USC football coaching search: Where candidates stand as new schools enter the carousel
It got a little bit more crowded on the coaching carousel on Sunday. Florida joined USC and the other ranks of schools searching for a new head coach after firing Dan Mullen after an overtime loss to Missouri.
The Gators are another prominent, attractive opening, joining LSU and the Trojans’ Pac-12 rivals Washington and Washington State among schools looking for new leaders of their programs.
These recent openings confirm that it was a good idea for USC to fire Clay Helton as early as it did.
Athletic director Mike Bohn and chief of staff Brandon Sosna have had an extra two months to conduct a coaching search by making the change in September. Other schools are just starting the process, but USC’s head start has given the Trojans the chance to conduct background checks, run down a long list of potential candidates and have discussions with agents already.
That doesn’t mean that schools like LSU and Florida aren’t competitors with USC for talent, though. Here’s a look at some potential USC candidates and whether they may be fits at competing schools:
Dave Aranda, Baylor
Prior to taking over the Bears in 2020, Aranda was the defensive coordinator at LSU during the Tigers’ 2019 national championship run. This has led to a lot of speculation about Aranda replacing Ed Orgeron in Baton Rouge. But LSU athletic director Scott Woodward is a big fish hunter; he’s the guy who convinced Jimbo Fisher to leave Florida State for Texas A&M. So would he want to hire a coach with only two years experience running a program? And it’s not like Aranda doesn’t have ties at USC after interviewing for the Trojans’ defensive coordinator position after the 2019 season.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State
Campbell has no ties to these competing universities to speak of; he’s spent his entire career in the Midwest and it remains to be seen if he considers himself a fit in the SEC or even the Pac-12 at a school like USC.
Luke Fickell, Cincinnati
Like Campbell, Fickell is a Midwest lifer, though he’s even more specific in that he’s never coached outside the state of Ohio. It’s why many speculate that he would be hesitant to leave Cincinnati — he turned down the Michigan State job in 2020 — for anywhere other than his alma mater, Ohio State.
James Franklin, Penn State
Franklin has SEC experience, which would be a plus at LSU and Florida. After all, if he could get Vanderbilt into the Top 25, you’d have to imagine he could have more success at SEC programs with deeper resources. But Franklin’s 11-9 record the last two years could scare away programs like USC and others.