COLUMBIA — The jokes were nearly as numerous as the questions.
“Auburn is checking into the possibility of playing all of its home games at Williams-Brice Stadium next year.”
“Did you hear Auburn is replacing ‘War Eagle’ with ‘Spurs Up?’”
“Darude is booked for a private concert at Auburn … every night during next football season." (Darude wrote ‘Sandstorm,’ a crowd favorite at South Carolina football games.)
All were launched in the aftermath of the third sitting USC coach in a week to leave Columbia for the Plains. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and offensive line coach Will Friend bolted last week, and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, an Auburn alum, hitched the U-Haul on Wednesday.
The reality of the matter was in the gray area between “Everything’s gonna be OK” and “The sky is falling, again!” The coaching carousel never stops spinning, and while it certainly isn’t a glowing endorsement that three of Shane Beamer’s staffers left, each after agreeing to new contracts with the Gamecocks, there is the fact that two were holdovers from Will Muschamp’s staff and the other, Friend, was hired on Bobo’s recommendation.
The coaches’ personal feelings aside, Auburn also hired two coaches who helped engineer USC’s 2-8 season last year, with a win over Auburn. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?
“He made me aware last Tuesday night that Auburn had reached out and had an interest in visiting,” Beamer said of Bobo’s decision. “I listened as the head football coach at South Carolina. In the end, he did what he felt was best for he and his family, and as the head football coach at South Carolina, my job is to do what I feel is best for the University of South Carolina football program today and going forward in the future, and that’s what I did. We wish him well and have nothing but … we wish him well.”
Beamer publicly handled the acrimonious meeting with grace, as there’s no use slinging mud now. And the bright side of it is the departing coaches (or Auburn) owe USC $250,000 in buyouts.
Yet it is a speedbump, as Beamer is again finding out what has been a standard with USC football. Fix one problem, proceed to the next, then revisit the first because it broke again.
It’s hard to judge Beamer’s first staff if it keeps losing pieces, but USC’s Board of Trustees is set to meet Friday morning to approve another sheaf of contracts. Those will definitely include new offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield, hired after Bobo split; defensive coordinator Clayton White; defensive backs coach Torrian Gray; strength coach Luke Day; and perhaps a raise for running backs coach Des Kitchings.
Beamer still has hires to make. He needs an offensive line coach to replace Friend and a defensive line coach to replace Rocker, plus deciding what he wants to do with the Gamecocks’ linebackers (Mike Peterson was retained as outside LBs coach, and him taking over the entire position, or White coaching a position group alongside his DC tag, are two possibilities).
“Like all these guys, guys that want to be at this place, believe in this university like I do, and understand what we can accomplish here in this football program,” Beamer said when introducing the latest round of assistants, after Bobo and Friend left but before Rocker. “All of us are on the same page from that standpoint.”
He also responded to a Wednesday tweet from tight end Jaheim Bell, who said, “You either in or out simple as that.” Beamer quoted it with the added message, “What he said.”
It’s never going to be easy for Beamer at USC, but it’s a much smoother path toward winning when working with people that want to be there.