South Carolina football experienced the most modern success when it had Steve Spurrier, one of college football’s preeminent offensive gurus, as head coach. As teams often due, the Gamecocks reversed course hard after Spurrier’s resignation in 2015, going with former Florida head coach and long time defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. ESPN’s David Pollack thinks the school needs to get back to focusing on offense, and believes Liberty’s Hugh Freeze is the obvious choice.
After this weekend’s 59-42 loss to Ole Miss, Muschamp was fired. The Gamecocks fell to 2-5 on the season, and 28-30 during his South Carolina tenure, with a 17-22 SEC record. His large buyout, reportedly over $13 million, was a hurdle, but the South Carolina administration worried that fan apathy entering next year might cost the school more than just letting Muschamp go now.
In a year that isn’t expected to have many major openings, even given the struggles of high-profile coaches like Jim Harbaugh, South Carolina is on the carousel first. That positioning could be an advantage, and allow the school to target and find a new coach first. One name has come up over and over for the job in the days in recent days: Hugh Freeze.
The former Ole Miss head coach has tried to rehab his image a bit at the religious institution, desperate to become a BYU-level player in the college football world. His coaching was never really in question, and he’s found plenty of success with the Flames as well. The team is 8-0 this year, with a pair of wins against ACC programs, after an 8-5 first season and Cure Bowl win. ESPN’s David Pollack believes that he’s the obvious fit to take over the Gamecocks. He said as much on the new ESPN College Football podcast with Kirk Herbstreit and Kevin Negandhi, per 247Sports.
— 247Sports (@247Sports) November 17, 2020
“Hugh Freeze — first, second, third,” Pollack said, about who should be considered for the South Carolina football job. “What has South Carolina needed every year, year after year after year? It’s offense, man. It’s always just you want to see more on that side of the football. I think the fans are dying for that. And by the way, Hugh knows how to do that and whether it’s at Liberty, whether it’s at Ole Miss, wherever it’s at. He’s a phenomenal offensive football coach.
“I just love his story of — he messed up, dude, he did. He owns that. I think he’s got a good personality. I don’t think he has to have the most elite recruiting, elite recruited kids. I think people will want to play for him, his offensive scheme, his system. So I think Hugh Freeze — experience in the SEC, experience against guys you’re going to be playing against week in and week out — I don’t see how that’s not a home run for South Carolina.”
Freeze resigned from Ole Miss after it was discovered that he had placed a string of calls to an escort service. This popped up amid a lengthy NCAA investigation into the Rebels program for major recruiting violations under Freeze’s leadership, which led to a two-year postseason ban for the program, three years of probation, lost scholarships, and the vacation of wins. His on-field record, before that penalty, is 65-32 between stints at Arkansas State, Ole Miss, and Liberty.
Robert Caslen, the president of the University of South Carolina, took over in 2019 after being the superintendent of West Point. He is a retired Army officer, and there are some questions about whether he’d be amenable to hiring someone with Freeze’s baggage. In terms of on-field results though, there may not be a better candidate out there, but time will tell if his Liberty tenure has effectively laundered his image as coach enough.
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