AD Ray Tanner spoke for more than half an hour Monday morning on South Carolina's job opening, the first Power 5 vacancy of the 2020 season and, thus, the first Power 5 vacancy to take place in the throes of a global pandemic in more than a century. We're in uncharted territory here, but what we've seen thus far is that this coaching search will play out similarly to others.
That started with Tanner thanking Will Muschamp for the job he did on the heels of hiring him for that same job he did. Tanner was effusive his praise of Muschamp the Man and Muschamp the Leader, but said Muschamp the Coach didn't win enough to keep moving forward with the program. "At the end of the day, the expectation is to win games. That's what we're judged on."
The press conference hit a number of topics, so let's dive in.
Why now? "As we move forward, there's a December 16 signing date. We also know that in January the NCAA is likely to pass legislation where all student-athletes would have a one-time transfer opportunity. That's in May. I think the sooner we move forward with this program, the better off we'll be.
"Our commitments would have an opportunity to know exactly their path going forward."
Max Olson of The Athletic wrote a nice piece explaining how difficult the early signing period has been on new coaching hires, where the Classes of 2018 have resulted in more busts than players at Tennessee, Florida State, Nebraska and UCLA following high-profile hires in December of 2017.
But if you need to make a change, you need to make a change. Waiting around won't make it any easier.
Does Mike Bobo have a serious shot at retaining the full-time job? "When you're an interim head coach, that possibility does exist."
Everyone will look upstate at the success a certain South Carolina rival has had with a former interim. But that guy had seven opportunities to prove his worth, and he'd been with the program for six years prior. Bobo's in his first year in Columbia with three games ahead of him.
What's the most important thing Tanner wants in a new head coach? Tanner did his best to not paint himself into any sort of corner, as any AD would on Day 1 of what could be a monthlong process. But given all the space in the world to take this very open-ended question any direction he wanted, this is where Tanner took it. "There are some things that are very important. As we sit here today and think about college football, the 10-7 games are a distant memory. I think that's important that we get an offensive-oriented situation, whether that's a head coach or a fantastic coordinator to move the needle in that capacity."
This matches all of our reporting, as well as common sense.
It's fitting that South Carolina's move happened when it did, less than 24 hours removed from a 59-42 loss to Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss. Both teams came into that game 2-4, but the way they got there tasted as different as water and vinegar. South Carolina surrendered 53 points a game in the 3-game losing streak that cost Muschamp his job. Tanner's ready to watch South Carolina do that to someone else.
Tanner is the head of the search but he's not doing it alone. South Carolina has not hired a search firm, but that could change. "There could be a possibility that would exist, but I have not done that formally." He also will not appoint a formal search committee but will take input from a number of avenues. "Don't mistake that as somebody standing up here saying his is a 1-man search committee. That's not the case."
On that subject, how much input will South Carolina president Bob Caslen have? It was brought up during the press conference that Caslen was at Army when the Black Knights hired Jeff Monken. Tanner was asked if Monken, or someone like him, could factor in to the search. Doesn't sound like it. "I don't I'm going to sit here and tell you coaches who run a certain offense will be ruled in or ruled out. I'll leave it at that. I wouldn't think you'd see an option-oriented attack, but you never can tell," he said.
How much will the pandemic pull at South Carolina's purse strings? There's no doubt cash flow is lighter than anticipated. Covid will continue affecting South Carolina's finances for the next year and beyond. But it won't stop Carolina from doing what it needs to do to get the right guy.
"At the end of the day, our department has operated financially secure for, probably, more than 15 years," he said. "The debt that we inherited because of covid and now changing football coaches is going to fall on the backs of the athletics department, it's not going to be anybody at the university. We'll certainly have the pathway to have the resources to do what we need to do going forward."
In layman's terms: We SEC, son.
South Carolina was doing just fine in 2019, and it'll do just fine when the smoke from all this clears. A head football coach is the most important investment any football-playing athletics department will make, especially in the SEC.
Will Tanner set a "win now" mandate on the next guy? Not in so many words, but only because he won't have to spell it out for him.
"You can remember back when the coach was the coach for a long time, and unless something happened they remained coach. That's not the case anymore. It's trickled down to the Olympic sports; that was never the case (in the past). It's changed, we realize it. We're just not in a place where a coach gets a long, long tenure unless the success is off the charts," he said.
Will South Carolina look exclusively at sitting head coaches? Again, Tanner wasn't about to box himself into any sort of corner.
"It's not going to be a requirement to go out and get a sitting head coach. Certainly we're going to take a look at sitting head coaches but there's other examples around the country that have worked extremely well, whether they were a coordinator or they were just a position coach," he said.
Is Hugh Freeze a serious candidate for this job? "I'm not going to speak to any particular candidates. Nobody is ruled out. We'll be looking at a long list of candidates. That work started last night."
In the meantime, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.