Waving Goodbye to Coach Number Five

Blame it on Nick Saban. Ever since he signed a $4 million a year contract to take over at Alabama two years ago, salaries in college football in general and in the SEC specifically have been skyrocketing. Robert Gillespie was USC's lowest paid coach until he accepted an offer to take an identical position at Oklahoma State – for a substantial raise. He becomes the fifth coach to leave USC.

Steve Spurrier has been an impressive recruiter for South Carolina this year. In addition to putting together a solid recruiting class, he has hired four coaches that together seem to bring a substantial upgrade to the program over the coaches they are replacing. Now he has to replace one more.

Running backs coach Robert Gillespie is leaving Columbia to take an identical position at Oklahoma State, albeit with a reported substantial pay raise. The 29 year old Gillespie was the youngest and lowest paid coach on the USC football staff, making $95,000 a year. The State newspaper reports that Gillespie is expected to "receive a two-year rollover contract at a higher salary" at Oklahoma State. He had a one year contract at USC, which has been the standard for non-coordinator assistant coaches.

He joins offensive line coach John Hunt, who was fired the day after the Clemson game, Ron Cooper, the defensive backs coach who left for LSU, and quarterbacks coach David Reaves and strength coach Mark Smith, who left to join the new staff at Tennessee. Hunt remains unemployed, but all the others have received substantial pay raises at their new schools.

Cooper almost doubled his salary by his move to Baton Rouge. He received a three-year deal at LSU believed to be worth about $300,000 a year. His one-year contract at USC was worth $175,000. Reaves earned $126,000 this last year at South Carolina and will earn $150,000 at UT. Smith will earn $190,000, a $50,000 increase over his USC salary.

The new coaches at South Carolina have also received substantial increase over the salaries paid to their predecessors. Lorenzo Ward is the latest hire, lured from Arkansas by a nice raise, a multi-year guaranteed contract and the title of defensive coordinator. Ellis Johnson became assistant head coach to enable Ward to gain the coordinator title. The new USC coaches' salary amounts have not yet been released. Ward made $190,000 per year at Arkansas.

Eric Wolford came from Illinois to coach the offensive line, and also gained a coordinator title and multi-year contract by becoming the "running game coordinator." He held the same title at Illinois, but it is a new position at South Carolina.

G.A. Mangus rejoins his college coach Spurrier as the new quarterbacks coach, and Craig Fitzgerald comes south from Harvard and the Ivy League to replace Smith as the strength and conditioning coach.

Spurrier said the additions of Ward, Wolford, Mangus and Fitzgerald gave him "the most impressive staff I've been able to put together." Now he needs just one more upgrade.

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