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3 thoughts on the USF football coach search, coaching carousel

Bulls fans are still waiting. That’s not a bad thing.
USF is looking for a new football coach after the Bulls' season ended Saturday.
USF is looking for a new football coach after the Bulls' season ended Saturday. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Nov. 28, 2022|Updated Nov. 28, 2022

TAMPA — As college football’s coaching carousel spins, USF fans still are waiting to learn the identity of their next football coach. That’s not a bad thing.

Though there has been speculation on social media and message boards about a potential Monday announcement, that’s putting the cart before the bull. Identifying and signing the coach comes first, and that’s a challenge in this fluid, competitive market.

USF and Georgia Tech both have been linked to Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell. USF and Colorado have both talked to Deion Sanders, who confirmed Monday that he has been offered the Buffaloes’ job. Luke Fickell leaving Cincinnati for Wisconsin adds another good job to the pile.

Related: Let’s talk about Deion Sanders and the USF football coaching search

It’s possible, if not likely, those Power Five dominoes need to fall before USF hires Jeff Scott’s successor. Regardless, athletic director Michael Kelly said at the beginning of the search that he intends to have a new coach in place before Dec. 5, when the NCAA transfer portal opens. If that timeline comes and goes, then it’s time to worry.

Here are three other thoughts on this year’s coaching carousel:

1. USF is “going in the right direction.”

USF made a late rally in Saturday's loss to UCF.
USF made a late rally in Saturday's loss to UCF. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

That’s according to interim coach Daniel Da Prato in a de facto exit interview after Saturday’s loss to UCF.

Da Prato cited the facilities upgrades (new locker room and indoor practice facility, plus the on-campus stadium push) and what’s “inside the locker room that nobody else sees.”

“We’ve got an unbelievable nucleus,” Da Prato said. “The character and just the grit, resiliency, fight.”

Related: How good is the USF football job? Better than it was in Bulls’ last coaching search

That was evident with how USF rallied from a 28-0 deficit to have a shot at upsetting the nationally ranked Knights — three weeks after a coaching change, no less. That’s a testament to the behind-the-scenes work these coaches did, and it’s something the next staff will benefit from.

“I see this program taking off,” Da Prato said, “and I see it happening very soon.”

2. The timing stinks.

Coastal Carolina's Jamey Chadwell is preparing to coach for the Sun Belt championship as speculation swirls about him pursuing other openings.
Coastal Carolina's Jamey Chadwell is preparing to coach for the Sun Belt championship as speculation swirls about him pursuing other openings. [ ARTIE WALKER JR. | AP (2021) ]

Sanders and Chadwell are both dealing with coaching rumors as they prepare for this weekend’s conference title games. Tulane’s Willie Fritz (a Georgia Tech candidate) and Toledo’s Jason Candle (who might be looking for a bigger job) are, too.

The coaching carousel has never been neat. Florida State fans had to deal with annual in-season speculation about Jimbo Fisher taking another job, until he finally did before the 2017 finale. Mike Norvell signed his FSU contract the same day his Memphis team beat Cincinnati for the league title.

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But the portal and early signing day have made the process messier. Either you’re all-in on coaching your current team to its goal, or you’re falling behind in roster management at your future school.

Billy Napier handled it as well as he could last year. Though Florida announced his hire on the Sunday after the regular season ended, Napier wasn’t officially introduced until a week later so he could keep coaching Louisiana to the Sun Belt crown.

There’s no easy answer. But it’s unfortunate that the current system puts coaches — and, more importantly, players — in a tough spot during championship week.

3. Norvell knows what he’s doing.

Kenny Dillingham, seen here as Florida State's offensive coordinator, is the new head coach at Arizona State.
Kenny Dillingham, seen here as Florida State's offensive coordinator, is the new head coach at Arizona State. [ PHIL SEARS | AP (2021) ]

The best head coaches are usually the best evaluators of players and assistants. Sunday was another reminder of how good Norvell is at the latter when Arizona State hired 32-year-old Kenny Dillingham as its head coach.

Before Dillingham was Oregon’s offensive coordinator, he was a Norvell assistant at FSU and Memphis. He becomes the fifth former Norvell assistant to become a head coach, joining Dan Lanning (Oregon), Ryan Silverfield (Memphis), Will Hall (Southern Miss) and Chris Ball (Northern Arizona). That list doesn’t include FSU offensive coordinator Alex Atkins, who was linked to openings at USF and Charlotte. That’s an impressive coaching tree for a 41-year-old.

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