COLUMBIA — There’s no frontrunner and no decisions have been made. South Carolina’s search for a football coach is as open as it was a week ago, when Will Muschamp was fired and the process began.
But one name is certainly being pushed by a group of former Gamecocks players, and athletics director Ray Tanner has heard them.
Former USC assistant Shane Beamer, currently Oklahoma's assistant head coach for offense, has gained support from multiple former USC players and other USC officials who have chimed in on the search, sources told The Post and Courier.
While Tanner's decision will be based on much more than the popularity of each candidate, he is reaching out to all sides of the Gamecocks’ fan base and to former players for input.
Many ex-players lobbied for Beamer, 43, during a Saturday afternoon Zoom call with Tanner, sources said. Beamer checks some key boxes: He was an assistant coach at USC from 2007-2010 and has a good reputation as a recruiter.
Bonus points: He was born in Charleston when his father, famed former Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, was a Citadel assistant coach.
There are drawbacks, most notably that Beamer has never been a head coach nor a coordinator.
Tanner said Saturday that he had already talked to four candidates and was looking to speak to four or five more, the sources said. Tanner stressed finding the right hire for the program and said he would like to find a coach who has already proven he can field a powerful offense.
The case for Beamer
Tanner would like to hire a coach by mid-December and Beamer, as an assistant coach at Oklahoma, would be available should the Sooners not make the Big 12 Championship Game (OU’s final regular-season game is Dec. 5, the same as the Gamecocks’ last game at Kentucky).
Beamer's players have liked him at every stop. He is affordable, as he is making $540,000 this season and even if he were to be the lowest-paid coach in the SEC next year, his salary would likely more than triple.
The USC athletics department is currently $40.7 million in debt due to the pandemic.
Multiple sources who have spoken to Beamer say he badly wants the USC job and already has a plan in place to recruit and hire offensive and defensive coordinators. He has a list of names for each spot and has already begun gauging interest from them should he get the job.
The case against Beamer
Tanner wanted an experienced head coach when he hired Muschamp, meaning he missed on Beamer’s current boss, Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley. Riley likes Beamer’s contributions to the Sooners and joins Kirby Smart, Phillip Fulmer, Steve Spurrier and Beamer’s dad as established coaches Beamer has learned under.
That speaks, but again, Beamer has never been in the head chair himself. Sources have confirmed Beamer knows that’s his top criticism, but also that he’s turned down many opportunities to take head coaching jobs at smaller schools and has been waiting for the right job.
Beamer’s alma mater, Virginia Tech, is 4-5 with coach Justin Fuente on the hot seat, and if the Hokies make a move, Beamer could be considered.
“Virginia Tech is highly interested in Shane Beamer, and he would be at the top of their list,” one source said. “But South Carolina is at the top of Shane Beamer’s list. He would choose South Carolina over Virginia Tech.”
As for the coaching experience, there’s nothing Beamer can do if that’s a make-or-break criteria. He has none as a head coach, outside of acting as the sideline head coach during the 2014 Military Bowl when the elder Beamer was recovering from throat surgery.
Beamer could channel his father’s rise at Virginia Tech. The Hokies won one postseason game in over 90 seasons before the elder Beamer arrived and, after struggling for six years, built a dynasty in Blacksburg.
No matter who USC hires, it's going to take time to get it back to the level Spurrier built.