We’re really tired of all the opinions floating around about who should replace Steve Spurrier as head football coach at South Carolina. Mostly tired of the opinions because none of them are ours. But we’re now here to correct that, with volume one of our TRC New Coach Power Rankings 1-100, which (sort of) looks at the top 100 candidates for the job. As always, we have no inside information, we’re just extremely intelligent and pretty much always know what is best for Gamecock sports teams. Why people from the administration don’t consult us more is beyond us.
As you’ve read in other places, it seems like the search is currently centered on three guys – Fuente, Herman and Smart. We’re throwing in a few other names that have been mentioned just for funsies, but honestly will be a little disappointed if one of the top three listed here don’t get the job.
We’ve also included current salaries just to show that money is not really going to be much of an issue unless we get into a bidding war with another school (Maryland, Virginia Tech maybe). My wild guess is that we’re going to pay the next guy somewhere between $3mm and $3.5mm. As of today we have the second most attractive job available, and Southern Cal isn’t going to be after any of our top three here.
1a. Justin Fuente
Current Position: Head Coach, Memphis
Current Salary: $1.4 mm
Why we want him: Memphis football has been a flaming barge of horse dung for as long as any of us can remember. There is some great high school football in the area, but the city is known for the crime, barbecue, crime, the blues, crime, and most of all, crime. Baltimore thinks Memphis has too much crime. So the good football players go elsewhere and Memphis gets the leftovers.
Justin Fuente struggled to field competitive teams his first two years going 4-8 and 3-9, but has gone 16-3 since, including a perfect record so far this season. What he has built from the ground up and the results on the field are nothing short of stunning. He is quite simply the hottest name in coaching today after their upset of Ole Miss last Saturday. He has a pedigree, having played for some powerful Oklahoma teams as a collegian and directing a potent TCU offense before taking over at Memphis.
Why we don’t: I can’t think of anything substantial at this point. But, if I had to name something, I personally haven’t heard much about his recruiting ability aside from the fact that he’s a tireless worker and is creative. Also, he hasn’t faced the pressure of being the head man at a school in the SEC, or a school that values its football program as much as South Carolina. But that can be said about pretty much any candidate coming from a “Group of 5” school.
1b. Tom Herman
Current Position: Head Coach, Houston
Current Salary: $1.35 mm base, but incentives could get him north of $2.7 mm
Why we want him: While Fuente’s pedigree is good, Herman’s is great. He came to Houston directly from Ohio State where he was the offensive coordinator for Urban Meyer. (Meyer’s coaching tree is getting pretty impressive.) In his first year with the Cougars he has his team undefeated and , like Fuente, squarely in the mix for the American Conference championship and possibly a major bowl. All you need to know why Herman should be a top consideration can be found here. He sounds like exactly the kind of guy the Gamecocks need. Also, good recruiter.
Why we don’t: While his head coaching stint so far is impressive, it is a very small sample. However, if he was still the OC at Ohio State, he would probably still be getting mentioned. Also, Houston has made quite the commitment to Herman, with his base salary and bonuses that will probably get him more than $2.5 million. That number won’t scare the Gamecocks away, it just means we might have to pay him a little more than some other guys on this list.
3. Kirby Smart
Current Position: Defensive Coordinator, Alabama
Current Salary: $1.28 mm (second highest paid assistant in the country)
Why we want him: Smart is a long time disciple of a guy named Nick Saban, who has had decent success at Alabama. Smart also has an embarrassingly large ring collection for a dude. But seriously, Smart has been with Saban for a long time, and knows what it takes to build and maintain a championship program. The question is, does he know how to do it without Saban by his side. Word on the street is he is a big reason for Alabama’s recruiting success, and has those SEC and South Carolina ties that will get him into any living room he wants. Did I mention the man can coach some defense?
Why we don’t: Smart has long been mentioned as a candidate to replace Steve Spurrier, the question is why hasn’t he gotten another job before now? Does he interview poorly? Is he just being selective because he can? Can’t say, because I don’t know if we’ve ever heard him talk. Also, most schools these days are looking for head coaches with an offensive background, and while it hasn’t been said publicly, I wouldn’t be surprised if USC falls into that category. Smart would need to assure Ray Tanner that he would bring in an innovative offensive mind.
4. Rich Rodriguez
Current Position: Head Coach, Arizona
Current Salary: $1.5 mm (surprisingly low?)
Why we want him: At one time this guy was Fuente, Smart and Herman – the guy being sought after by a lot of Power 5 schools. Rodriguez made his name at Clemson, and parlayed that into a head coaching job in his home state at West Virginia. Success there led to a disastrous stint at Michigan, but he has recovered nicely at Arizona, a school without much of a football history. He might be very interested in getting back to the southeast, and pick up a hefty raise while doing so.
Why we don’t: Rodriguez kinda screwed West Virginia in the way he left them for Michigan. His time with the Wolverines was messy. Not unfamiliar with the long arm of the NCAA. Is he a good enough candidate/coach that we would be willing to accept his baggage?
5. Shawn Elliott
Current Position: Interim Head Coach, South Carolina
Current Salary: $430,000
Why we want him: Elliott is a great story, being a hometown boy who is living his dream at the moment. He has boundless energy, the players love him, the fans love him, what’s not to like?
Why we don’t: Problem is, being a great story doesn’t win football games. Elliott should get a fair shake over the next several weeks, but in the end we have the opportunity to hire a red-hot coaching candidate line Fuente, Herman or Smart. We (and by we, I mean Ray Tanner) cannot let emotions get in the way, no matter how much we love Coach Elliott.
Let’s put it in a way that is cold and will make you mad at me – if Elliott doesn’t get the job and is not retained by the guy who does get it, where does he go next? He probably winds up as a position coach, maybe a coordinator, maybe at at Power 5 school, but maybe lower. Schools simply aren’t lining up to hire Shawn Elliott as the head man of their football program. We can’t afford to settle.
6-43. Not listed
44. Rich Bissacia
Current Position: Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
Current Salary: Don’t know.
Why we want him: We don’t. But if we did I guess it would be because guys who played for him and guys he has coached with speak very highly of him.
Why we don’t: Where do we start.
45-99. Not listed
100. Mack Brown
Current Position: TV Analyst
Current Salary: More then he deserves
Why we want him: Everybody else dies.
Why we don’t: Our top 99 candidates are probably not going to die.