So far, the South Carolina Gamecocks' coaching search has seemingly centered around three names: Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Memphis head coach Justin Fuente, and Houston first-year head coach Tom Herman. All three have seen success in their own way. Smart led the Crimson Tide defense during its three national championships in four years (2009, 2011 and 2012). Fuente has turned around a Tigers program that only won ten games from 2010-2013 and has developed it into one of the top teams in the American Athletic Conference. Herman parlayed a College Football Playoff National Championship as Ohio State's offensive coordinator last year into a gig with Houston, where he has started 6-0 and has his team in line for its first conference championship since 2006, when it was a member of Conference USA.
Here's what the top three candidates are making this year and how much their buyouts would be.
Kirby Smart - $1.5 million
$1.5 million is a lot for an assistant, and in fact, it's the most for an assistant coach, tied with LSU's Cam Cameron and Texas A&M's John Chavis (Chavis will be making $500,000 more next year), and a few thousand ahead of Virginia Tech defensive coordinator (and Hokies head coach in waiting?) Bud Foster ($1.369M, $800K annuitized). His buyout would only be $72,000, an amount the University of South Carolina would gladly send Alabama's way. Let's put Smart's salary in perspective: As an assistant, he makes more than about half of the current FBS head coaches, and a million dollars more than...
Justin Fuente - $1.4 million
Fuente received a bump in pay following the conclusion of the 2014 season after leading the Tigers to a share of The American title and a shootout victory over BYU in the Miami Beach Bowl. If the Gamecocks were to make a play and end up grabbing him, Fuente's buyout would be only $500,000, much more than Smart's - but bear in mind that Smart's an assistant.
Tom Herman - $1.45 million
Herman got a five-year, $6.75 million deal (with various other incentives) to come over from Columbus to lead the 21st-ranked Cougars, who look like they're about to climb to 7-0 with a game against UCF coming up on Saturday. (By the way, they play Fuente and Memphis on November 14.) Here's another number for you: $2,250,000. That's Herman's buyout. Forty-six FBS head coaches are making at least that this year alone. It's evident that the University of Houston wants to protect itself in case he turns out to be successful (which, so far, he is) and in case, I don't know, a team - let's say in the Southeastern Conference - may want him to take over for their recently resigned head coach.