A year ago, South Carolina was in the doldrums.
Steve Spurrier suddenly retired in the midst of a disastrous 3-9 season that saw the Gamecocks miss their first bowl game since 2008. Making things worse, they struck out on their higher profile candidates like Tom Herman and Kirby Smart, ultimately landing Will Muschamp.
The perception was that South Carolina settled for Muschamp, the failed ex-Florida head coach, but it looks like athletic director Ray Tanner gets the last laugh. Muschamp has made almost an immediate turnaround, leaving the Gamecocks one win from bowl eligibility with an outside shot to win the SEC East. In a story from USA Today’s Dan Wolken, Tanner addressed some of the criticism that came from the decision to hire Muschamp.
“I never went into it thinking that there would be 100 percent approval on any decisions that were made,” Tanner told USA Today. “I understand the scrutiny. There was some skepticism going into the process, but I wasn’t affected by that. It was so important we got the right person here.”
Much of the criticism surrounding the hire stemmed from Muschamp’s struggles at Florida. After going 11-2 and winning the East in 2012, Muschamp’s Gators went 10-13 over his last two seasons before he was fired.
At a school in a less talent-rich area with less recruiting clout than Florida, it wasn’t unrealistic to question Muschamp’s ability to bring success to Columbia, but Tanner is “certainly very happy” with the Gamecock’s current position.
“I’ve been here a long time and felt like I understood our culture,” Tanner said. “I was just so impressed, so comfortable with what he represents and his work ethic, his ability to communicate. I listened to what happened in the past and where he was professionally. I just was so excited about the fit and just felt strongly that our fan base would embrace him and he’d embrace them and we’d have a chance to get this thing going again.”