Up until it let the hiring go official, the University of South Carolina had to go radio silent.
Some higher-ups learned Will Muschamp was set to take over the football program late Saturday night, just before reports he would likely get the job turned to reports he would be the man. But the school couldn’t start promoting it, sending out content about the new coach until an announcement on Twitter just after Sunday’s women’s basketball game wrapped up.
The radio silence didn’t mean things were not afoot behind the scenes.
“For the last, oh gosh, it’s been over a month, maybe two months that we’ve talked about, ‘OK, what’s the wish list?’ ” said South Carolina senior associate AD/external affairs Charles Bloom, part of the a content committee with representatives from marketing, video operations, media relations among other departments.
The planning for the media rollout was extensive because it had to be. Muschamp was on the ground around the school for maybe 24 hours. Athletics department staffers had to get everything they needed in a tight window, with an array of moving parts at each step.
Brittany Lane, an assistant marketing director heading up digital and social media, said her staff had prepared a few graphics for possible coaches. Outside of that, the groundwork laid before Muschamp arrived was mostly in the form of planning and requesting time with him.
As the coach got off the plane, Jonathan Hillyard of Gamecock Productions shot a quick video on his phone, Muschamp telling the world that it was great to be a Gamecock, and texted it off to Lane to tweet out.
Hillyard had an important role as he was on the plane with athletic director Ray Tanner, going to pick up Muschamp. Hillyard trailed the coach with a camera from the flight through his press conference the next day to make a video of his first 24 hours on the job.
Hillyard’s boss, Paul Danna, had requested a little time with Muschamp to shoot some things, part of the list of things they hoped they could get. Instead of getting a little time Monday morning before the press conference, Muschamp gave them 45 minutes Sunday evening (they only needed 30).
“We did photos, specialized photos, and we did a special video shoot, kind of standing there with the ball,” Danna said. “That was all in the same spot, used the same background.
“Then afterward was the interview with Todd Ellis.”
All told, 12 people were involved in getting the videos shot, edited and turned around, with another group in place to approve things. Then there were the legions of folks throughout multiple departments and facilities chipping in all along the line.
So many little elements came together to make that work. The Gamecock Club got Muschamp a South Carolina tie and lapel pin just in time for the photos. He recorded a quick phone message which was auto-calling members of the Gamecock Club by Monday.
Matt Freed from media relations assembled a standalone website to compile the school-generated content.
Then there was the challenge of the press conference.
It became clear a few days before this was happening soon, and with the space open for the next few weeks, they could start setting things up early.
“A lot of it, quite frankly, happened on the weekend by the time we found out who it was and we were going to have the press conference on Monday morning,” said Steve Fink, assistant athletic director for media relations. “Can’t wait til 9 o’clock on Monday when everyone rolls into work to say, ‘Hey, let’s start this thing.’ ”
You’re talking about assembling risers, chairs, camera and sound arrangements. The room is not usually used for such events, so not much was in place.
They had to ask and answer questions such as, what order will the speakers go in? Will school president Harris Pastides speak? Staffers had to find a room in the back where members of the board of trustees could meet Muschamp and shake his hand before they came in.
The press conference started at 11 a.m. He came off around an hour of questions and went on the radio and then down to the field for photos and one-on-one interviews with television stations from across the state. He knocked them out (fewer than five minutes each) by 1 p.m, and within 10 minutes was on the road to recruit.
He was on the road for most of the week, getting the most he can out of the current period before a dead period begins Dec. 14.
Those on the content committee and their staff had to get the most of their window to keep stories and video coming through the week. They’ll have a few more videos, including the 24-hour one, and are slowly releasing some snippets from the presser on social media.
Lane said they tried to release as much as they could after it went official, eventually spacing things out.
“Once we had our timing to do the announcement, we wanted to do the graphic first,” Lane said. “And then from there it was a bit of a fire hose.”
That’s where the wish list and the planning became so valuable. The situation was fluid, but so was the road map.
Bloom pointed out the school had to do almost the same thing when Steve Spurrier retired in the middle of the season, only on much shorter notice.
Danna also credited Tanner for letting things stay open, giving his blessing to staffers to come on the plane and show what was happening behind closed doors.
“We couldn’t do it without coach Tanner’s cooperation and Charles (Bloom’s) cooperation,” Danna said. “Without their cooperation and coach Muschamp’s cooperation, I don’t think we could have pulled off the amount of content we had.”
There was video from the team meeting when Muschamp was announced, something unprecedented for the school, broadcast online the day it happened.
Danna added he and his coworkers came away pleased when they looked at how other schools handled producing content around their coaching hires this year.
For a moment they could take a breath, but only for a moment. On Wednesday, the content committee reconvened, ready to set future plans, maybe about rolling out assistant coaches, strategy for messaging to push out or something else.
The staff of the Gamecocks athletic department went into the coaching announcement and everything surrounding knowing it was going to be a scramble. They could only plan well in an attempt to stem that, putting everything they could in place behind the scenes.
“I think it went about as smooth as we could have hoped,” Fink said.