The last few days have made for a busy round on the coaching carousel. On Saturday North Texas pulled the plug on Dan McCarney following a massive embarrassment of a home loss to FCS Portland State. On Sunday, days after initially leaked, Maryland informed Randy Edsall he will no longer be of service as head coach. Later that day USC placed Steve Sarkisian on an indefinite leave of absence and yesterday the Trojans terminated Sarkisian’s contract. If you thought that was enough for a three-day span, think again. Steve Spurrier topped off a wild day around college football with news of his retirement breaking Monday evening.
The news regarding Sarkisian is a somber one, with the now former head coach of the Trojans continuing to battle some demons related to alcohol. It is one thing to have a battle with alcohol in your personal life, but it seems those problems crossed over to Sarkisian’s professional life in team meetings, practices and, allegedly, even on game day. That simply cannot happen and USC had to cut ties with Sarkisian based on those allegations alone. Forget the fact Sarkisian was not putting together wins the way USC expects. Sarkisian can now focus on his personal issues and will hopefully be able to get past these problems. I truly hope he gets whatever help is needed and is able to make a return to the coaching world in some capacity in the future, if that remains something he would like to dabble in. There will be opportunities waiting when the time is right, but odds are very good he will have to step back and take an assistant coaching gig first when that time comes.
USC is now the most attractive job on the market, and it’s not even close. The program has passed the sanction phase and recruiting at USC should be a piece of cake. With the right hire, USC should not take long to get back to regularly contending for Pac-12 titles and more. After two straight misses with former Pete Carroll assistants, the time has come for USC to start thinking outside the box a little more and be open to the idea of bringing in a fresh face to the program. USC should attract plenty of big name candidates for the job, but the Trojans need a coach who is capable of handling the pressures of coaching at USC. West of Texas, USC is the top college football program. Right now the Trojans are a sleeping giant just waiting for the right coach to come and wake it up.
The situation at South Carolina, the other USC, is quite a different one. Whereas Southern Cal has been a traditional college football power going through a bit of a down spell due to NCAA sanctions, South Carolina has never been thought of as a power. Steve Spurrier, to a certain extent, changed the way South Carolina is viewed. The program hit its peak a few years back when it had players of the caliber of Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney and Alshon Jeffery coming through the system. Spurrier succeeded Lou Holtz, who got the work started with making South Carolina a more formidable foe in the SEC East. Holtz went 0-11 in his first year on the job in 1999, but the Gamecocks made appearances in the AP top 25 each of the next five seasons before Holtz retired. In stepped Spurrier, fresh off a miserable NFL experience in Washington. Spurrier took South Carolina to the next level, bringing in more talent and building a program that would finish four consecutive seasons in the AP top 25 for the first time in school history, climbing as high as No. 4 in the final poll of 2013 and No. 3 during the 2012 season. Spurrier took South Carolina to an SEC Championship Game, a feat once only dreamed of around Columbia, South Carolina.
Spurrier made South Carolina a much more attractive job for his successor, and that puts the Gamecocks program in a much better situation than it has ever been under these circumstances. Things may not be going well right now on the football field, but South Carolina’s program has grown and can now make a push for more attractive candidates than in years past. Give some credit to Holtz too. The last two coaches at South Carolina are Hall of Fame coaches (Holtz was inducted in 2008; Spurrier was inducted as a player in 1986 and will be a lock as a coach his first year on the ballot). South Carolina may not have the profile the other USC has, but the Gamecocks right now are still one of the more attractive coaching vacancies needing to be filled.
As things stand right now, we have five coaching vacancies that will need to be filled; Illinois, Maryland, North Texas, South Carolina and USC. How I would rank those job openings right now? My second and third picks are actually closer than you might expect.
- South Carolina
- North Texas
As always, I have the Coaching Carousel page updated as needed for your one-stop resource for this year’s coaching changes. Bookmark it.