The USC Trojans are reportedly prepared to fork over as much as $6 million to their next head football coach.
Athletic director Pat Haden is aiming to bring the school back to the days of head coach Pete Carroll, when the Trojans were perennial national title contenders and owned the Pac-12, according to an ESPN report.
The salary would be more than Alabama’s Nick Saban, and would be an enticing offer for any high-profile or established coach to consider.
The report specifically pegs Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin as the perfect embodiment of the young, energetic coach the Trojans are seeking. In two seasons, he has lifted the Aggies up the SEC with a 19-4 record and likely a second consecutive trip to a BCS game.
The 49-year-old also earned points for how he handled quarterback sensation and controversy lightning rod Johnny Manziel after the Heisman winner was accused of receiving improper benefits following his incredible freshman season.
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Manziel’s success and presumably Sumlin’s coaching have propelled A&M into a new recruiting stratosphere, assuring at least another two or three years of SEC dominance. That kind of success could force the Aggies hand to match any offer the Trojans give to Sumlin.
However, USC’s search is not a one-horse race, with interim head coach Ed Orgeron lifting the school to a 5-1 record and a previously unimaginable shot at the Pac-12 title game since taking over for Lane Kiffin back in September.
Publicly throwing his hat into the ring for the first time, Orgeron and the Trojans inspired victory over rival Stanford may have pushed him to the top of Haden’s short list
"What Ed has done has been absolutely remarkable," Haden said during a radio interview Tuesday. "He is clearly in our eyesight. We understand. It's not just the fans. We're sophisticated enough and know enough about this to understand the attributes that he has and he's a known quantity."
Other serious options for USC include interim Denver Broncos head coach Jack Del Rio, who reportedly sat down for an interview three weeks ago during Denver’s bye, as first reported by FOX Sports Jay Glazer. The interview process was likely stunted when Broncos head coach John Fox was forced to undergo heart surgery, thrusting Del Rio into Denver’s driver seat.
Assuming Fox’s role and Del Rio’s lauded history as a football and baseball player at USC only make him a more attractive candidate. But Del Rio’s thinking remains a serious question, and could ultimately force the Trojans to take a closer look at Sumlin or Orgeron.
Seen in the same vein as Sumlin as the rising superstar six weeks ago, Washington’s Steve Sarkisian has more than likely fallen off the radar. His Huskies have lost four of their lost six, all in the Pac-12.
Now in his fifth year, Sarkisian hasn’t lifted Washington any higher than third place in the conference and one win above .500.