The real drama began over the weekend when Dan McCarney, the one time Iowa State head coach and current USF assistant, was offered the job and accepted it. A short time later he called to withdraw his acceptance. Rumors indicate that he may have offers to join the staffs at Florida or Wisconsin and that a family situation may make that necessary.
After this episode, USA officials contacted the candidate who had run an extremely close second to McCarney, Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. Steele and USA were involved in negotiations when Steele engaged an agent in the middle of the process. The agent proved difficult to work with and apparently Steele would no longer speak directly with USA officials. Frustrated by this development and doubtful of satisfying Steele's (or his agent's) demands, USA informed Steele that they would not be hiring him as head coach.
So, where does that leave USA now? Former Marshall coach Bob Pruett had gotten a recent interview and had done well but apparently his candidacy has not advanced. Joey Jones, Mobile native and Birmingham Southern coach, has stayed in the mix and apparently will get another interview in the next few days.
The newest entry into the race is James Madison head coach Mickey Mathews. Mathews' resume includes a Division 1AA national championship at JMU and productive years at Marshall and Georgia as an assistant under Jim Donnan. While Mathews was at Marshall, the Thundering Herd transitioned from 1AA to 1A football, experience that might be applicable to the circumstances to be faced at South Alabama. Apparently it is Mathews' relationship to Jim Donnan that has led to Mathews' candidacy. Donnan has been advising the search committee because of his friendship with Mike Gottfried and it was he that suggested Mathews and USA should talk. That conversation happened on Wednesday afternoon and an official interview has been scheduled for Sunday.
While South Alabama fans are probably disappointed that the announcement of the new coach will not happen on Thursday as was recently expected, they can rest assured that the search committee is handling the challenges of this task very well. It is not important that USA gets the coach fast, just that they get the coach right.
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