Will Muschamp’s second chance will come at South Carolina.
The Gamecocks have agreed to a five-year deal that will make the 44-year-old Muschamp the 34th head football coach in South Carolina football history and pay him $3 million annually. Like the man he is replacing, Muschamp last was a head coach at the University of Florida.
Unlike Steve Spurrier, who created the Gamecocks’ opening when he resigned in October after 10-and-a-half seasons, Muschamp did not leave Florida of his own accord. He was fired following the 2014 season with a 28-21 overall record.
“I have been through a lot of searches here – perhaps more than any other trustee in the board – and I am more satisfied with this hire than I have ever been,” said university trustee Eddie Floyd, a trustee since 1982. “We have got a coach who wants to prove himself. He’ll work his fanny off.”
The search for Spurrier’s replacement, which lasted 54 days, took many turns along the way. At one point, Houston coach Tom Herman and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart were the top targets, but Herman signed a new contract with the Cougars at twice his previous salary and Smart agreed to become Georgia’s next coach.
The Gamecocks also interviewed interim coach Shawn Elliott and Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, and, according to other media reports, South Florida coach Willie Taggart, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano and Cal coach Sonny Dykes. In fact, late Saturday night, Arizona athletics director Greg Byrne tweeted that Rodriguez turned down an “offer” to become South Carolina’s coach.
In the end, though, Gamecocks athletics director Ray Tanner landed on Muschamp. The school’s board of trustees will hold a meeting at 9 a.m. Monday to discuss an “athletics employment contract,” and the school will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium to introduce Muschamp. The amount of Muschamp’s contract has not been released, but was confirmed for The State by three sources.
Muschamp comes to South Carolina from Auburn, where he was the Tigers’ defensive coordinator in 2015. Muschamp is often called “Boom” because of his fiery sideline demeanor and favorite heat-of-the-moment expression, and he built an excellent coaching reputation as a defensive coordinator before becoming the Gators’ coach.
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, but his defensive prowess and respect in the coaching community led many people to believe he would get a second chance as a head coach sooner rather than later.
Muschamp’s firing at Florida was announced after the Gators fell 23-20 to South Carolina in Gainesville, Fla., on Nov. 15, 2014.
“I was given every opportunity to get it done here, and I simply didn’t win enough games – that is the bottom line,” Muschamp said in a statement released by Florida at the time of his firing. “I’m disappointed that I didn’t get it done and it is my responsibility to get it done.”
Muschamp, a Georgia native who started his college football playing career as a walk-on at the University of Georgia and eventually was placed on scholarship and named a team captain, also has worked at LSU and Texas in addition to Florida and Auburn.
His first major college coaching job came under Nick Saban at LSU, where Muschamp was defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2001-2004. The Tigers led the nation in scoring defense and total defense, and won the BCS national title in 2003.
Muschamp then became Saban’s assistant head coach with the Miami Dolphins. When Saban left the Dolphins, Muschamp became the defensive coordinator at Auburn and then the defensive coordinator at Texas before landing the Gators’ top job in 2011.
Most of Florida’s players were supportive of Muschamp after his firing.
“It is a very sad day for my team and I know most of you people don’t understand why we love Champ so much and I know most of you fans out there are happy that he is fired, but most of my teammates and I are not,” Gators linebacker Matt Rolin tweeted after the decision.
After being fired at Florida, Muschamp had the opportunity to join Spurrier’s South Carolina staff as defensive coordinator, but chose the take the Tigers top defensive job instead at a salary of $1.6 million annually. Auburn finished 90th in the nation in total defense in 2015, but that was a rare down year for Muschamp. Until this year, each of his SEC defenses had finished in the nation’s top 15 in fewest points allowed.
Assistant Head Coach/
Will Muschamp, by the numbers
A numerical roundup of South Carolina’s new football coach
9: Number of top-eight recruiting classes (out of 12) on staffs with Will Muschamp since 2003. Six of those were top five and four were top three.
8 of 10: How many of Muschamp’s SEC defenses at LSU, Auburn and Florida that ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense. Seven ranked in the top 15 in scoring defense, eight in the top 20.
11: Muschamp’s lowest-rated recruiting class at Florida, according to 247Sports. He other groups were second, third and ninth.
17: SEC wins over four seasons at Florida (to go with 15 losses).
25: Months that Muschamp was “head coach in waiting” at Texas under coach Mack Brown.
44: His age (born Aug. 3, 1971).
54: Total recruits Muschamp recruited to the Gators ranked four- or five-stars by 247Sports or the 247Sports Composite rating.
49: Sacks for the 2005 Miami Dolphins defense Muschamp assisted on, second-most in the NFL.
103.5: The average national ranking for total offense of Muschamp’s four Florida teams. Only one of those units surpassed 26.4 points per game.
119: Sacks for Muschamp’s three Texas defenses, which ranked first nationally in that span.
421.8: Yards per game allowed by Auburn’s defense in 2015 (USC allowed 429.8 ypg).
Muschamp’s to-do list
Five things new USC coach Muschamp needs to do quickly:
1. Build a staff
Auburn’s Travaris Robinson is expected to be the defensive coordinator.
Keep the current commitments in the fold and work on new ones.
3. Reassure fans
The reaction to his hiring has not been overwhelmingly positive.
4. Assess talent
Who on the current roster can play and who can’t?
5. Stay calm
Prove that he’s more than just a coach ready to blow his top.