Former South Carolina player Mark Dantonio was expected to be a candidate for the coaching position once Steve Spurrier resigned.
The Gamecocks wound up landing Will Muschamp, but according to the athletic director, that is as close as it gets.
In an interview with The State’s Josh Kendall, South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner provided insight into the university’s coaching search and the decision to hire Muschamp.
One of the major factors was Muschamp’s experience, which Tanner referred to as a positive as he prepared for his second coaching opportunity in the SEC.
“We hired a coach who was very special, and he’s even more special now than he was at the point based on his experienced that he has gone through,” Tanner said, via Kendall. “He won 28 games at Florida. Nick Saban won 28 games in his first four years as a head coach. Mark Dantonio, he won 25 games in his first four years.
“We got that guy that was a head coach in waiting with more experience and better prepared to lead our football program. That’s exciting to me.”
Because of Muschamp’s tumultuous stint at Florida, there have been some eyebrows raised and criticism directed at South Carolina’s hire.
Tanner understands it, but believes some of it is unjustified.
“You have your critics, and I’m OK with that,” he said. “I think there have been some people in the national media who have not been very fair to Will taking over here, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with playing or coaching with a chip on your shoulder here or there.”
Muschamp will have a chance to prove his doubters wrong as he inherits a South Carolina team finished 3-9, the school’s worst mark since 1999.
He will be tasked with replacing Spurrier, the winningest coach in Gamecocks history, and will have to do so without the team’s most valuable player, wide receiver Pharoh Cooper.
If Muschamp can in fact do as Tanner believes he can, it would go a long way in improving his legacy as well.