Speculation over USC coaching search shifts into overdrive

Tom Herman is 10-1 in his first season as head coach at Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Is Tom Herman in or out? Is Kirby Smart on deck to become South Carolina’s next head coach?

With one game left in the Gamecocks’ season, speculation over USC’s coaching search has kicked into overdrive. First, there was a report that Houston head coach Tom Herman seemed ready to move to Columbia. Then there was a report that Herman had taken his name out of consideration. Then there was a report that Smart, Alabama’s defensive coordinator, is next on USC athletic director Ray Tanner’s list.

Tuesday night, the South Carolina Radio Network (which is not affiliated with USC) reported that Herman had reached an agreement in principle with South Carolina, contingent upon a visit to Columbia that could take place days after Saturday’s season finale against No. 1 Clemson. But Wednesday morning, Yahoo Sports reported that Herman had removed himself from consideration for the USC job.

Indications were that Herman, the former Ohio State offensive coordinator off to a 10-1 start in his first season as Houston’s head coach, was Tanner’s clear top choice for the job. But Houston’s Board of Regents last week voted to raise Herman’s salary from $1.3 million annually to $3 million annually, a move that perhaps left the 40-year-old coach more inclined to remain with the Cougars.

“That stuff is out there, but I don’t pay any attention to it,” Herman told the Houston Chronicle when asked about speculation regarding his future.

ESPN’s Chris Low reported that Herman preferred to be patient with so many jobs open. USC is one of 13 Football Bowl Subdivision schools with vacant head coaching positions. “Herman liked Tanner, had interest in the job, but ultimately decided it was best for him to sit pat,” Low tweeted. “Coaching landscape about to shift.”

Wednesday, Fox Sports reported that Smart, who oversees the nation’s third-ranked defense at No. 2 Alabama, is now the frontrunner for the USC job. Smart has rebuffed other schools in the past, but indications are that he has interest in South Carolina — unless bigger jobs at LSU or Georgia, the latter being his alma mater, were to come open.

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