Is Hugh Freeze’s SEC return going to come in Columbia? Photo from @CFBHome (Twitter)
- South Carolina parted ways with Will Muschamp earlier this week after a 59-42 defeat at the hands of Ole Miss, bringing his record in Columbia to 28-30
- Billy Napier (+300) and Hugh Freeze (+400) have the best odds to be the next head ball coach at USC
- Read below for a deeper look at the first big entrant to the coaching carousel in 2020
After a 59-42 defeat to Ole Miss, the higher-ups at South Carolina have decided to pull the plug on the Will Muschamp tenure.
It was a loss that brought Muschamp’s record in Columbia to 28-30, and it was the third of three humiliating defeats in a row.
Now, the focus turns to the future. According to the odds, that future looks offensive.
Odds to Be Next South Carolina Gamecocks Head Coach
Odds taken Nov. 17
Offense, Offense, Offense
The top three candidates, Billy Napier, Hugh Freeze, and Shane Beamer, all fit the bill set forward by Gamecock athletic director Ray Tanner. After giving up an average of 53 points and 593 yards in the past three games, the focus in Columbia has turned to bringing in someone who can keep up in these shootouts.
Monday, Tanner opined that, “It’s a time when everybody lights up the scoreboard. The 10-7 games are distant memories.. that’s important we maybe get an offensive-oriented… coach”. He praised the way Muschamp motivated his teams, but it’s clear that the offensive inconsistency has frustrated South Carolina brass.
Why Not Napier?
Louisiana head coach Billy Napier leads the odds, and for good reason. He has a long history of offensive experience, including time with Nick Saban at Alabama and Dabo Swinney at Clemson. As a head coach, he won 11 games with the Ragin’ Cajuns a year ago, and his team currently sits at 7-1.
The only argument against Napier here is that, perhaps, he’s overqualified. Being both a Saban and Swinney assistant immediately makes him more attractive to teams. We’ve seen it in the NFL with former assistants of Bill Belichick getting the benefit of the doubt in coaching searches.
It was smart of South Carolina to make a move early, because they now have a leg-up on bigger programs like Michigan who may be hopping on the coaching carousel soon. Napier’s name has the momentum to make a leap to one of those massive brands, and he could wait for one of them to open up.
Has the SEC Warmed Up on Hugh Freeze?
There’s certainly an argument against hiring Hugh Freeze. Recruiting and academic violations during his time at Ole Miss led to the NCAA vacating 27 wins and banning the program from the postseason for two years. He resigned, for completely unrelated reasons, when Ole Miss officials discovered that Freeze used his university phone to call escort services in Florida over the prior five years.
Freeze was even accused of engaging in inappropriate conduct with female students at Briarcrest Christian School, where he was the head football and girls basketball coach.
The only concern for most athletic departments, for better or worse, is winning. Despite the damage he’s done to Ole Miss and the people around him, his Liberty team is currently 8-0. Ole Miss, even with all the wreckage he caused, remembers the winning part fondly.
Freeze feels similar to former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino. Regardless of quitting on the Atlanta Falcons midseason and the salacious ending of his Arkansas tenure, Petrino got another shot at the big time. At Louisville, he won a little bit, but things ultimately came crashing down.
For South Carolina, Freeze brings the kind of on-field style that they are looking for. His offensive track record probably has Ray Tanner’s mouth watering.
2020 Heisman Trophy Odds Tracker
What’s the Best Bet?
A massive factor in coaching searches is often the mentality of a school. South Carolina is the little brother in a state with Clemson. It doesn’t even get near the respect of other little brothers across the nation like Auburn or Michigan State.
Under Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier, the Gamecocks got a taste of double-digit wins and big bowl games, but it was temporary. Since then, they’ve returned to being mostly a national afterthought. That isn’t lost on the brass in Columbia.
No matter the damage and aftermath they’ll have to deal with, the drug of success and the taste of national attention is too strong. No coach on this list brings the hope of immediate success the way that Hugh Freeze does.
Napier is probably the hottest name on this list, but he’ll likely get a bigger job. Freeze and South Carolina is the perfect intersection of need. The Gamecocks need to be relevant again, and Freeze needs one Power Five program to give him another chance. History says it won’t end well, but that won’t stop it from happening.
With four years as radio host with The Ticket Sports Network and various written contributions to publications such as Fansided, Southbound and Down, and Last Word on Sports, Jake Mitchell comes to SBD with NFL, NBA, NCAAM, NCAAF and MMA know-how you can count on.