the pair met for hours Friday night and Saturday morning at a Charlotte hotel.
“This is where I wanted to be, and I made that very evident in the interview process as we continued into the wee hours of the night,” Muschamp said.
Muschamp flew to Columbia on Sunday and met with the Gamecocks players Sunday night. He also visited school president Harris Pastides at Pastides’ home on Sunday before watching tape of South Carolina football recruits. By Monday afternoon, Muschamp was recruiting at Richland Northeast High School in Columbia.
“We want to be a blue-collar, overachieving outfit,” Muschamp said. “If we recruit good enough players who buy into that work ethic, a lot of special things are going to happen for us.”
This will be Muschamp’s second stint as a head coach. He was Florida’s coach from 2011-2014 and was fired after compiling a 28-21 overall record. The Gators were 11-2 in Muschamp’s second season but went a combined 7-9 in his final two SEC seasons in Gainesville. He was fired following a 23-20 loss to South Carolina on Nov. 15, 2014.
Muschamp’s failure at Florida didn’t scare off Tanner. In fact, Tanner saw many things he liked in the coach’s time at Florida.
“I was impressed with a lot of things that happened at the University of Florida,” Tanner said. “While the perception is that he didn’t win enough games, I saw it a little bit differently. (Florida athletics director) Jeremy Foley spoke ravingly about Will Muschamp as did everyone who worked with him.”
Muschamp, who has been the defensive coordinator at LSU, Texas and Auburn, also pointed out the positives from his tenure with the Gators.
“My first day on the job, our school president came into my office and shut the door and said, ‘You need to clean the place up,’ and we did that,” Muschamp said. “We left a program much better than we inherited. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to.”
He also believes he’ll be a better coach the second time around, comparing head coaching to a marriage.
“The first year there is a little adjustment and that fifth year you are doing a little better,” he said. “The more experience you have at it, the more things you see. You are able to see a lot of those things and have a little bit more anticipation. Certainly being able to lean on that past experience is going to help me a lot.”
Pastides and the school’s board of trustees enthusiastically threw their support behind Muschamp.
“I am excited about this hire for a number of reasons,” trustee Chuck Allen said. “I like his leadership style. I like his passion. I like his fieriness. I like his intensity. I like his commitment.”
Allen also was impressed by Muschamp’s playing career, he said. Muschamp, a native of Rome, Ga., walked on at the University of Georgia and eventually earned a scholarship and became a team captain.
“He came up by his boot straps,” Allen said
The coach inherits a program that was No. 4 in the country 23 months ago but slipped to 7-6 in 2014 and 3-9 in 2015. Muschamp declined to put a timetable on how long it might take him to get the program back near the level it reached from 2010-2013 when it won a combined 42 games.
“To me, it’s day-to-day, go recruiting and then get the guys on your campus to buy into what you are trying to do, and that’s what we’re going to try to do,” he said.
He asked South Carolina’s players on Sunday, “Grow with us in what we are trying to do.”
Tanner also had a request. His was of Gamecocks fans.
“We got our man. We got a Gamecock,” Tanner said. “Buckle up your seat belt, get on board, here we go. If you want to be fast and furious, that’s where we’re going.”