The moment Shawn Elliott was named South Carolina’s interim coach, he was fighting an uphill battle to keep the job.
The list of college coaches who got the job on a permanent basis is short. In fact, when the University of Minnesota named Tracy Claeys the permanent coach last month, shortly after naming him interim coach following Jerry Kill’s retirement, Claeys became the first interim to get the full-time job at a major school since Dabo Swinney did it at Clemson in 2008.
The long odds haven’t dampened Elliott’s enthusiasm for the job, and he’s trying not to think too far ahead as his Gamecocks prepare to face The Citadel on Saturday at noon at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“Everything is different with probably each and every coach, but from my standpoint, I’ve tried to stay as focused as can be,” Elliott said.
Elliott took over a team that was 2-4 overall and 0-4 in the SEC, and South Carolina is 1-3 since Steve Spurrier’s resignation. The Gamecocks have beaten Vanderbilt and lost to Texas A&M, Tennessee and Florida under Elliott.
“I told my wife on Sunday night, ‘You know the wins haven’t been there, but I’ve had the time of my life,’ ” Elliott said. “I’ve really enjoyed doing this and being the interim head football coach. I will continue doing that until my time has come to an end or until a decision has been made that maybe I move forward.”
South Carolina has been within a score of its opponent in the fourth quarter in each of Elliott’s games.
“You’ve seen us play. I think we’ve been pretty focused and prepared in order to stay in three ballgames that we had a chance we felt to win there at the end. So, I think we’re right on track,” he said. “I don’t think the focus should be lost in the next two weeks or will be lost in the next two weeks.”
There are plenty of schools making the same decision as South Carolina at the moment – keep their interim coach on a full-time basis or make a change. Southern Cal, where interim coach Clay Helton is 4-1, appears the most likely to stick with its guy.
The Trojans passed on interim coach Ed Orgeron after Lane Kiffin was fired in 2013. Southern Cal hired Steve Sarkisian instead. Sarkisian was fired earlier this year, leading to Helton’s promotion.
Elliott hasn’t had any conversations with athletics director Ray Tanner about the possibility of extending his appointment as of Tuesday, but he has treated each day on the job as an interview, he said. And he made his most direct pitch yet for keeping the job on “Carolina Calls” on Thursday night.
“If you put my résumé, you put my passion and my energy and my effort against any one individual that is looking to come to the University of South Carolina and lead this football team, they don’t stand to it,” Elliott said.
Time will tell if South Carolina administrators agree.
Gamecocks vs. Bulldogs
Who: The Citadel (7-3) at South Carolina (3-7)
When: Noon, Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
Radio: 107.5 FM
TV: SEC Network Alternate (Time Warner Ch. 385)
Satellite radio: Sirius 157/XM 191
Series history: USC leads 40-7-3
Hoping to move up
Interims head coaches were not needed at Virginia Tech and Missouri as Frank Beamer and Gary Pinkel will finish the season before retiring. One interim – Minnesota’s Tracy Claeys – has been named permanent head coach. The other current interims: