COLUMBIA — They call him “Coach Boom” for a reason.
That much was evident during Will Muschamp’s final outing as defensive coordinator at Auburn, when his rage over a late hit penalty against one of his players drew another 15-yard flag from the officials. Muschamp had to be held back by two other coaches, and his tantrum in the high-profile Alabama game went viral, topped with headlines such as “Coach Boom Blows a Gasket.”
South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner watched it unfold from Columbia, with the knowledge that he planned to reach out to Muschamp regarding the Gamecocks’ vacant head coaching position.
“The reaction was, bad timing more than anything else. When that happened, I obviously knew that we were going to have a conversation, and my first impulse was, the timing’s not great for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty,” Tanner said.
“Your passion, your enthusiasm, your concern for your student-athletes and the impact that you have on them, that’s paramount. And occasionally you get into a situation ... where there are moments you’re not proud of. You want to avoid those, no question about it. That was part of our meeting in a very lengthy way. I’m comfortable with where we are. Do I want him to become comatose on the sideline? Absolutely not.”
Sideline demeanor was a topic Tanner brought up with Muschamp, who on Monday was introduced as the Gamecocks’ new head football coach. A quick Internet search reveals more than a few examples of Muschamp’s explosive nature: Texas players calling him “Coach Blood” because he once whipped off his headset so violently, he cut himself; a tirade against officials in his first stint as Auburn’s defensive coordinator; waving his arms in a fury over a call as head coach at Florida.
In that context, his blowup in the Iron Bowl was hardly out of character. Even so, Muschamp said he and Tanner “talked extensively” about the expectations USC has in its head coach — an area which clearly includes sideline demeanor.
“I’m certainly in accordance in everything he wants done,” Muschamp said.
“I’m a passionate guy. I do have a competitive edge about me. I do coach with a lot of energy on the field. And I want our players to play with relentless effort and great energy and great passion, because I have been coaching a long time, and I do know your players generally take the personality of the coach. And I want our guys playing with that competitive edge every time they go out, but also represent South Carolina in a first-class manner. That’s what we’re going to do.”
Tanner was a hard-nosed coach himself during a successful stint which netted a pair of national baseball championships for USC. “I’ve been in those situations,” he said. But he also has his limits — as he showed in 2014, when he suspended men’s basketball coach Frank Martin for one game for what Tanner called “inappropriate verbal communication” toward guard Duane Notice during a timeout.
In broaching the subject with Muschamp, “I might have been a little too firm,” Tanner said. “But he understands. We’re all coaches. We want everything that coach Muschamp brings to the program and players with his passion and enthusiasm. I even like it a little bit when you have to get on an official. When they throw a flag, that’s a little bit too far. But we talked about it extensively, and he certainly understands where we are.”
From a temperament standpoint, Muschamp is certainly very different from his predecessor Steve Spurrier, who vented his frustration by tossing a play sheet or flinging his visor. The longtime defensive coordinator — at Valdosta State, LSU, Texas, and twice at Auburn — is a head coach again for the first time since his four-year stint at Florida, and his sideline behavior may have to change as a result.
“Absolutely, there’s a huge difference in being the head coach and being the defensive coordinator. There’s no question,” Muschamp said. “... As a defensive coordinator, I’m focused on one side of the ball only. So demeanor certainly could change.”