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Front-Runner: Capel

Anyone who can't read the tea leaves and see that Jeff Capel is the front-runner for the South Carolina job is either like the current governor of New York (blind) or the former governor of New York (stupid).

First -- and pay attention here, Alabama and Texas A&M fans -- this is a non-denial denial:

Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said Tuesday he has had no contact with South Carolina about its coaching vacancy.

When asked during a radio interview whether he was going to USC, Capel answered: "Not that I know of; I can tell you that right now."

Uh, yeah. Of course he can tell us that right now. He's coaching his team in the NCAA tournament. He's not going anywhere right now -- or at least "not that (he) know(s) of." Of course, a few million dollars, a chance to move back to the East Coast...

That said, Capel also has a lot of reasons to stay where he is. But it also seems pretty clear that the search is moving in the general direction of someone like Capel.

What (AD Eric Hyman) came up with was a young, up-and-coming and energetic coach, preferably but not necessarily from a mid-major school. With that, he quietly has gone about his search.

But as he has, another part of the profile has emerged: Sources in the college basketball industry say USC is making a big effort to hire a minority coach. ...

Hyman has said little about specific candidates. But most of the apparent candidates are black.

That includes perceived front-runner Jeff Capel at Oklahoma, as well as Virginia Commonwealth’s Anthony Grant, who might be hard to get because he is reportedly the favorite at LSU. ...

Hyman hired a black men’s basketball coach at both of his previous stops, Miami of Ohio and Texas Christian. (Miami’s Charlie Coles remains on the job, but TCU’s Neil Daugherty was fired Monday after six seasons.)

C&F should make it clear here that by talking about someone like Capel, he's not merely referring to skin color. Capel is a young, energetic up-and-comer. And while Oklahoma is not a dump, it doesn't exactly tear up the Big XII on a regular basis, either.

Neither does South Carolina tear up the SEC, for that matter. Which is why C&F is not at all sure that Capel is bound for the Gamecocks.

That said, C&F likes the possibility of Capel the more he thinks about it. South Carolina has gone the veteran coach route often -- Holtz, Spurrier, Odom -- with decidedly mixed results. Hire the young guy who still has something to prove, which Capel undoubtedly does. (Two NCAA berths does not a lasting legacy make.) Let him stay for a few years and build the program.

One can hope, anyway.