Just two games into the season, USC decided to fire their head coach Clay Helton. They will now be in the market for a new coach as one of the most coveted jobs in the sport. Here are potential head coach candidates for the USC Trojans.
1. Luke Fickell
The rumors are already swirling around Luke Fickell. He has helped to elevate the Cincinnati football program in his time on campus. In his first season, he won just four games. Now, he has an overall record of 37-14 as a Bearcat. He had 11-win seasons in 2018 and 2019 and went undefeated in the regular season in 2020 before losing to Georgia in the Peach Bowl. So far this season, the Bearcats are 2-0 and are looking to crash the College Football Playoff.
There are a few obstacles in whether Fickell will take the USC job. He has turned other job opportunities down, including Tennessee and Michigan State, although the USC job is on another level. Cincinnati was just admitted to the Big 12 for the 2023 season, so if Fickell decides he wants to stay in the midwest, he could continue to coach at Cincinnati and still get to coach Power 5 football. The Trojans may need to make him an offer he can’t refuse.
2. Bob Stoops
After stepping swaying from the Oklahoma program, Stoops has joined on as an analyst for Fox Sports this season. Over his 18 seasons with Oklahoma, which concluded in 2016, he posted a 190-48 record and won a national championship. He stepped away from the game, but did announce a return to coaching in the XFL for the Dallas Renegades before the league filed for bankruptcy due to COVID.
USC would have to lure Stoops away from being an analyst, which is a very good job. Stoops recruited nationally for Oklahoma, but likely doesn’t have the same amount of connections on the west coast as he would in the state of Texas. Stoops can coach, but USC will have to gauge his interest in a return before giving him the job.
3. Matt Campbell
Campbell joins Fickell as two of the hottest active coaches on the market. He went 35-15 as the coach of Toledo, which earned him the Iowa State job. In 2016, his first year on the job at Iowa State, the team only won three games. He was able to really improve the program and they made the Big 12 Championship Game last season. In his time at Iowa State, he has a 36-29 record.
Although Iowa State doesn’t have a rich football history, Campbell has stayed committed to the program so far. It would take a good job and a good opportunity to lure him away from Ames, but USC could offer both. He showed he could get the most out of a program and with USC’s funding he would have a lot more resources. If he can recruit on the west coast, he can be a successful hire for the Trojans.
Another active coach that will get looked over is James Franklin. He started his head coaching career at Vanderbilt, where he posted a 24-15 record over three seasons. After posting some of the best seasons in recent memory for the Commodores, he moved on to Penn State. The Nittany Lions have recruited well and Franklin has posted a 62-28 record at the school.
Although he has accomplished great success at Penn State, he was rumored to be on the hot seat after only going 4-5 last season. If he feels it is time to make a move, he could take the USC job and start to build them back up just like he did at Penn State. The USC job wouldn’t take as much rebuilding and he could help grow it back to what the program was under Pete Carroll if he recruits well.
5. P.J. Fleck
For the last several years, Fleck has been one of the best coaches on the market. He started out at Western Michigan and went 30-22 during his time there. In his last season with the Broncos, went 13-1, only losing the Cotton Bowl to Wisconsin. He then took over the Minnesota job and has gone 27-20 during his five seasons there. In 2019, he was able to go 11-2 for one of the best Minnesota seasons in recent memory.
The 2020 season resulted in a 3-4 record for Fleck. With the highs of the 2019 season being over, Fleck may be considering a jump to a different school. He is another coach that has done well in situations where the funding hasn’t been the greatest. With his tendency to overperform, USC could take a chance on Fleck despite him not being a west coast guy.
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