USC Soccer Coach Research Update: Now is the Crunch


We’ve been reviewing the search for USC head coaches every week since Clay Helton’s sack in mid-September. We spent two and a half months guessing and speculating (because that’s what it is). We spent the season telling you how events would play out if this coach was interested in a job or if this athletic director thought he could run at a coach.

Many “ifs” have guided this process. Guess what? We still live in this reality.

We still don’t know what Matt Campbell and Dave Aranda are thinking. Staff at Iowa State 247 Sports believe Campbell turned down USC, but that’s just a “sense of the situation,” not a rock-solid fact.

We know Baylor is in the process of working out a new deal for Dave Aranda, but Aranda – as of Sunday morning – has not signed a new deal and has a game to plan this Saturday, December 4th. Until Aranda signs this contract, he is not excluded from USC.

Mike Bohn knows more than we do about the status of this coach search at USC, and he’s keeping his cards close to the waistcoat, as he necessarily should. We have reached the final stage of the carousel, when decisions will be made and DAs such as Bohn must pivot with great agility to the next option if a door closes. If Campbell and Aranda say “no thanks” to Mike Bohn, Bohn will have to consider candidates he never expected to see.

It’s a very tense time at USC. It’s time to take a final look at the list of candidates this season, before the game of chess and the signing of contracts unfold:

1. MATT CAMPBELL

Until we get a more direct and public indication that Campbell has turned down USC, he’s still on the line and the first option for Mike Bohn under the circumstances. If he turned down Mike Bohn, USC AD should look to the second candidate below:

2. DAVE ARANDA

If Campbell says no this week and Aranda doesn’t sign a contract extension with Baylor by next Sunday morning, he will be available for a job interview. Bohn would have to wait a week and drop Aranda’s socks with a competitive offer. He would also need to hope that LSU did not have Aranda as the lead candidate.

3. BILLY NAPIER

Head Coach Billy Napier at the Vermilion and White Spring football game. Thursday April 22, 2021.

Napier is believed to be the favorite in Florida. If negotiations fail in Gainesville and Napier remains in the open market, this is probably the best place for Bohn to see if Campbell and Aranda turn him down.

Key Point: A lot of people thought Napier was looking for LSU’s job. The fact that he is considering Florida would indicate that he has never been as attached to the state of Louisiana as previously thought. If he’s in the mix in Florida, he can be in the mix at USC. If the Gators don’t land it, the Trojans can.

4. JEFF HAFLEY

November 28, 2020; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, United States; Boston College Eagles head coach Jeff Hafley during the first half against the Louisville Cardinals at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

People will say – and rightly so – that Boston College was just destroyed by Wake Forest. Yes. Recall that BC did not have a healthy Phil Jurkovec quarterback this season. As soon as he got injured, Boston College – which had a lot of potential this year – gave up all hope of being an ACC contender. It was brutal bad luck for Hafley, but he was a rock star recruiter at Ohio State who greatly improved the Buckeyes’ defense.

Obviously, USC fans want Campbell or Aranda. If they can’t get one of those two guys, trust me: Hafley is a much better alternative than a lot of other possible candidates. The injury situation at Boston College just didn’t allow us to see what Hafley can do with a full roster.

5. JIM LEONHARD (WITH DAN MULLEN AS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR)

Wisconsin lost to Minnesota, with the Badgers’ offense collapsing and scoring just 13 points. The Wisconsin defense did its part but received no offensive help. Leonhard’s defense has allowed less than 20 touchdowns this season. Because Wisconsin lost in Week 13, the Badgers won’t have a game this weekend. They will not play in the Big Ten Championship Game; Iowa will face Michigan.

This is the creative plan Mike Bohn should consider if Campbell and Aranda turn it down. Hire two strong coordinators. Tell them to handle their sides of the ball. Keep Donte Williams on your team as a rock star defensive recruiter. Find an offensive recruiter of similar ability. It’s a patchwork plan and not the industry standard, but it’s a better plan than hiring, say, Justin Wilcox or Joe Moorhead or Tony Elliott.

6. NO, NOT PETE CARROLL

PASADENA, CA – JANUARY 01: USC Trojans head coach Pete Carroll, center, watches USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian chats with # 10 quarterback John David Booty during a break in the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at the Rose Bowl presented by Citi at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2008 in Pasadena, California. The Trojans defeated the Illini 40-17. (Photo by Jeff Gross / Getty Images)

Pete Carroll will always be a USC legend, but his run is over. He reigned in both the Pac-12 and the NFL. He’s accomplished so much… but it’s over. He must retire from training. USC shouldn’t consider it. Period.

7. NO, NOT LANE KIFFIN

September 28, 2013; Tempe, Arizona, United States; USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin reacts during the first half against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

I understand, and it’s not a terrible thought process: Lane Kiffin is a much better coach these days. He just won 10 games at Ole Miss. He grew up. Why not bring him back to LA?

Be aware that SEC West was not very good this year. LSU was down. Auburn was down. Texas A&M was down. Alabama wasn’t even that great. Kiffin jumped at the chance.

I’d be a lot more inclined to consider Kiffin if this 10-2 season – still a tremendous accomplishment, don’t get me wrong – had happened in a much tougher version of SEC West. This division has struggled this year. Ole Miss gave Arkansas 51 points and still got run over by Bama, even in a year when the tide was choppy.

Could Lane Kiffin work in a return to USC? Yes. However, I would need to be sure he would hit him out of the park. The emotional exhaustion attached to a rocky Kiffin rehearsal would be unbearable.

Also: I think Kiffin enjoys coaching in the SEC and the South. It’s good that he’s not in the USC fishbowl.

Like a divorce that leads to the making of new relationships for both halves of a couple, Kiffin has found love elsewhere. It’s time for USC to do the same.


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