COLUMBIA, S.C.— Will Muschamp is embracing all the lofty expectations he faces in his new job at South Carolina. They are the same championship aspirations that led to his firing at Florida.
Muschamp promised to again strive for the very best in his second go-round as a Southeastern Conference coach when he was introduced to the Gamecock community after university trustees approved his 5-year, $16 million contract earlier Monday morning.
"The ceiling is limitless," Muschamp said of his new surroundings at South Carolina. "We're about winning championships here."
It was that same enthusiastic approach that helped him land the Gators' job before the 2011 season. After a promising start — he was 18-8 his first two seasons — Muschamp's program fell to 10-13 his last two years and he was dismissed amid growing unrest from Florida fans.
"We left the program much better than we inherited it. It didn't end the way we wanted to," he said of Florida, which won the SEC East this year.
Muschamp, who hopes to bring that direction and energy to a South Carolina team that had significantly slipped from its three straight 11-win seasons from 2011-2013 under Steve Spurrier.
The Gamecocks were 10-15 the past two years. Spurrier left in mid-October, leaving interim coach Shawn Elliott to run out the string.
Elliott finished 1-5 including a loss to FCS opponent Citadel.
Muschamp won't set quick goals or plan for fast turnarounds — just improving his players daily to win on the field. He said Spurrier, another ex-Gator coach, had raised the level of expectations for the Gamecocks to compete for championships.
"That's going to happen," Muschamp said of competing for titles and winning championships, adding that he's not going to try and do it the way Spurrier did it.
"There's only one coach Spurrier," he said. "I need to be Will Muschamp."
The coach said he's better prepared for another opportunity in the competitive league.
"It's kind of like marriage," Muschamp said. "That first year, there's a little adjustment. By that fifth year, you're doing a little better."
South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner has heard on social media that Gamecock fans are mixed on Muschamp's hiring.
"We got our man. We've got a Gamecock," Tanner said. "Buckle up your seat belt and here we go."
Muschamp is getting a rare second opportunity to succeed in the SEC.
He was dismissed after losing to South Carolina last year, his offensively challenged Gators giving up a late lead and losing at The Swamp in overtime.
The fiery Muschamp led the Auburn defense this past fall. His most memorable moment may have come in the Iron Bowl last month as he yelled at officials loud enough to draw a 15-yard penalty. Auburn personnel had to hold Muschamp back during the tirade.
Muschamp knows he needs to tone things down on game day. He and Tanner discussed that issue during their interview.
Then again, maybe the Gamecocks could use a little fire after the season they've had.
Muschamp met with players earlier Monday and told them to put aside the struggling seasons and commit to the new program.
"The players I think really warmed up to that," he said.
Muschamp will have major input into the defense — "You play to your strengths," he says — and special teams. He'll also be his own recruiting coordinator.
Muschamp promised to field a competitive offensive staff that spreads things out, plays quickly and scores points.
"The more times you snap it, the better chance you have to score," he said. "I have figured that out."
Muschamp's contract pays him $3 million in the first year, increases each year after by $100,000 and contains a variety of incentives that could net him another $1 million.
The deal also includes a buyout on a sliding scale. If Muschamp leaves in the first of the contract, he would have to pay the school $7 million; if he left in the final year of the deal, he would owe South Carolina $3 million.