The University of South Carolina officially commenced the search for its 36th head football coach November 15th with the announcement that Will Muschamp had been relieved of his duties after 58 games. So, let the spit-balling begin. There’s nothing more common to a coaching search than the media and fans spewing out the names of would-be candidates. Some stick. Most don’t. As a service to you, we have created the spit-blog, a blog for spitballing the names associated with the search, along with the rumors, and facts, that are attached to them. We will keep the blog posted at the top of the website and update it with our information. And we invite your comments.
Well, we’ve come to the end of the line with the USC search spit-blog. We started on November 15th, and 25 blogs later, it’s over. It’s usefulness ended Sunday afternoon with the official naming of Shane Beamer as the 36th head coach. And it is 36 because USC has counted interim head coaches as part of their history of head coaches. So, that’s a correction on our part as we had been calling this next coach #35.
Before we sign-off, here are a few final pieces of information we learned from sources while making the long ride back from Kentucky Sunday.
According to sources, Beamer is expected to receive a five year contract at $2.75 million per season, one laden with incentives. We’re told Ray Tanner negotiated directly with Beamer and not thru his agent Jimmy Sexton. According to a source connected to the sports agency business, Sexton recommended to Beamer not to accept that offer because he believed he could get him more. Beamer, however, told Sexton he was happy with the offer, that this was not about the money for him but rather an opportunity to have his dream job.
Beamer had multiple conversations with Tanner over the last three weeks and laid out for him, point by point, his plans for elevating the Gamecock program to championship status.
Beamer didn’t coach in Oklahoma’s win over Baylor Saturday night because he was in Covid protocol. In fact, his isolation period ended on Sunday and that allowed him to fly to Columbia to begin his job with the Gamecocks.
As for his coaching and support staffs, we’re told Beamer hopes to include several former Gamecocks or those with ties to the program. We wrote last week Connor Shaw is a possibility if he chooses to coach or work in a behind the scenes role. Outgoing interim coach and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is another. And according to a source, Bobo might be receptive to staying because he and his family like it in Columbia and he’s hesitant to move his kids again.
SMU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley is a name to watch for the same job at USC while former Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and North Carolina defensive coordinator Jay Bateman are two possibilities for that job with Beamer.
Beamer and former USC defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson have a long history. Beamer coached under Johnson at USC and at Mississippi State. At this point, any talk of Johnson being part of the staff in some form would be premature at best.
As for the rest of the current staff, defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson and special teams coordinator and assistant defensive backs coach Kyle Krantz have removed the USC football identification from their Twitter pages, an indication they have been told they will not be retained.
(December 5th UPDATE #5)
National college football reporter Bruce Feldman reported around 11:20 PM Shane Beamer will be named the new coach at USC. Here’s his tweet: “Oklahoma assistant Shane Beamer, son of VaTech legend Frank Beamer is expected to become the next head coach at South Carolina, per sources. The 43-year-old Beamer was a former Gamecocks assistant and is very popular with the former players.”
(December 5th UPDATE #4)
Louisiana coach Billy Napier no longer is a candidate. According to Ross Dellinger of SI.com, Napier informed Louisiana administrators he will be staying put. Here’s what Dellinger tweeted: “Louisiana coach Billy Napier is staying with the Cajuns after speaking with South Carolina about their job opening, sources tell @SINow. He has informed school officials of such.” So, Napier and Louisville coach Scott Satterfield both let it be known Saturday they are not coming to USC. Keep in mind, those two, along with Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer, all use Jimmy Sexton as their agent. Knowing how these situations work, it would not be surprising for Sexton to use the USC job to help his other clients. With Napier and Satterfield out, that certainly puts the spotlight on Beamer, unless Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell increased his stock with the big win over BYU. Tanner and USC officials are meeting tonight. If the call is for Beamer, an announcement could come as early as Sunday.
Here’s the tweet put out by Napier late Saturday night:
(December 5th UPDATE #3)
A source confirmed this afternoon that the interview Ray Tanner planned for today with Louisiana coach Billy Napier in Louisiana is indeed taking place in Lafayette.
(December 5th UPDATE #2)
Scratch Scott Satterfield. Saturday afternoon Cameron Teague of the Louisville Courier-Journal quoted Satterfield as saying he was staying with the Cardinals. His story is behind the paper’s paywall but here is the Tweet from Teague:
Tanner interviewed Satterfield Friday, flying to Bowling Green, KY for the meeting, and was scheduled to interview Louisiana coach Billy Napier today in Louisiana. Tanner is to meet tonight with university president Bob Caslen, and via Zoom with three board members. A decision could come from that meeting. With Satterfield out, Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer and Napier appear to be the top two. A source told us this morning Beamer has support from several board members. We also have been told some big financial backers of the program also support Beamer. But, the Napier interview could change all that. Tanner also has had confirmed interviews with Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell, Florida offensive coordinator Brian Johnson and Houston Texas outside linebackers coach Chris Rumph.
(December 5th UPDATE)
The plane that flew Ray Tanner first to Gainesville and then to Bowling Green, KY for interviews with Florida offensive coordinator Brian Johnson and Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield, respectively, flew back to Columbia Saturday morning. A source said Saturday morning Tanner’s plan is to interview Louisiana coach Billy Napier in person in Louisiana Saturday, so we’re not sure if he flew back to Columbia first or is going straight from Kentucky to Louisiana on a different flight. Tanner will be joined in the interview today via Zoom by university president Bob Caslen, who is still recovering from Covid and isn’t expected to be released by his doctors until Monday at the earliest. Following the interview, Tanner will fly back to Columbia and meet with Caslen. Three board members also are expected to participate via Zoom in the Saturday night conversation. A source said Saturday morning, prior to the Napier interview, there remains strong sentiment among some board members for Shane Beamer, and this source would rank the candidates as of Saturday morning in the order of Beamer, Scott Satterfield and Napier, noting that all of that could change after the Napier interview. And we’re told if the choice Saturday night is Beamer, an announcement could come as early as Sunday.
Our eye in the sky observation of Thursday turned out to be dead on. That jet that left Columbia’s downtown airport Thursday afternoon bound for Gainesville, FL did carry Ray Tanner for an interview with Florida offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. We’re told Tanner was highly impressed with Johnson. That was leg one of a four leg trip for Tanner. Friday morning he flew up to Bowling Green, KY where he interviewed Louisville coach Scott Satterfield. Saturday he will fly down to Louisiana for the in-person interview with Louisiana coach Billy Napier. Then, it’s the flight back to Columbia and a meeting with USC president Bob Caslen. That meeting could end with a decision on a coach to take to the board of trustees. If that’s the end of the process, Tanner will have interviewed nine candidates in person. Caslen was not able to join him on the in-person interviews because of his issues with Covid, but he has been involved with each one via Zoom.
According to a source, Tanner was very impressed with Satterfield in their interview session and considers him high up on his list along with Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer, who interviewed eight days ago in Oklahoma, and Napier. Satterfield has head coaching experience, and that is viewed as a plus for him in this case. He makes $3.25 million per season and has a $5 million buyout thru the end of this year. One source identified the search as “neck and neck” between Beamer and Satterfield, with Napier to be factored in at some level after his interview. While Satterfield and Napier have the head coaching experience Caslen prefers, Beamer has widespread support from former Gamecock players, a number of board members and some influential boosters. All three, by the way, have the same agent in Jimmy Sexton of Memphis.
The other confirmed interviews were with Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell and Houston Texas outside linebackers coach, and former Gamecock defensive end, Chris Rumph.
If the decision is to go with Beamer, an announcement could come quickly because he does not have any complicated contract issues to deal with, such as a buyout or a multi-million dollar salary. If it’s Satterfield or Napier, the process could take longer because they have the more complex contracts typical of head coaches. So, if there’s a puff of white smoke rising from the campus Saturday night, an announcement could follow anywhere from Sunday to Tuesday.
(December 3rd Update)
Last week and earlier this week, Shane Beamer looked like a near lock for the job, and he might eventually be the guy. According to sources, Beamer was feeling the same way coming off his five-hour interview with Ray Tanner and began to make contacts with potential staffers. Sources said Beamer has not made money an issue. This has been his dream job and he wants to come to Columbia and build a long-lasting program. His greatest obstacle at this point is he’s never been a head coach, and university president Bob Caslen is pushing for someone with head coaching experience. And as a source reinforced to us tonight, Caslen will be making the final decision.
Which brings us to Billy Napier. He’s completing his third season as head coach at Louisiana and has won his Sun Belt division each year. He has “Head Coach” on his resume, and that’s a big deal to Caslen. According to a source, in his Zoom session with Tanner and Caslen at the start of the search, Napier expressed his desire that more money be spent on positions in the football office related to recruiting and other administrative roles. Napier, of course, spent five years on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama, so he has a blueprint on how the recruiting operation runs there. In fact, if he’s hired at USC, it’s possible Napier would tap into Alabama’s football office for some personnel. Last Saturday night, a source told us USC was not going to give Napier what he wanted, and that was not acceptable from Napier’s standpoint. At that point, Napier’s positioning in the search seem to drop. Since then, three different sources have told us Beamer was the frontrunner, though there would be more interviews this week. And Napier will get one of those Saturday a source confirmed Friday afternoon, despite what went down in that earlier Zoom session. USC also is planning to interview Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield, Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and Florida offensive coordinator Brian Johnson.
Much of Thursday’s information, to this point in the late afternoon, is focused on Louisiana coach Billy Napier. We confirmed thru a source close to Napier that he is scheduled to meet with Ray Tanner Saturday. We’re not sure yet where that meeting will take place. Louisiana plays at Appalachian State Friday night and Napier plans to return home with his team after the game. Napier has already talked with Tanner and university president Bob Caslen via Zoom. Last weekend we were told by multiple sources Napier was souring on the USC job because the Gamecocks apparently were not willing to increase the budget to meet his request for expanding the staff infrastructure to include more personnel in the recruiting office and other support areas. At that point, sources were saying Shane Beamer was the strong frontrunner, to the extent that some on the board, we were told, felt the search practically was done. Sill, the plan for Tanner and Caslen was to meet with more candidates this week as outlined in an earlier spit-blog. Napier was one of those and that in-person interview is set for Saturday. We’ll see where things move from there. Once source this afternoon indicated a great interview by Napier and the scenario possibly shifts his way. We are told by multiple sources Caslen strongly prefers a coach with head coaching experience. The other planned interviews are with Scott Satterfield of Louisville, Steve Sarkisian of Alabama and Brian Johnson of Florida. Tanner has been using jets owned by board members and/or boosters on his trips. A private jet did leave Columbia’s downtown airport for Gainesville, FL around 3:45 this afternoon, but we have no confirmation Tanner was on that jet.
The pace quickened considerably Tuesday leaving us with just one conclusion. It’s a matter of when, not if, Shane Beamer is named the new coach. It could happen anytime between Friday and Monday. Tuesday morning a source shared with us information that Billy Napier wasn’t strongly pursuing the job any longer. Napier was on Ray Tanner’s list for an in-person interview this week. That looks doubtful now. In fact, we get the feeling the interview process may be over, though we have no confirmation on that. Steve Sarkisian, Brian Johnson and Scott Satterfield also were expected to be interviewed this week.
Tanner interviewed six candidates last week, including a five hour-plus session with Beamer. We’re told Tanner has been sold on Beamer since the start of the process and that interview further confirmed his feelings. Beamer also has strong support from a number of former players and current board members. How far back does support for Beamer go? A source told us Tuesday night that when university officials were sensing that Steve Spurrier was coming to the end of his time, then AD Eric Hyman was asked if he could identify a current or former staff member under Spurrier as someone who had the makeup to be a successful head coach. He identified Beamer.
A source told us late Tuesday night Beamer has reached out to some of his former contacts in South Carolina, and they had the impression Beamer is making plans to be the new head coach. According to a source, SMU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Garrett Riley is a strong possibility to be the offensive coordinator on a Beamer staff. Riley is the brother of Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley. In his first season with the Mustangs, Riley’s offense is ranked 13th nationally at 494 yards per game, and 17th nationally at 38.6 points per game. The Mustangs are 15th nationally in passing at 318 yards per game. As for defensive coordinator, would the name Bud Foster shock you? Perhaps it shouldn’t. We’re told the long time Virginia Tech defensive coordinator would love to return to the game, and that could happen with Beamer. A source also told us Connor Shaw and MIke Bobo also are possibilities for spots on Beamer’s staff.
We’re looking for the search to come to a head this weekend. Going into the week sources told us Ray Tanner plans to meet in person with Steve Sarkisian, Brian Johnson, Scott Satterfield and Billy Napier. Satterfield is the only one who doesn’t have a game this week. It looks like Napier will get the final interview. His Louisiana team is playing at Appalachian State Friday night, and a source said Monday Napier would not meet with Tanner any earlier than Saturday. The two already have conducted a phone interview. Napier does not plan to hang around the Carolinas after the game, so the meeting could take place in Louisiana, or perhaps in the Atlanta area were some interviews last week were held.. Tanner is eying the weekend to complete his interviews so that he can present his choice to the university president and the board chairman, so it stands to reason Napier will be the last candidate to meet with him.
(November 29th UPDATED)
Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer is the solid leader for the job at this point after the first week of interviews. A source told us Sunday afternoon it’s his job to lose at this point. Beamer is prepared to take the job as soon as it is officially offered.
According to our information, Ray Tanner and Beamer met for several hours and Beamer “checked all the boxes.” Beamer also is getting support from some former Gamecocks who came thru the program when he was an assistant, and those players expressed their feelings to Tanner recently in a conference call.
Tanner conducted multiple interviews during the week, perhaps as many as a half-dozen. We’ve confirmed from our sources in-person interviews with Beamer, Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell and Houston Texans outside linebackers coach Chris Rumph, who is a former standout defensive end with the Gamecocks.
There are more interviews planned for this week. We’re told Tanner plans to meet with Louisiana coach Billy Napier, Florida offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and Louisville coach Scott Satterfield, though on November 24th Satterfield stated he has “not pursued or sought out any offers.”
Our information is that Tanner would like to finalize his decision this weekend and then get the approval of the university president and chairman of the board on the hire. University president Bob Caslen, who is dealing with Covid, has not been traveling for the interviews but has been participating virtually.
A heavy fog moved in over Williams-Brice Stadium and the USC campus late Saturday night in conjunction with the blowout loss to Georgia, the Gamecocks’ fifth straight loss. But information provided to us early Sunday morning leads us to believe the fog may be lifting on the now two-week search for a new football coach.
Based on what a source told us, it appears the wheels are in motion for Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer to be the Gamecocks’ next head coach. The source was more effusive than that….”It’s done!” he told us. We’re being a little more cautious simply because of the nature of coaching searches and how they can turn on a dime. But our information included contract details…4 years at $3.0 million per season.
The source said the situation is at the point an announcement could come soon, possibly within a few days. We are assuming the university board and president are in line with this, but we have no confirmation of that. In fact, we were told Saturday university president Bob Caslen preferred a sitting Power 5 coach, someone with more name recognition and star power.
One other piece of information we picked up Saturday was that when Tanner was in Pawleys Island earlier this week to interview Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell, he also interviewed a second candidate we have not been able to identify. Also, we were told Tanner was originally planning to interview Beamer in West Virginia Friday because Oklahoma was supposed to play the Mountaineers this weekend. But that game was cancelled, and our belief is Tanner and Beamer met elsewhere, possibly Oklahoma City.
One more note, a USC official did confirm for us recently that when time comes to announce the new coach, there will not be a formal, in-person press conference in Columbia due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Instead, the press conference will be conducted via Zoom.
We’ve reached the super-sensitive stage of the search. It’s the nitty-gritty time when Ray Tanner is conducting in person interviews, and most candidates certainly don’t want that kind of information to leak out, especially if he’s a sitting head coach. News that you interviewed for a job in season while holding another does not sit well with the current fanbase.
Friday morning we did get information that Tanner was flying out of Columbia to interview two candidates. Destination to us, unknown. One thing we knew from the beginning of the process was that Tanner did not plan to fly using a university plane that could be tracked by all. He had an alternative plan. Checking the two Columbia airports Friday morning, the only departure that caught our eye was one from Columbia Metro. That was a private charter plane headed to Oklahoma City, which of course is only 20 miles away from the University of Oklahoma and assistant head coach Shane Beamer. Coincidence? Possibly. Bingo on our investigation? Perhaps. We just can’t say for sure as of early Saturday morning. And if that was the Tanner plane, where he went from Oklahoma City and how he traveled also is an unknown. That charter from Columbia left Oklahoma City after only a couple of hours on the ground and flew to Opa-Locka Executive Airport outside of Miami. We don’t believe that flight is part of the search.
It’s not likely Tanner saw Louisiana coach Billy Napier on this trip. First, he interviewed Napier virtually earlier in the week. Second, Napier has been dealing with Covid-19 for over a week. And thirdly, Napier has a game Saturday at UL-Monroe and said earlier in the week he plans to coach in it. So, can’t see an in-person interview fitting into that scenario.
Some media outlets, not this one, have played up the name of West Virginia coach Neal Brown as a candidate. He, like Beamer, has this weekend off because West Virginia and Oklahoma were supposed to play but the game was postponed. Brown is in just his second season in Morgantown and appears committed to building that program. I found this interesting take on the Brown rumors from Clark Johnson who writes for VoiceofMotown.com, which covers West Virginia:
Though South Carolina is in the SEC, it is not an attractive job. Outside of a good run under Steve Spurrier, the program has for the most part been very average to mediocre. To go along with that, the Gamecocks compete in the SEC East, which is loaded with teams like Florida, Georgia, and has up-and-comers in Tennessee and Kentucky.Not only would Brown leaving for South Carolina be a lateral move, but he would be setting himself up for failure. Coach Brown has already started “The Climb” with the Mountaineers, and leaving to rebuild a program like South Carolina would be a massive step back in his coaching career.
I’m sure Neal Brown likes his chances against the Iowa States and the Oklahoma States of the Big 12 more than he does against powerhouses like Florida and Georgia. Even mentioning him as a candidate for South Carolina does not make sense, and is honestly ridiculous.Quit worrying about Brown leaving, because he isn’t. The rebuild in Morgantown has only begun, and Neal Brown will be a part of it for the foreseeable future – and he sure as hell wouldn’t throw it away for a mediocre job in Columbia, South Carolina.
One more thing that may or may not be important. The Raiders are playing in Atlanta Sunday, so assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia will be in the neighborhood as early as Saturday. He has been angling for an interview, and this is as close to Columbia as he will be during the search. It wouldn’t be hard for Tanner to hop-scotch over to Atlanta during his travels if he wants to see Bisaccia, which we’re not sure he does.
We’ll see what, if anything, Saturday brings, and if Tanner is back in Columbia for Saturday night’s last home football game against Georgia.
Thanksgiving, we believe, brought a brief respite to the interviews being conducted by Ray Tanner. That’s not to say he wasn’t on the phone talking to candidates and/or agents. The interviews are expected to resume as soon as Friday or Saturday. Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer, who has the weekend off after the Sooners game with West Virginia was called off, is expected to have his session with Tanner in the next two days. Beamer is expected to present Tanner with his gameplan for long term success at USC. It’s a job he has coveted since his days on Steve Spurrier’s staff and as he has climbed the ladder of his coaching career.
Ironically, West Virginia head coach Neil Brown, whose name has been linked to the USC job, also has the weekend off due to the postponement with Oklahoma. If Tanner is interested in Brown, it stands to reason he’ll try to talk to him this weekend as well. Brown is in his second season at West Virginia and stands 10-10 there thru his first 20 games. He came to Morgantown from Troy where he was 35-16 in four seasons. Brown began his college playing career at Kentucky when Hal Mumme was the head coach and MIke Leach was an assistant, so he has that offensive philosophy in his background. This season the Mountaineers are averaging just under 30 points and 443 yards per game. Brown has an annual salary just north of three million dollars.
Tanner has already interviewed Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell in Pawley’s Island and Louisiana coach Billy Napier virtually since Napier is isolating due to Covid. It’s possible he will talk to Army coach Jeff Monken, who was hired at West Point by current USC president Bob Caslen and Liberty coach Hugh Freeze who is a favorite of some board members. And Las Vegas Raiders assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia, a former USC assistant, has several people close to the program in his corner and pushing for an interview opportunity.
Other names have been spitballed as possible candidates but at this point none of them seem to have much validity as major players in the search. And of course, Tanner may have talked to candidates, or plans to talk to candidates, whose names have not yet surfaced publically.
Tanner is working on a timeline to have his new coach in place within about a week of the early signing date which is December 16th.
(November 25th) (UPDATED)
According to a source, Louisiana coach Billy Napier interviewed with USC AD Ray Tanner earlier this week via Zoom. Napier is dealing with Covid-19 issues this week, such as quarantining, thus an in person interview was not possible. Napier and Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell are the two confirmed interviews at this point in the process. A source said Tanner and Chadwell met earlier this week at a restaurant in Pawley’s Island. Despite his impressive credentials as a head coach, a source said Caldwell’s lack of any experience on the FBS level, until Coastal recently moved up from FCS, could be an issue that will keep him lower down the ladder as the search moves on.
Looks like the spitball for Louisville coach Scott Satterfield can be scraped off the wall and tossed into the garbage. Apparently responding to a report by Josh Kendall in The Athletic Tuesday night that he would be interviewed by the Gamecocks after Thanksgiving, Satterfield issued a statement that seems to indicate he is staying put with the Cardinals. Satterfield put his message out on his Twitter:
Kendall also reported the Gamecocks had interviewed Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell. Kendall did not cite a specific date for the interview. Reached by text for confirmation Tuesday night, Chadwell replied as if he were being asked if he interviewed on Tuesday. “Lol I have been at practice and we are watching video right now. Not true. I was here all day.” Asked if he had interviewed any other day over the last week with the Gamecocks, Chadwell did not respond. Coastal AD Matt Hogue said he had not been contacted by USC regarding permission to talk with his coach, but that practice is rarely, if ever, followed these days.
Kendall also reported Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer will interview after Thanksgiving, something that has been expected since the beginning of the search. We would also expect Louisiana coach Billy Napier to have an in person interview once he’s recovered from his bout with Covid. Army coach Jeff Monken, who was hired by Caslen at West Point, and Liberty coach Hugh Freeze are two others who could be in line for interviews.
A source tells us Las Vegas Raiders assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia has had conversations with people around the program about the job, but not with the decision makers at this point. The source said Bisaccia craves the USC job and feels like he would strong impress Ray Tanner and Bob Caslen if he could get his plan in front of them.
A name we spit-blogged early in the process was that of former USC assistant coach and current Las Vegas Raiders assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia. A source told us Monday to keep an eye on the Bisaccia candidacy this week. Bisaccia has long wanted the job at USC and has inquired about it during previous searches, but without much traction. This time we are told it could be different, and the interviews this week will go a long way in determining that. Bisaccia seems to be one who has caught the attention of USC president Bob Caslen, who is working with AD Ray Tanner and will sign off on the hire. Bisaccia turned 60 last summer. He has been in the NFL since 2002 and has been the assistant head coach for Tampa Bay, San Diego, Dallas and Oakland/Las Vegas. He has specialized in running backs and special teams throughout his career. His time at USC dates back to when he was a graduate assistant for Joe Morrison in 1988. He stayed on with Sparky Woods thru the 1993 season and during his time he coached tight ends, wide receivers, defensive ends and running backs. He coached running backs and coordinated special teams at Clemson from 1994-1998, then spent three seasons at Ole Miss before moving to the NFL. According to a source, Bisaccia would be able to start at USC as soon as they wanted him too if he is offered the job. Bisaccia owns property in the Columbia area. While Tanner has talked to multiple candidates by phone (see the November 22nd spit-blog)), there has not yet been a formal interview conducted with any of the candidates. Those are expected to take place this week.
And who might those interviews involve? Based on information from sources over the last eight days, the list of potential interview targets at this point would include Bisaccia, Shane Beamer, Jeff Monken, Billy Napier, Jamey Chadwell, Scott Satterfield and Hugh Freeze. Some of those names could be scratched and others could be added as the week progresses.
We spit out some late Saturday information for you. Ray Tanner has wrapped up his first week of the search and we’re told he was able to talk by phone with some of the top candidates he’s considering. He has not yet had any in person meetings with candidates but those are expected to start next week. According to sources, Tanner has had the chance to talk with Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer, Louisiana head coach Billy Napier, Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Caldwell, Louisville coach Scott Satterfield, Army coach Jeff Monken, and Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. We’re not expecting Monken and Freeze to be major players moving forward. Monken was hired at Army by current USC president Bob Caslen, so it’s reasonable that Tanner would want to satisfy his boss by talking with him. And as we’ve said before about Freeze, some board members want to see him more involved but his past NCAA and off the field issues at Ole Miss remain a non-starter. The other four look like pretty solid candidates at this point. I would imagine the calls this week were get-to-know-you conversations and gave Tanner a chance to get a read on each candidate’s interest. Our sources continue to indicate that Beamer, who is seeking his first head coaching position, is as interested in the Gamecock job as a candidate can be. Having been born in Charleston and having coached for the Gamecocks, Beamer has told people close to him that the USC position is his dream job. From what sources have told us, Beamer remains in strong position for the job, maybe the frontrunner at this point. We’re hearing Napier, who has been mentioned prominently from the start of the search, may not be as strong a candidate as he once was. Earlier this week Vegas listed him as the 3/1 betting favorite. Satterfield, of course, is highly regarded for what he did at Appalachian State and in 2019 at Louisville. His team has struggled this season though it did have a big win over Syracuse Friday night. Caldwell is the wildcard. His team is 8-0 after beating Appalachian State Saturday and likely to climb higher in the polls Sunday. He has been a winner at every stop of his coaching career but his lack of high level FBS coaching experience might work against him. Until Coastal moved up to FBS two years ago, Chadwell had never coached above the FCS level.
Following up on our information from Thursday night, source information leads us to believe there was conversation Friday between Ray Tanner and Billy Napier. We have not pinned down if that conversation was in person, virtually or over the phone. Napier has an unplanned off weekend with his team sidelined with Covid-19 issues.
We also confirmed Friday through a source Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer has had a couple of conversations with the third party representing USC. It’s likely Beamer and Tanner will have conversations next week. The source said Beamer is highly interested in the USC job, partially because he considers himself a native of the state having been born in Charleston, and partially because of his previous time at USC in the Steve Spurrier staff. The source said Beamer has called the job his “dream job.”
At this point, Napier and Beamer appear to be the first two candidates in line for conversations with Tanner.
According to a source, one concern that has been brought up by at least one candidate is Tanners’ security at USC. Tanner has come under fire and the coach has concerns about being hired by Tanner but then having to work under a different boss at some point.
One of the first names spitballed once the USC job opened was Louisiana coach Billy Napier. The Furman graduate and former Clemson offensive coordinator is in his third season as head coach of the Rajin Cajuns, and he’s done nothing but win in Lafayette. He has a 25-11 overall record at this point in his career and is 18-5 in Sun Belt Conference play. His team this season is 7-1, ranked 24th and has clinched the West Division title in the Sun Belt for the third straight season. Napier is considered to be one of the bright, young coaches in college football and no doubt Ray Tanner has recognized that. At this stage of the process, it stands to reason Tanner has talked to some candidates, including Napier. A source told us Thursday night that indeed Tanner and Napier have talked. And there’s more. Because of Covid-19 issues, Louisiana’s game this Saturday was postponed leaving Napier with an open weekend. We wrote Thursday about this and thought out loud about this being an opportunity for Tanner and Napier to meet. A source agreed that could happen Friday, going so far as to say it’s likely to happen. Other projected top candidates, like Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer and Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, are involved in games this Saturday. Napier has signed two contract extensions at Louisiana and is under contract thru 2025. According to the Daily Advertiser, Napier is to make $880,000 this season with scheduled increases taking his pay to $950,000 for 2024 and 2025. His buyout for this year is $1.25 million dollars.
Not long after Will Muschamp was fired, one of the first names spitballed as a candidate was Jamey Chadwell of Coastal Carolina. And for good reason. He has won everywhere he has set his boots. He coaches an exciting style of offense, is young and does a great job with the media. And his team this season has been the talk of college football surging all the way to #15 in the country at this point and looking to go undefeated in the Sun Belt. What’s not to like? Chadwell is a regular guest on SportsTalk so his appearance Wednesday night was not unusual. And it gave us the opportunity to ask about the USC job. So, has Chadwell or any of his representatives been contacted by any official representatives of USC? “That would be a no.” Would he expect to be contacted? “I don’t know anybody at South Carolina obviously. I’m sure they’ve got a deep pool that they are looking at. If they do (contact him), great. You know, that’s awesome. Love to talk to them. If they don’t, we’ve got a great job here as well.” Well, that certainly reads like Chadwell would at least take the call from Ray Tanner or the search firm rep he’s hired to vet candidates. And why haven’t they made the call? Certainly the sore feelings of the past between the USC old guard and the leaders of Coastal wouldn’t serve as a deterrent, would they? It would be a shame for USC to miss out on an opportunity to at least interview one of the nation’s hottest young coaches over some decades old political battles.
A source of ours in the world of sports agents told us Wednesday the word he’s getting on the search from people in his business and in coaching circles is that Shane Beamer, Billy Napier and Steve Sarkisian might be the top three candidates at this early point in the process. Take that for what it’s worth, but agents usually do have a pretty good feel for these things. Remember, this spit-blog so we’re throwing things out there to see what sticks.
Sarkisian is the oldest of the three at age 46 and he’s twice been a head coach at major programs, Washington and Southern Cal. He went 46-35 during those stints. As has been well documented, Sarkisian took a leave of absence from his job with the Trojans to deal with alcohol related issues, and he was later fired from his job there. Nick Saban hired him as an analyst at Alabama in 2016, then he spent two seasons as the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator before he was fired there at the end of the 2018 season. Saban rehired him as his offensive coordinator in January of 2019. Sarkisian makes $2.5 million dollars per season and has a three year contract with the Crimson Tide.
With this being Thursday and games coming up this weekend, it stands to reason that Beamer and Sarkisian aren’t going to be thinking about anything but their responsibilities for their current teams. But, Napier has an unexpected weekend off after Covid issues popped up in his program forcing a postponement of his game. Would this provide Tanner and Bob Caslen an opportunity to visit with Napier, at least virtually? Something to think about as the search enters its first weekend.
A note dropped on me Tuesday night related to Shane Beamer. Should he land the job, his close friend is North Carolina co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Jay Bateman. In his first season with the Tar Heels, Bateman help the defense improve 56 positions in the national ranking by allowing 373 yards per game. The unit has not been as good this season allowing 413 yards per game. Before coming to UNC, Bateman spent five seasons at Army when current USC president Bob Casley served as superintendent there.
Last Vegas oddsmakers are paying attention to the Gamecocks’ search for a new coach. Opening odds were issued Tuesday by BetOnline: Billy Napier 3/1; Hugh Freeze 4/1; Shane Beamer 5/1; Jamey Chadwell 6/1; Luke Fickell 7/1; Tony Elliott 15/2; Scott Satterfield 8/1; Bill O’Brien 9/1; Brent Venables 10/1; Steve Sarkisian 10/1; Will Healy 10/1; Joe Brady 12/1; Jeff Monken 12/1; Bill Clark 14/1.
How would you feel about Kansas City Chiefs highly regarded offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy being adding to the search list? You should feel pretty good. He’s one of the 20 or so names being studied by Ray Tanner as he continues his search for a new football coach. Bieniemy has been the offensive coordinator with the Chiefs since 2018 and has been mentioned for several NFL and college jobs. We all know how good the Chiefs are on offense. Bieniemy was third in the Heisman voting as a running back at Colorado in 1990 when he rushed for over 1600 yards.
Former USC assistant Rich Bisaccia, now the assistant head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders and a veteran of four NFL coaching stops, would love to be considered for the job. He calls the USC job his dream job. He is in his 19th NFL season. He also has coached in college at Clemson, Ole Miss and his alma mater of Wayne State.
Louisville coach Scott Satterfield could draw a look as well. He’s 10-11 in his second season with the Cardinals and before that he was 51-24 at Appalachian State. He was to make $3.25 millon this season prior to any Covid-19 reduction.
Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott also remains viable at this point. Elliott, as has been his practice, won’t entertain any overtures from other schools until Clemson completes its season at least thru the ACC Championship Game.
There is at least one member of the USC board, maybe more, who wants Tanner to visit with Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. That is not in the works at this point.
Tanner is using an individual from a search firm to help him make contacts with agents and do background checks on candidates. Contact has been made with the agent for Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer, and agents for other candidates have been contacted as well to gauge interest.
Tanner said at his press conference Monday that school president Bob Caslen would be instrumental in working with him on the search. Caslen played a major role in hiring Jeff Monken at Army. The plan is for Caslen to join Tanner for the in-person interviews with candidates when those are scheduled.
Tanner also pinpointed the December 16th early signing day as an endpoint for the search. It makes sense to figure he’d really like to have his coach on board at least a week earlier to allow for some staff organization and last minute recruiting. I would think around December 9th or 10th, if possible, Tanner would like to have his man.
USC AD Ray Tanner held a Zoom press conference with the media Monday morning. The 30 minute session opened with Tanner expressing his appreciation for Will Muschamp and his belief that Muschamp left behind a culture the new coach can build upon. Tanner appeared emotional at times, especially when describing his conversation with Muschamp in which he delivered him the bad news. Tanner said he is a one man committee but will be working with USC President Bob Caslen and answering to him. His hope is to have a new head coach on board within the month. Tanner said he would like a young, offensive minded coach who can bring energy, enthusiasm and fun into the program, noting that the fun is in the winning. Tanner Sunday promoted offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo to interim head coach and said the former Colorado State head coach could be one he considers for the job.
Three popular names being spitballed are Oklahoma assistant head coach Shane Beamer, Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell and Louisiana head coach Billy Napier. All three have supporters among USC board members. Beamer is a former Gamecock assistant and the son of Hall of Fame coach Frank Beamer. He is viewed as a coach who would bring a CEO approach to the job who would hire an excellent staff and allow his to carry their weight. Beamer works for Lincoln Riley, a coach Tanner interviewed in December of 2015. It’s possible, if not likely, that Tanner has talked to Riley a couple of times regarding Beamer.
Chadwell is having a career season at Coastal as the Chants are unbeaten and ranked 15th. His read-option offense has been one of the nation’s best. Chadwell also built winning teams at North Greenville and Charleston Southern. Napier is a Furman grad and former Clemson offensive coordinator who is 25-11 in his third season and vying for his third straight Sun Belt West Division title.
Let’s spitball the name of North Carolina offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Phil Longo. He has the Tar Heels air-raid offense ranked #3 nationally at over 530 yards per game, and he has developed quarterback Sam Howell into one of the best passers in the country. Longo enjoyed the same kind of success in two years as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ole Miss. He also has two years of head coaching experience at La Salle. At age 52, Longo is not too old in coaching terms, but he might not fit the youthful profile Tanner is seeking.
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell sees his name mentioned for a lot of jobs viewed a superior to his current one. That includes USC’s opening. A couple of things to consider here. Campbell signed a contract extension last December supposedly tying him to the school thru the 2025 season. He was scheduled to make 3.7 million dollars this season, but the school is cutting $248,562 from his salary as a pandemic reduction. So, if Campbell is already making 3.7 million at Iowa State, it’s likely he wouldn’t leave for anything less than 4 million per season. Would the Gamecocks go that high? Muschamp was scheduled to make $4.6 million this season before his pandemic reduction. Campbell also had a buyout going into 2020 that would cost him (or a school that hires him) 6 million dollars. He is 31-27 at Iowa State including a 3-9 first season. He was 35-15 in five seasons at Toledo.
We’re told AD Ray Tanner would like to hire a younger coach with a strong offensive background, but the door is not closed to any qualified candidate. Our information the past week has been that Liberty coach Hugh Freeze won’t be considered due to his off the field and NCAA issues at Ole Miss. The university has hired a search firm to help with the background checks and other behind the scenes contacts with candidates and agents. AD Ray Tanner has his list of potential candidates including some recommended by a highly regarded NFL head coach. We’re told that some names passed along to Tanner include Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. As for other names to spitball, there’s Jamey Chadwell of Coastal Carolina, Billy Napier of Louisiana, Matt Campbell of Iowa State, Oklahoma assistant head coach and former Gamecock assistant Shane Beamer, Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady and Las Vegas Raiders assistant head coach and former Gamecock assistant Rich Bisaccia. We will update as more information, or spit, becomes available.