South Carolina won’t hire Matt Campbell, Luke Fickell, or Tom Allen to replace Will Muschamp as head coach. Not that South Carolina doesn’t want one of those in-demand coaches, South Carolina can’t get them, said Yahoo’s Pete Thamel on Sunday.
Thamel’s report came minutes after South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner announced the dismissal of Muschamp after 58 games as head coach. Muschamp lost 30 of those games, including Saturday’s 59-42 defeat at Ole Miss, and five of the Gamecocks’ seven games this season.
“After a thorough assessment of our football program, we have decided to make a change with the head football coach,” Tanner said in a statement. “I appreciate all that Will Muschamp has done for our program and wish him and his family the best moving forward. I believe our program will be well served by [offensive coordinator Mike] Bobo as the interim head coach as we search for a new leader for Gamecock Football.”
With Muschamp out, who might South Carolina target? It’ll be the second football hire for Ray Tanner, the school’s longtime baseball coach who transitioned to AD eight years ago and hired Muschamp in December 2015.
Initial candidate musings have been highlighted by Campbell, Fickell, and Allen, along with Louisiana head coach Billy Napier, Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze, Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, and Clemson coordinators Tony Elliott and Brent Venables, among other high-profile names.
If Thamel is right and South Carolina can’t land Campbell, Fickell, or Allen, and they whiff or don’t want one of those other potential candidates, who might they target?
I’ve been driving the Willie Fritz-to-Power Five train since his first season at Georgia Southern. He was a widely speculated candidate for Kansas, where he had strong geographical ties, and for low-level Power Five jobs over the last few years during a slow rebuild at Tulane. The 60-year-old former longtime Division-II head coach is still searching for the breakout season in New Orleans but has won everywhere, has relationships in every corner of the region, and could be a steady hand for a program in dire need of consistency and common-sense decision-making.
As Jamey Chadwell’s name is mentioned, might Tanner look to another nearby Group of Five coach instead, Charlotte’s Will Healy? The second-youngest FBS head coach (35 years old), Healy took Austin Peay from 0-11 in 2016 to 13 wins in his final two years, earning him the job at Charlotte, where he led the 49ers to seven wins and their first-ever bowl appearance in 2019. Like Chadwell, he’s realistically another year or two away from landing a job like South Carolina but could be on the radar.
Bryan Harsin is a widely declared Boise lifer but the Boise native and former Boise State quarterback has shown interest in Power Five openings in recent years, including Tennessee and Oregon. He’s never coached anywhere near Columbia, South Carolina, but did well in his two geographically incompatible stops at Texas and Arkansas State, and has 67 wins in 85 games at Boise State. His ties to Boise may exclude him from speculative South Carolina lists, and the national awareness of Boise State has been slowly dipping since Chris Petersen departed seven years ago.
Elsewhere, Cal’s Justin Wilcox might be interested in more money and a better league, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea is an up-and-comer who could leap directly to the Power Five, and if an NFL team won’t give Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy is a head-coaching job, might South Carolina do it?
We’ll discuss the South Carolina vacancy (and Muschamp’s buyout and his potential next opportunity) more this week on the High Motor podcast.