While Alabama was in a hurry to fire Mike Shula, they’re apparently taking their time in finding his replacement.
The process of finding Alabama’s next football coach is in motion and school officials are setting sights on targets. That includes South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who is a viable candidate at this point, according to sources familiar with the search process. But sources are also stressing that the search will be a tedious process that will be conducted without close attention to the calendar. The emphasis is finding the right coach to replace Mike Shula – even it if takes perhaps as long as two weeks.
Bottom line, though, is that the early stages of the search hasn’t narrowed the field of candidates. Various sources said Tuesday that targets still include Spurrier, Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban, West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez and possibly Arkansas coach Houston Nutt.
Spurrier and Saban, obviously, are the two most electrifying names on the list. Each has won a national championship – Spurrier at Florida in 1996, Saban at LSU in 2003 – and each has carved a reputation as being among the nation’s best coaches.
Spurrier is in his second season at South Carolina, where he has led the Gamecocks to back-to-back seven-win seasons. But he has expressed frustration at times with South Carolina fans, chastising fans after a 24-17 loss to Auburn for applauding the team’s effort in defeat. Fans should not be happy with a near-upset, Spurrier said at the time. One possible drawback to Spurrier may well be his age. He will be 62 by next season.
Rodriguez is another strong candidate, sources said Tuesday. Beyond Spurrier and Saban, he perhaps most closely meets Moore’s criteria of hiring a proven championship head coach. While Rodriguez has also received early feelers from Alabama, he is also expected to be contacted for more extensive talks. West Virginia ends its regular season Saturday against Rutgers.
Rodriguez has led the Mountaineers to three straight Big East Conference titles and had West Virginia in position for an at-large BCS invitation until last Saturday’s 24-19 upset loss to South Florida. Rodriguez is 93-60-2 as a head coach, including stops at Salem and Glenville State. As the coach at his alma mater West Virginia, Rodriguez is 47-24 and is considered an innovator in the spread offense. He led the Mountaineers to an 11-1 record last season, including a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia.
Issuing statements of non-interest in the Alabama job on Tuesday were Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino and South Florida coach Jim Leavitt. Also considered possible candidates are Jim Grobe at Wake Forest and Paul Johnson at Navy.
This early in the process, two weeks is plenty of time. The only vacancy of comparable stature is Miami’s and there are plenty of great candidates out there.
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