Josh Kendall

What USC needs in its new head football coach

Meg Whitman would make a great college football coach.

She’s the CEO of Hewlett-Packard and the former boss at eBay, and she’s good enough at her job that her net worth begins with the letter “b.”

Carly Fiorina might work, too. She’s the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and she’s sure to be through the state soon as she campaigns for president, so she can interview then. Since she’s unlikely to win the presidency, she’ll need a job. Even better.

Which idea seems more shocking to you: That a woman might be hired to coach an SEC football team? Or that someone with zero background in football would get the job?

Neither matters that much, frankly.

South Carolina needs a new football coach because Steve Spurrier stepped down Monday. If schematic knowledge of football was the most important factor in head football coaching these days, the Gamecocks wouldn’t be 2-4 and Spurrier wouldn’t be unemployed.

Spurrier lived in the Xs and the Os. If you have to fight your way out of a dark alley using nothing but schemes sketched out in the dirt, Spurrier is your guy every day of the week. When he was scoring tons of touchdowns and stepping on tons of toes in the 1990s, that was enough.

It’s not enough anymore. On the “must haves” list for major college football coach in 2015, knowledge of “ball plays” is about fifth. Out-scheming the other guy is where Spurrier got his thrill. Out-recruiting him never seemed as much fun, but the game is about out-recruiting now. A head coach in the SEC has to be able to attract talent and hire the right assistants, and if he (or she) can do that well enough, they don’t have to know an X from an O.

In fact, if a head coach did the job right Sunday through Friday, he (or she) wouldn’t really need to show up on Saturdays. They could stay home, get some chores done.

Show me a great salesman with great organization-building and consensus-building skills, and I’ll show you a great football coach. Show me a CEO, in other words.

Which brings the discussion back to South Carolina’s vacancy. Gamecocks athletics director Ray Tanner has a job to fill, and he’s known since the day he took his job that his legacy, and maybe his job itself, rests on who he picks to fill it.

It’s got to look like a daunting task from his chair. Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley is considered one of the wise old veterans of SEC leadership. He’s batting about .500 on coaching hires. Foley hired Billy Donovan and Urban Meyer. He also hired Ron Zook and Will Muschamp.

Hiring a new head coach is at its core a roll of the dice. There are no easy answers.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is the “hot young assistant” of the moment in this part of the country, but the “hot young assistant” has never been a sure thing. Smart might be Mark Richt, but he might be Brad Scott, too.

Tanner is aware of the needs of the modern coach. He was talking about it Tuesday just moments after Spurrier stepped down.

“It’s not like it was 20 years ago,” he said. “It is important to engage, whether it be the media or your fan base. A head coach at a major university has to be multi-talented and multi-faceted. It’s a position that is different than it ever was before. Winning games is not enough. Winning games is important, but it’s also important that you are a part of the community. It’s not a hat that fits for everyone.”

But it is a hat that can fit anyone if they can hold their own on the recruiting trail.

(I hear all of you screaming Joe Moglia’s name, but he’s not a perfect analogy of the point because he had an extensive football background before joining the business world, and at 66 years old, he’s probably too far outside the age range in which the Gamecocks will operate for this hire.)

“Young, energetic coach, maybe a coach who has not been a head coach, maybe a guy who is anxious to make his mark,” Spurrier suggested Wednesday. “Shawn (Elliott), he’s got a shot at it.”

As he should. As should anyone who can recruit good football players and hire good football coaches. It doesn’t have to be an offensive coach. Or a defensive coach. It doesn’t have to be a “this” or a “that.”

It doesn’t have to be just the next man on the list. It has to be the right man. (Or woman.)

Help Wanted

Job: Head football coach, University of South Carolina

Salary range: $2 million - $4 million

Age range: Not specified, but must have plenty of youthful energy and vigor.

Experience: Head coaching experience preferred, but not required; coordinator position at another high-profile school or pro team would be considered

Skills required:

1. Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. Must rebuild talent base.

2. Wear lots of hats like any good CEO: Unite fan base; good public relations with alumni, faculty, community and media.

3. Be able to hire and supervise a strong staff of assistant coaches.

4. Winner.

5. Know your Xs and Os.

Deadline to apply: ASAP

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