South Florida used to be one of the top non-Power Five programs in college football. The Bulls rose to as high as No. 2 in the AP Poll in 2007. As recently as 2017, the Bulls won 10 games.
The last few years, however, have been rough for the program. They’re 8-34 since the start of the 2019 season. While rival UCF is moving to the Big 12, USF is a forgotten AAC program. The Bulls want a change, which is why they fired head coach Jeff Scott.
USF is on the hunt for a coach capable of returning them to the top 25 and college football relevance. Here are a few coaches who could be in the running for the job.
Tom Herman, former Texas head coach
Joey Knight, a reporter with The Tampa Bay Times, reported that Tom Herman would have interest in the South Florida opening. While some USF fans might panic, given former Texas head coach Charlie Strong’s failed tenure with the Bulls, Herman isn’t the same coach. Herman went 22-4 at Houston, and 32-18 at Texas. Strong had a losing record as Texas’ head coach.
Herman is a talented offensive mind who will likely return to the coaching ranks soon. At the very least, Herman could return the Bulls to bowl eligibility and respectability within the Group of Five.
Scott Frost, former Nebraska head coach
Frost didn’t work out at Nebraska. He seemed like a home-run hire, given his success at UCF and his ties to Nebraska, but he failed to post a single winning season as the program’s head coach. Still, he excelled at UCF and is considered a solid offensive coach. Frost is a big name with past success in Florida, and USF could certainly do worse at the head coaching spot.
Manny Diaz, Penn State defensive coordinator
Diaz didn’t work out at Miami, but he went 21-15 as the Hurricanes’ head man. That’s hardly a disaster. The proven defensive coordinator could succeed as a head coach, and he’s capable of taking USF from an AAC dumpster fire to a competitive team. His record as a head coach wasn’t what Miami wanted, but he wasn’t awful, and he can certainly learn from his mistakes.
Randy Shannon, Florida State defensive coordinator
Shannon has spent time coaching Miami, the Miami Dolphins, UCF, Florida, and Florida State. Why not add South Florida to the mix?
Shannon was Miami’s head coach from 2007-10, going 28-22. Like Diaz, he didn’t perform how Miami hoped, but he wasn’t horrendous, and he’s an experienced defensive coach with ties throughout the state. Would he lead USF to the College Football Playoff? I’m not sure about that, but I feel confident Shannon could turn the Bulls into a respectable team capable of competing near the top of the AAC, especially with UCF, Houston, and Cincinnati leaving for the Big 12.
Willie Simmons, Florida A&M head coach
The 42-year-old from Tallahassee is 52-23 as a head coach (Prairie View A&M and Florida A&M), and he’s never had a losing season. He’s absolutely worth calling, as he’s shown the ability to win in Florida at the FCS level.
Simmons could be a home-run hire, and it’d be fascinating to see what he could do with more resources in one of the top Group of Five conferences in college football.
Other names to consider: Robert Weiner (Toledo offensive coordinator) and Alex Atkins (Florida State offensive coordinator)
Weiner would be an outside-the-box hire, but he has ties to Florida. Currently the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the MAC’s top-scoring offense, Weiner spent over a decade as a high school head coach in Tampa. He’s a good football coach, but would South Florida be willing to hire someone with minimal collegiate coaching experience?
Atkins’ name also surfaced in the Charlotte head coaching discussion. Atkins did well at Charlotte, and he’s a talented young coach. There’s some risk given his inexperience, but there’s also significant upside if he turns out to be a coaching star.