“It’s Done”: Dean of Arkansas Sports Talk Sound Offs on Eric Musselman as Next USC Basketball Coach

Eric Musselman

In theory, there is a universe where Eric Musselman tries to come back to Arkansas instead becoming the the next head coach of the USC basketball program.

Since today USC announced Musselman as its next head coach, we can assume the 59-year-old’s interview with USC athletic director Jennifer Cohen on Wednesday went well. The Trojan boosters are apparently ready to open up the coffers on the NIL front, a sticking point that reportedly played a big role in former Trojan head man Andy Enfield’s decision to head to SMU and that program’s more financially generous support.

Ryan Kjarte, a USC beat writer, speculates that USC would have needed to offer a contract that puts Musselman into the Top 10 nationally after coming in 12th with a $4.245 million salary this past year.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Richard Davenport Tweeted his own estimate that the offer would need to be “5.2 to 6 mil a year to help offset cost living increase. LA median home sale price: 926K, Fayetteville 332.5K. Would also have to think the money for coaching and support staffs would have to be quite bit more than what Muss has at Arkansas.” Food is generally more expensive in the LA area too, although the price for the best mobile payment methods stays about the same.

As unlikely as it seems, maybe Musselman will see something in the USC culture once he’s on campus for a day or two that spooks him. Certainly, something along those lines happened with Dana Altman, who returned to Creighton after a one-day stint as the Arkansas basketball coach in 2007. He had an introductory press conference and everything.

Yes, theoretically, this kind of thing could happen.

Just don’t bet on it, says Randy Rainwater, co-host of The Buzz 103.7 FM’s Drivetime Sports.

UPDATE. See our latest on the next step for Arkansas here:

Die is Cast with Eric Musselman and USC Basketball

“It’s done,” he said to his co-host Rick Schaeffer on a recent show. “You don’t go and interview [and come back]. It’s just a matter of crossing T’s, dotting I’s, and making sure that everyone sees from the same view, the same page, all that other stuff.”

Certainly, those who who are behind the creation of this USC basketball variation of the “Muss Bus” agree the writing is clearly on the wall.

Rainwater, who at this point is pretty much the dean of Arkansas sports talk radio, has discussed these kinds of ebbs and flows from Razorback coaches through his decades in the central Arkansas broadcasting business dating back to the 1980s.

Sure, as was the case with Altman, sometimes the coach does return after an open dalliance with another school. Just look at Houston Nutt, the Arkansas football coach from 1998 through 2007. After the 2003 season, Nebraska went after Nutt hard, offering him a $2 million annual contract that amounted to about a 250% raise from what he’d been making at Arkansas.

Nutt said he was flattered by the offer (which did lead to a counter offer by Arkansas that doubled his salary), but couldn’t accept it because he felt like he would leave a job unfinished in Fayetteville and “my heart was here.”

The same, it seems, cannot be said of Musselman at this point, given he’s apparently been looking for a way out in each offseason since 2021. That’s according to Arkansas basketball reporter Kevin McPherson, who went into depth on the matter on his latest Hogville livestream.

McPherson added in recent months Musselman ramped up his efforts at putting out feelers and seeking another job. This apparently began even before things turned south in the Razorbacks’ season. It isn’t known why this is the case, but some chatter around those in the know point to issues around NIL funds that might have played a role in Arkansas’ inability to land talent in the late spring and summer of 2023.

Arkansas Basketball and NIL Issues

Specifically, Arkansas missed out in landing top high school recruit Ron Holland, who opted for the G-League. They also whiffed on top transfer recruit Grant Nelson, who instead landed at Alabama and has helped lead them to a Final Four. Finally, Arkansas wasn’t able to keep Jordan Walsh from jumping to the NBA after his freshman season even though he was far from a first-round draft pick.

On his show, McPherson noted “some of the NIL stuff and some of the cloudy stuff about that started kind of seeping through around that time. And I think Arkansas tried to get some of that corrected in some of those recruiting moments, and it was just too late. And then it’s just been a continual problem based on what I’ve been told from people who are directly impacted by it.”

Part of the issues here involve the amount of NIL funds available to land big-time recruits. Two years ago, the Arkansas basketball program had no problem doing that when it signed three five-star recruits in Walsh, Nick Smith and Anthony Black. But this past season they whiffed on Holland and the equivalent of a five-star out of the portal in Grant Nelson. Yes, Khalif Battle played at that five-star equivalent level at the end of the season and Mark did here and there as well, but no matter how you shake it, the talent has been on the decline in Fayetteville.

“It might be that NIL was in a good place for basketball two or three years ago, but it stayed in that same place while other programs are getting more,” longtime Arkansas reporter Clay Henry said on Hit That Line’s “Halftime” show.

This is something to monitor for the next Arkansas basketball coach, too. There’s no way Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek would be able to convince someone established like Chris Beard to jump ship from their current school without ensuring whatever NIL issues hampered Eric Musselman’s ability to get big talent last off-season are resolved. In other words, Yurachek must make sure boosters are on board with shelling out on the NIL front as well as whatever multi-million dollar buyout is due to the other school.

Arkansas Basketball Fans Do Something Rare

It’s quite rare to see a majority of fans of a once-beloved coach change their tune so quickly without a scandal breaking. “I haven’t seen too many cases where a fan base appears to have flipped on a coach this quickly – after one bad year,” college basketball insider Jeff Goodman Tweeted. “Guy did make the program nationally relevant again.”

In this case, it’s not so much the one bad year. It’s the more the open publicizing of all Eric Musselman’s looking for an “out” over the course of the last three years — something that had long been discussed on message boards – that has caused more damage in terms of public perception. That and the frayed in-state recruiting ties and NIL issues (or at least to the extent those were Musselman’s fault), as our own Brandon Baker points out.

In the end, Musselman leaving after a few seasons is no surprise, given his history of staying for even less time at previous stops before seeking a new challenge. It’s even less of a surprise that he would want to land back in Southern California given his extensive ties to the area.

From a fan’s standpoint, there’s little reason to wish Musselman ill will. While he was here, he worked with extreme intensity and helped make the position once again a premier job in the college coaching landscape. After Mike Anderson’s stint, Musselman’s tenure marks the second time in a row that a coach has left the Arkansas basketball program in better shape than when he arrived.

“Be thankful for what Eric Musselman did at Arkansas, he gave the Razorbacks basketball excellence that they have not experienced in quite some time,” Randy Rainwater said. “So nobody should be mad, upset or anything else that he’s going.”


See our latest on the next Arkansas basketball coach here:

Some USC Basketball Fans Not 100% Sold

In light of Arkansas’ struggles in the SEC these last two seasons, some Razorback fans have become disillusioned by Eric Musselman’s strategy of relying on players who stay for only a season and his inability to keep in-state talent like Layden Blocker and Derrian Ford around for more than a year.

That tendency, which is likely related to Musselman’s high-octane, demanding style, concerns some USC basketball fans.

“A big part of cheering on our teams is watching players develop and improve… getting to know them over 3 or 4 years…think Drew, Boogie, Kobe, Josh Morgan…Jonah Matthews,” MattB4SC wrote on the USCBasketball.com a couple days ago.

“Yes, the portal is vital these days and we need to fill holes by getting guys out of there but do we really want a rebuilt team each year basically filled with one and dones…”

“If Musselman is hired I will be happy and wish him the best but there are definitely other coaches I would prefer… someone a little younger with the potential for some longevity in our program and who recruits well from the HS ranks and knows how to use the portal.”


“Casting a wide net in recruiting? He was casting a wide net in trying to be recruited.” McPherson delves deeper in Musselman’s amped-up attempts to leave Arkansas starting at 38:30 below:

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