USF’s Sterlin Gilbert headed to McNeese State

The widely criticized Bulls offensive coordinator is wrapping up his second season in Tampa
USF offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert just finished his second regular season in Tampa. [Times file photo]
USF offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert just finished his second regular season in Tampa. [Times file photo]
Published Dec. 5, 2018|Updated Dec. 6, 2018

TAMPA — Beleaguered USF second-year offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert has been hired as coach at McNeese State, the Division I-AA program announced Wednesday night.

He'll be introduced at a press conference Friday at noon EST. He's not expected to remain with USF through the Gasparilla Bowl, and there was no immediate word on who would call the plays for the Bulls in that Dec. 20 contest.

"There is no question that Sterlin Gilbert is one of the premiere coaches in the country," Dr. Daryl Burckel," McNeese president, said in a statement released by the school.

"But most importantly, his character and commitment to bringing out the best qualities in his players was a constant theme during the vetting process. I am excited that we are beginning a new era for McNeese football."

Gilbert, 40, was selected over an applicant list that reportedly numbered more than 100. He has been the lightning rod of Bulls fans' ire during their five-game losing streak, criticized primarily for predictable run schemes and a lack of overall diversity.

A former graduate assistant to Art Briles at Houston, he arrived from Texas with Bulls coach Charlie Strong, installing a veer-and-shoot system with a breakneck tempo, option routes for receivers and a power-run philosophy.

It played to mixed reviews in 2017 as USF finished sixth nationally in total offense (513.0 ypg) and eighth in rushing (264.1 ypg), though Gilbert frequently was criticized for under-utilizing QB Quinton Flowers.

This year, USF (7-5) ranks fifth in the American Athletic Conference in total offense (444.2 ypg) but has averaged 19.8 points during its skid, a stretch in which QB Blake Barnett (2,806 total yards) and TE Mitch Wilcox (40 receptions, 506 yards) haven't been totally healthy.

The 10 points it scored two weeks ago against UCF were its fewest since a shutout loss to the Knights to end the 2014 season. At least one "Fire Gilbert" banner was hoisted in the Raymond James Stadium seats during the game.

Amid the fan unrest, Gilbert's USF contract was set to quadruple — from $100,000 to $400,000 — on Jan. 1.

Gilbert replaces Lance Guidry, whose contract wasn't renewed after a 6-5 season in which the Cowboys dropped four of their last five games. Guidry was 21-12 in three years.