Gamecocks settle for second (or more) choice in Muschamp

col-tbuzz-2New South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said something interesting during his introductory press conference Monday at Williams-Brice Stadium. When asked about his roller-coaster tenure as head coach at Florida, he took a metaphorical walk down the aisle.

“I’d compare it to marriage,” Muschamp said of his brief 28-21 stint in The Swamp. “The first year there is a little adjustment, and that fifth year you are doing a little bit better.”

Nice analogy, except Muschamp never made it to a fifth year with the Gators. They weren’t content with mediocrity and dumped the fiery defensive-minded coach. After a brief fling as a DC at Auburn, he is ready to settle down again, this time with the Gamecocks, and try to learn from past mistakes. I think he is a dedicated coach and I truly wish him well.

With that said, and in keeping with the matrimonial theme, I think it’s safe to say South Carolina settled. After their past two blockbuster hires in Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier, the big men on campus of college football, Musgrave is sort of that decent guy from Calculus class. Not the one you want to parade around in public but a good date in a pinch.

Like many Gamecocks fans, Monday’s announcement was not what I had envisioned after Spurrier unceremoniously called it quits a couple of months ago. One of the many excuses (oops, I mean reasons) he gave for stepping down early was so the adminsitration would have more time to find his replacement. Elliott’s audition, if ever genuine, expired as the final seconds ticked away in the loss to The Citadel, and AD Ray Tanner had a wish list longer than a 6-year-old’s letter to Santa.

Houston’s Tom Hermann appeared to be the early favorite, and there were reports that he and Tanner had been talking all the way up to Hermann’s contract extension to keep him with the Cougars. Memphis offensive guru Fuente was another front-runner, but he was snapped up by Virginia Tech to replace the legendary Frank Beamer. Hard to blame him for passing up that gig for the Gamecocks.

Then all signs seemed to point to Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who would have been sitting in Muschamp’s spot today if not for an unforeseen interception by Georgia. The Bulldogs canned Mark Richt in order to bring Smart to his alma mater before he went to an SEC East rival. Richt barely got a glance from the Gamecocks before he went to his hometown of Miami.

The dominos kept falling and South Carolina was in danger of not having a date to the big recruiting ball. Perhaps the job is not as attractive as it used to be, or maybe the breaks just went against them, but this was not the hire the Gamecock faithful was hoping for. Like any good marriage, both sides will try to make it work. But if Muschamp can’t win better than 60 percent of his games with the Gators, who have superior recruiting, facilities and finances, I’m not sure he’s the best catch for the Gamecocks.

Muschamp has his work cut out for him. Spurrier left the cupboards pretty empty and SEC East rivals Florida, Tennessee and now most likely Georgia, as well as No. 1-ranked in-state neighbor Clemson, are snapping up all the groceries. While other schools were finding a perfect match, South Carolina got stuck with second (or third, fourth or fifth) fiddle. The Gamecocks went looking for Mr. Right and settled for Mr. Right Now. Let’s just hope it turns out to be a happy marriage.

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