Despite the fact that the Gamecocks are finally playing well, nobody wants to talk about the team. They just dismiss the exciting games with the same cliches about the absence of moral victories in sports. All anyone seems to want to do is talk about whom the new coach is going to be.
A report from the website The Big Spur cites "multiple sources" who have identified Houston's first-year head coach Tom Herman as the top candidate for the South Carolina job. Herman was the offensive coordinator for Ohio State last year when they won the national championship and his Houston Cougars are undefeated so far this season. Still, I have a lot of problems with Herman, starting with the fact that he's willing to jump ship after one season in Houston. It means the first decent season he has at South Carolina and he'll be off to coach UCLA or Penn State or some other school willing to pay him more money. A coach who leaves a team after one season is investing nothing in his players. He's just using the kids to advance his own career.
But the more significant problem I have with Herman is his coaching style. The Garnet and Black Attack profile described it as "an almost micro-managing style that goes all the way to cleaning gum wrappers off the floor in the locker room." Now tell me who wants to play for that guy? If you are a high school recruit in South Carolina, would you rather play for a micro-manager who yells about gum wrappers on the locker room floor or would you rather go to Clemson and watch Dabo butcher some dance moves in the locker room? I know which one sounds like more fun to me.
I'm willing to wager that none of the sources claiming Herman is the top candidate are players. The players won't be consulted about which coach the university should hire, even though, it's literally their skin in the game. They will have to sit out a year if they want to transfer to another school. Athletic Director Ray Tanner will certainly consult the big boosters, however. On average, about 25 percent of the total compensation paid to the coach will come from the university. The rest comes from things like TV and radio deals, shoe contracts, and marketing rights. This often leads to the big sponsors of the TV and radio programs thinking they should get to pick the coach. Last week, City Paper columnist K.J. Kerney pointed out why this type of search inevitably leads to a lack of diversity in coaching.
In 2003, the NFL established the Rooney Rule which mandates that every team looking to fill a top-level coaching position interview at least one minority candidate for that position. It does not say they must hire the candidate, only that they must bring them in for an interview. If the candidate is able to crush the interview, they might get the job, but even if they are not hired, their name is elevated into the same discussion with the other leading candidates. Former Bucs head coach Raheem Morris was given an opportunity in Tampa Bay after his profile was raised in interviewing for Denver's position. It's a simple rule that helps outstanding coaches get recognition and consideration that they would not otherwise receive, and it costs the league nothing but a little time.
Even though there is no Rooney Rule in the SEC, Tanner would do well to set a precedent by publicly identifying a minority candidate to include in his search. Recently fired Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton should be on Tanner's short list. Hamilton, a Charlotte native and former Howard University quarterback, was a hot NFL commodity, getting head coaching interviews with the Raiders and the Bills, before Andrew Luck lost his mojo and the Colts let him go. Prior to the Colts, Hamilton was Jim Harbaugh's offensive coordinator at Stanford. He's young and charismatic and could say those three magic letters that every recruit really wants to hear, "NFL". He would make a big splash if he could be persuaded to make a Harbaugh-like comeback to college football.
As the premier institute of higher learning in the state, the University of South Carolina has a responsibility to conduct an open and inclusive search for the next head football coach. Not only do the players deserve a coach with the ability to win football games, but they also need one who will protect and advance their interests off the field. Despite what the cynics claim, there are moral victories in sports. In fact, moral victories in the teaching of principles such as leadership, teamwork, and sportsmanship are the whole point of amateur athletics. Ray Tanner should remember that before giving in too quickly to the boosters.