The college football coaching carousel typically launches around Thanksgiving weekend when the non-bowl teams see the conclusion of their season. Firings are finalized, hirings are made throughout the early portion of December, and by the time January arrives, all vacancies are fulfilled.
But in January 2024, things are different due to one bombshell announcement. Seven-time national champion head coach Nick Saban officially put a bow on his legendary tenure at Alabama last Wednesday, and it manufactured an entirely new offseason carousel. Washington and Arizona are among the affected programs, and next on the list is South Alabama.
In a surprising twist of events, South Alabama’s Kane Wommack left his head coaching role to become defensive coordinator on Kalen DeBoer’s new staff at Alabama, as first reported by Chris Low of ESPN. Although head coaches accepting positions as coordinators is rare, it’s not entirely unprecedented. Sean Lewis left a head coaching role at Kent State last offseason to become Colorado’s offensive coordinator, although he leveraged his success in that role to land the San Diego State head coach position for 2024. Former Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos completed a similar move, departing from the MAC to serve as Arkansas’ offensive coordinator in 2015.
Wommack spent three seasons at South Alabama, guiding the program to its most successful stretch since joining the FBS in 2012. He finished 22-16 and became the first coach in history to lead the Jaguars to consecutive bowl appearances. Wommack’s final game as South Alabama’s head coach was a significant one, leading the Jaguars to a 59-10 rout of Eastern Michigan for their first bowl win ever — capping a 7-6 campaign. One year prior in 2022, he produced the first winning season since South Alabama joined the FBS by compiling a 10-3 record.
At Alabama, Wommack reunites with the recently hired DeBoer. The two shared the same staff at Indiana in 2019 where Wommack operated as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach while DeBoer served as the offensive coordinator. The former South Alabama head coach replaces the Crimson Tide’s 2023 defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, who retired from coaching after a 44-year career in the business.
What’s next for South Alabama after this unexpected mid-January coaching vacancy? One possible move involves promoting offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, who exhibits the two full seasons of head coaching experience. Applewhite was the frontman at Houston in 2017 and 2018, guiding the Cougars to two winning seasons and a pair of bowl appearances. Under Applewhite’s direction, South Alabama recorded top 30 marks in scoring offense and yards per game for the first time in program history last season.
The Jaguars will officially begin a new era under a new head coach Aug. 31 when they host North Texas in Mobile, AL.