Will Muschamp's out at South Carolina, an interim coach is in and the first domino in the Power 5 coaching carousel amidst a pandemic officially is tumbling.
South Carolina officials moved to oust Muschamp, in his fifth season atop the program, on the heels of Saturday's 59-42 loss at Ole Miss and first-year Rebels coach Lane Kiffin. Mike Bobo had been named the interim coach for the remainder of the 2020 season.
The Gamecocks are scheduled to face Missouri this week, but sources at USC said that contest has emerged as in jeopardy due to a COVID-19 outbreak and contact tracing at Missouri; the Tigers did not play their scheduled game with Georgia this past weekend, one of four cancelations across the SEC.
The defeat marked the Gamecocks' fifth in seven games this season, the last four by an average of 26 points per game.
Despite widespread revenue losses throughout college football, USC administrators elected to part with Muschamp at a cost of approximately $13 million left guaranteed on Muschamp's contract. The former Florida head coach, hired after Steve Spurrier abruptly retired midway through the 2015 season, had his contract amended, earned raises and extensions after bowl trips in each of Muschamp's first three seasons in Columbia, S.C.
However, South Carolina began to take a sharp downturn in 2019 when it finished 4-8 and again lost to rival Clemson, a program amidst the most successful run in its history.
The Gamecocks have lost 10 games by 11 or more points since Sept. 14, 2019.
Per sources close to the program, the move had been expected for more than a week after the Gamecocks were pummeled, 48-3, at home by Texas A&M on November 7th. South Carolina has lost its last three outings while surrendering 53 points per game.
It had been expected enough, in fact, that multiple potential candidates already have emerged per sources at South Carolina, in college football and with direct industry ties.
Among the most prominent names already mentioned multiple times to FootballScoop are: Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell; Louisiana head coach Billy Napier; Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze; Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and Oklahoma's Shane Beamer, the Sooners' assistant head coach for offense, tight ends and H-backs.
Additional candidates are expected to emerge, but in a move that's been expected now for multiple weeks, those names have stood out.
Chadwell has the Chanticleers undefeated and in 15th-place tie in the AP Top 25, easily the program's loftiest perch. Caldwell also has deep ties in the Palmetto State, with his work at Charleston Southern standing out before his move to the Conway, S.C.,-based Coastal in 2017. Chadwell's been the school's full-time head coach since 2019, after serving in an interim basis in '17 due to health issues for then-head coach Joe Moglia. Even before those roles, Chadwell drew attention in South Carolina for his work at NCAA Division II North Greenville University, where he guided that program to its first-ever NCAA playoffs bid.
Napier played at Furman, an FCS blue-blood program, and got his coaching career started in South Carolina as first a graduate assistant at Clemson and then quarterbacks coach at South Carolina State. Napier then spent five seasons as a full-time assistant for Clemson from 2006-10, and he's also held roles on Nick Saban's Alabama staffs and as Arizona State's offensive coordinator before taking over at Louisiana in 2018. He holds the rare, and valuable, distinction of having worked for both Saban and Dabo Swinney.
Napier's won 25 games in less than three years atop the Ragin Cajuns' program, knocked off then-No. 23 Iowa State to open this season and lifted the program to a No. 24 national ranking. Louisiana won a combined 15 games in the three full seasons prior to Napier's arrival. The Cajuns clinched their third straight berth into the Sun Belt Championship on Saturday, meaning the club has or will play in the game in all three years of its existence.
A former Ole Miss head coach who took the SEC by storm but then had his career in Oxford cut short due to an NCAA scandal, Freeze has revived his coaching career at FBS independent Liberty, which is 8-0 for the first time in school history and landed at No. 21 in this week's AP Poll. Freeze's known for his offensive acumen and Saban himself has said that Ole Miss' explosive ways under Freeze prompted Saban to reevaluate and advance his Tide offenses. Freeze rocketed onto the national stage when his Ole Miss team registered back-to-back wins against Saban's Tide.
Sarkisian also has revived his career with his work under Saban as the Tide offensive coordinator. Once considered among college football's rising stars, Sarkisian was dismissed early in his tenure atop the Southern Cal program. He then worked in the NFL before he replaced Lane Kiffin as the Tide offensive coordinator. Alabama has the most efficient offense this season in college football.
Beamer has deep ties to South Carolina, the SEC and the ACC, as well. He's the son of Hall of Famer Frank Beamer, a former Tennessee graduate assistant and his star truly began to ascend during his time on Steve Spurrier's staffs at South Carolina. Beamer's been a full-time P-5 assistant since 2004 with stops at Mississippi State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Georgia before he landed on Lincoln Riley's highly regarded Oklahoma staff.
While the Gamecocks will consider a number of candidates, sources have indicated that they want to look at offensive-minded coaches first after seeing the team struggle on both sides of the ball under Muschamp. If the Gamecocks turn their eyes back towards a defensive candidate, a source told FootballScoop late Sunday evening to look no further than in-state rival Clemson and defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Along with Notre Dame's Clark Lea and Cincinnati's Marcus Freeman, Venables is widely considered the top defensive coordinator in college football.
South Carolina coaches called a team meeting this evening and informed players at that time that a change atop the program had been made.