Sports Outside the Beltway

Louisville Signs Tulsa’s Kragthorpe

Tulsa’s Jim Kragthorpe has agreed to replace Bobby Petrino as the head football coach at Louisville.

Louisville and Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe have agreed to terms on a five-year deal to become the next coach of the Cardinals, sources said Tuesday morning. The deal will pay Kragthorpe $1.1 million a year, according to an official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been completed.

Kragthorpe, who met with Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich on Tuesday in Tulsa, is expected to be introduced in Louisville on Tuesday afternoon. The Louisville Athletic Association’s board of directors was scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. ET and was expected to approve the hire.

Kragthorpe is 29-22 in four years at Tulsa after taking over a program that had lost 21 of its previous 22 games. The Golden Hurricane have been to three bowl games in Kragthorpe’s four years.

Louisville, which won the Big East and beat Wake Forest decisively in the Orange Bowl, acted quickly to replace Bobby Petrino, who left to coach the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

The football program is hosting prep players this weekend at a previously-planned recruiting event, and apparently already lost one prized recruit when quarterback Matt Simms — the brother of NFL quarterback Chris Simms and son of NFL great Phil Simms — reportedly said Monday he was withdrawing his oral commitment to Louisville.

While Cardinals running back Michael Bush announced he was entering the NFL draft on Tuesday, it remained to be seen if quarterback Brian Brohm could be persuaded to stay. Brohm, projected as a first-round draft pick by some experts, was expected to meet with Kragthorpe before deciding whether to return for his senior season or enter the draft.

Jurich and Kragthorpe have roots at Northern Arizona together. Jurich was the athletic director there in the late 1980s and early ’90s, and Kragthorpe was NAU’s quarterbacks coach from 1990-94.

Like Petrino, Kragthorpe has a track record as a strong quarterbacks coach and offensive tactician. He came to Tulsa after two years as the quarterbacks coach of the Buffalo Bills, and his Golden Hurricane teams have been prolific offensively.

While there’s always room for skepticism, as reports are wrong and coaches change their minds (witness Rich Rodriguez’ decision to stay at WVU rather than take the Bama job), but this looks like a done deal. Tulsa is a sports backwater and continuing to win there will be much harder than at Louisville.


Alabama Coaching Candidates Update

While Mal and the gang are still hoping to land Nick Saban, the list of candidates being bandied about in the press is ridiculously long. It seems that only Rich Rodriguez, Steve Spurrier, Barry Switzer, and myself have been eliminated from consideration at this point.


Free NFL Network (At least for Rutgers fans)

So, the new NFL Network granted reprieve to the faithful following of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, and will televise the game free to all those New Jersey folks pining to see their team take the field in the first-ever Texas Bowl on December 28th against Kansas State. For a while, it was nip-and-tuck, and no one was quite sure if they were going to have to find the local sports bar or locate someone who may be lucky enough to have this rare commodity.

Did anyone try to watch the game on Thanskgiving night? It was supposed to be broadcast to everyone, but when the game started, the NFL Network switched over to a documentary and all those turkey-eating football fanatics were left in the dark. The NFL Network, for all it’s hype, is only showing eight games this season, as well as a smattering of college bowl games. Did anyone tell the powers that be that there may be real football fans out there wanting to watch some of these late season battles?

Someone has got to be watching the store for the almighty league where they play for pay. At any rate, all you scarlet-wearing fans can breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the festivities as New Jersey will be proudly represented during Holiday bowl week in the state where everything is big.


Rodriguez staying at WVU

Not a done deal after all, apparantly (link to previous OTB coverage).

Rich Rodriguez is not taking that Alabama job after all.

Rich Rodriguez will remain the head coach at West Virginia, a team source confirmed to’s Pat Forde.

Rodriguez met with his team at 3 p.m. ET to inform them of the decision.

Rodriguez was a top candidate for the vacant job in Alabama, meeting with school officials this week. Alabama athletic director Mal Moore also confirmed that Rodriguez had removed himself from consideration for that job.

Wow. I thought the last word had been written on this one. I, for one, am glad to keep Rodriguez at WVU: I like him being in the Big East with Pittsburgh.

An article from a local paper titled Rodriguez Stays explains further:

Rich Rodriguez has spurned a multi-million dollar offer from the University of Alabama and will remain the head football coach at West Virginia University. Rodriguez made the announcement during a team meeting this afternoon. Players roared in approval upon hearing the news.

Numerous media outlets, including ESPN and many in Alabama, had stories over the past 18 hours citing sources within the Crimson Tide athletic department that claimed a verbal agreement had been reach between Rodriguez and Alabama officials to become the new coach at UA. But WVU officials made a counter offer to Rodriguez, who holds a 49-24 record in his six seasons leading the Mountaineers, and the 43-year-old from Grant Town, W.Va., agreed to the new extension on Friday. Details for the new contract were not yet revealed. A press conference will take place at the Puskar Center at 5:30 p.m.

Rodriguez reportedly had received a seven-year contract offer from the University of Alabama in the neighborhood of $2.1 million per year.

I’d hate to be a Crimson Tide fan right now – that’s got to be worse than someone turning you down. I was suprised that Coach Rodriguez had taken the job myself – it just didn’t seem like a good fit for him. My guess is that he used the ‘Bama offer to coax WVU into giving him a better offer. I think that he’d rather be at WVU, since he has a track record there, and is less likely to be fired like Mike Shula was.

So the Alabama coach search continues, and West Virginia fans can rejoice that they are not losing their highly successful coach.

One wonders how the media got this one so wrong – there must have been something to the rumors of Rodriguez signing, but it must not have been as finished as they said. I know I was shocked when I read the headlines about Rodriguez staying, wondering at first if they were old news that had been superceeded by the Alabama hiring job. I haven’t seen them get it this wrong in a while.

One wonders about the damage this may do to his reputation, though. Rodriguez told his team he wasn’t leaving, and then negotiated with another program. While he is ultimately staying, I wonder if he will lose any respect because of this.

UPDATE (James Joyner): Brandon apparently found the story right before I did; we both wound up posting the ESPN story. The substantive comments from my post:

A shame for Alabama but quite likely the right move by Rodriguez. I always think coaches who leave jobs at big-time programs they came up in, like Steve Spurrier and Florida, wind up regretting the move.

There are plenty of great candidates out there and, with Miami having stayed in house, Alabama will have its pick.

I should note, for those coming to this page without context, that I’m an Alabama graduate (PhD, 1995) and a big fan. But I’d be just as happy with Navy’s Paul Johnson or Wake’s Jim Grobe as with Rodriguez. And neither of them would be leaving their home to take the job.


Tide Hires Rich Rodriguez

It’s a done deal: Alabama has hired Rich Rodriguez as its next head football coach.

The Birmingham NewsIan Rapoport posted this at 8:09 pm Central last night:

University of Alabama officials and West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez have reached an agreement in principle for Rodriguez to become the Crimson Tide’s next head football coach, two sources close to the search told The Birmingham News tonight.

After Rodriguez’s representatives negotiated with Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore for most of today, Rodriguez has told Alabama officials he is ready to take the job offer he received this morning.

Sources close to the search said Rodriguez will make over $2 million per year with incentives and will have one of the highest-paid coaching staffs in the Southeastern Conference.

Paul Gattis of the Huntsville Times adds,

An official announcement is expected this morning. No news conference had been scheduled Thursday night.

The agreement comes 11 days after Mike Shula was fired after four seasons.

Rodriguez received a job offer from Alabama on Thursday morning. He and his wife, Rita, met with Alabama athletic director Mal Moore on Tuesday in New York while attending ceremonies surrounding the College Football Hall of Fame inductions.

Rodriguez, 42, is leaving his alma mater and his home state. He is a native of Grant Town, W.Va., and his wife is a native of Jane Lew, W.Va.

Known as “Coach Rod” in his home state, Rodriguez is an offensive innovator who will be expected to put a lot of points on the scoreboard each Saturday. His Mountaineer teams featured a no-huddle, spread offense that still emphasizes the running game.


Rodriguez’s assistant head coach is offensive line coach Rick Trickett, who coached at Auburn University under Terry Bowden from 1993 to 1998. It’s common for assistant coaches to follow the head coach to new jobs.

Brian McAlister posts this brief bio at Tide Corner:

Rich Rodriguez was born on May 24, 1963 in Grant Town, West Virginia.

Rodriguez played defensive back for West Virginia from 1981-84, recording 54 career tackles before graduating in 1986. He then served as a student assistant coach at West Virginia, defensive coordinator and head coach at Salem College, head coach at Glenville State College, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Tommy Bowden at Tulane and Clemson, before taking over as West Virginia’s head coach in 2000.

His overall record as a head coach is 84-58-2, 49-24 at West Virginia through the 2006 regular season.

Rodriguez is considered the pioneer/creator of the spread option offense. Every year, offensive coaching staffs from around the country have come to West Virginia to see how Rodriguez keeps his team one step ahead of defenses.

When Bear Bryant came to Alabama from Texas A&M in 1956, he famously said he was “comin’ home to Mama.” Rodriguez is doing the opposite, leaving the place he and his wife were born and raised and a program for which he played and has built into a national power. It’s an interesting move and I hope one he does not come to regret.

Rodriguez is WVU’s Bear Bryant:

Steve Harold, who used to work with Rodriguez at Glenville State in West Virginia, predicted Thursday night the state would be “shocked and upset” by the news. “I know a lot of people in my county have said if he leaves, they’re canceling their tickets. They won’t go to the games,” Harold said. “You walk into a grocery store anywhere here and you see cardboard, stand-up posters of Rich Rodriguez. He’s kind of become the face of the state.”

There are a lot of advantages to being at Alabama, even though West Virginia is the better program right now. Its supporters are fanatical and nobody is going to say No to him if he asks for more money for the coaching staff or new facilities. But he had a job for life at WVU. As Mike Shula discovered, it’s “What have you done for me lately?” at Alabama.


Rich Rodriguez Offered Alabama Job

Rich Rodriguez has reportedly been offered the opportunity to be the next man to try to replace Bear Bryant at Alabama.

West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez has an offer to become the next head football coach at the University of Alabama, sources close to the hiring process told the Press-Register today. The offer from Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore to replace the fired Mike Shula was made this morning.

Terms of the contract offer were not made available, but multiple sources familiar with the situation said it is in the neighborhood of the most lucrative in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville is the highest paid coach in the SEC with an annual salary of $2.2 million. That is double the $1.1 million Rodriguez currently makes per season.

Rodriguez is considering the offer, according to the sources. He was scheduled to fly to Jacksonville, Fla., today for a Gator Bowl function. A West Virginia official said the flight was scheduled to leave Morgantown at 11:30 a.m. Central Standard Time.

His answer is expected soon, perhaps as early as today. He did not immediately return a call from the Press-Register.

Meanwhile, the Mountaineers are desperately trying to convince him to stay: “West Virginia University is spending millions of dollars to upgrade its football facilities to ensure that coach Rich Rodriguez stays in Morgantown.”

UPDATE: ESPN’s Ivan Maisel reports that Miami might be getting into the mix, too.

The pace of negotiations between Alabama and West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez is forcing Miami to decide deciding how badly it wants to pursue him. Miami athletic director Paul Dee has been told that if he is interested in hiring Rodriguez that he needs to make a contract offer as soon as possible, a source with direct knowledge of the negotiation said Thursday morning.

Dee received permission from West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong to speak with Rodriguez only Wednesday. However, Rodriguez has been adamant with both schools that he does not want this process to drag out. When a representative of Miami contacted Rodriguez to set up an interview, the coach asked to get an offer on the table, the source said.

Alabama, meanwhile, has not made an offer to Rodriguez yet. Athletic director Mal Moore encountered some delays in returning to Tuscaloosa from New York on Wednesday. Upon landing on Wednesday afternoon, according to The Tuscaloosa News, Moore said, “Both sides are working.”

If true, this obviously gives Rodriguez more leverage. Miami is almost certainly the more attractive position, given their recruiting base.

Regardless, there are at least half a dozen first rate candidates out there and Rodriguez is by no means a clear standout among them. There’s no reason for either Miami or Alabama to make a hasty decision.


Rich Rodriguez Likely to Be Offered Alabama Job

The Birmingham News reports that the Alabama job is Rich Rodriguez’ if he wants it.

If West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez wants the Alabama head football coaching job, UA officials were prepared to offer it to him, three sources close to the search said Tuesday.

ESPN is reporting that things are not quite that close.

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez termed his meeting Tuesday with Alabama athletic director Mal Moore in New York as “informal” and tried to lower expectations that anything substantive occurred. However, Alabama will make a decision whether to offer Rodriguez the job within the next 72 hours, a source with knowledge of the discussion told’s Ivan Maisel Tuesday night.

My hope is that Maisel is right. Rodriguez is likely a good hire: A proven coach with more experience than anyone hired by the Tide since Gene Stallings. Still, the school should at least take the opportunity to interview two or three candidates to be sure they’re getting the right guy. There’s no real rush here, as the only other comparable opening right now is the Miami gig. Unless they’re both bidding for the same guy, they should take their time.


Greg Schiano not interested in University of Miami job

From AP-

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers coach Greg Schiano will stay with the school he led to national prominence this season, rather than return to take over the troubled Miami program.

“This is where I want to be. This is the job I want to have,” Schiano said Monday.

Schiano, who was Miami’s defensive coordinator in 1999 and 2000, said he spoke with the Hurricanes’ athletic director Sunday night.

“We’re just scratching the surface here at Rutgers,” Schiano said. “The sky’s the limit. We’re going to do great things here. We haven’t done it yet.”

Schiano has orchestrated No. 16 Rutgers’ rise from one of the nation’s lowliest programs in the past six seasons.

If I were the U of M, I’d hire defensive coordinator Randy Shannon. Something tells me an outside coach will be hired. Much like when Tom Olivadotti was passed over for then obscure Jimmy Johnson in 1984.

Your guess is as good as mine at present.

UPDATE: AP has a few more details.

Schiano has orchestrated No. 16 Rutgers’ rise from one of the nation’s lowliest programs in the past six seasons. At 10-2 (5-2 Big East), the Scarlet Knights are heading to a Texas Bowl matchup against Kansas State. Rutgers narrowly missed the Bowl Championship Series by losing Saturday night in triple overtime at West Virginia. “We’re just scratching the surface here at Rutgers,” Schiano said. “The sky’s the limit. We’re going to do great things here. We haven’t done it yet.”

Last year, Schiano led Rutgers to its first winning season (7-5) since 1992, and its first bowl berth since 1978.

Schiano did not discuss his current contract and declined to say whether he was signing a new one. He made $191,000 last year before athletic director Robert Mulcahy gave him a seven-year extension that will max out at $350,000 — but only if he stays until 2012. The extension raised Schiano’s annual income from private sources from $325,000 to $625,000.

That’s a terrific income by any standards, although a tiny fraction of what he could get at Miami (or Alabama). From a purely professional standpoint, this is an inexplicable move: Coaches are supposed to climb the ladder, always taking an obviously more prominent gig. There’s simply no doubt that Miami–arguably the dominant program of the last generation–is light years ahead of Rutgers, a team that has spent many a year in the I-A cellar.

Still, Miami is a no-win situation while he’s already a minor legend at Rutgers. He could stay at Rutgers for years going 6-6; that’s a firing offense at Miami.


Bama Taking Time in Coaching Search

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.


Candidates for Alabama Football Coach has compiled a list of leading candidates to replace Mike Shula as head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide football program.

Frank Beamer Name – Frank Beamer
Age – 60
Current position – Virgina Tech 1987-present
Overall record – 146-79-2
Career highlights – 9 coach of the year awards / 4 conf titles

Jim Grobe Name – Jim Grobe
Age – 54
Current position – Wake Forest 2001-present
Overall record – 34-33

Career highlights – 1 acc title game

Paul Johnson Name – Paul Johnson

Age – 49
Current position – Navy 2002-present

Overall record – 28-21
Career highlights – 3 bowl games / coach of the year

Houston Nutt Name – Houston Nutt

Age – 49

Current position – Arkansas 1998-present
Overall record – 63-47
Career highlights – 1998 coach of the year / 6 bowl games / 2 sec divison titles

Bobby Petrino Name – Bobby Petrino

Age – 45
Current position – Louisville 2003-present
Overall record – 39-9
Career highlights – 1 bowl win / Conference USA title / highest ranking in school history

Rich Rodriguez Name – Rich Rodriguez
Age – 43
Current position – West Virgina 2001-present
Overall record – 45-22

Career highlights – 3 shares of Big East title / BCS bowl / Highest rank in school history

Nick Saban Name – Nick Saban
Age – 55
Current position – Miami Dolphins 2005-present

Overall record (college) 91-40-1
Career highlights – 9 bowls / 1 national title

Greg Schiano Name – Greg Schiano
Age – 40

Current position – Rutgers 2000-present
Overall record – 19-39
Career highlights – 1 bowl game / Highest rank in school history

Steve Spurrier Name – Steve Spurrier

Age – 61
Current position – South Carolina 2005-present
Overall record – 156-52-2
Career highlights – 1 national title / 7 conf titles

Jeff Tedford Name – Jeff Tedford

Age – 45
Current position – California 2002-present
Overall record – 33-17

Career highlights – 3 bowl games / pac 10 coach of the year

I think we can safely rule out Saban–this would be a step down for him–and it’s also pretty unlikely Spurrier would be interested. Both have publicly denied any interest in the job:

Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban, who won a national championship at LSU in 2003, would fit that criteria. But he flatly denied any interest in the Crimson Tide job while speaking to reporters in Miami following Monday’s practice. “No, I haven’t,” Saban said when asked if he had been contacted by Alabama. “I don’t care to be. I don’t want to be. I have a job to do here. My focus is on our players, this team, us getting better and us playing good, winning football here.

“I had a good college job, so why would I have left that if I would be interested in another college job?”

In fact, Saban said Alabama should not have dismissed Shula, who was 26-23 in four seasons at Alabama. “I’m not interested in any other circumstances or situations anyplace else,” Saban said. “Mike Shula is a good guy. He’s a friend. I hate to see anybody not be able to maintain. I think he’s done a good job there and should have been given an opportunity to stay there.”

Another popular candidate with fans, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, issued a Saban-like statement Monday distancing himself from the Tide search. The statement was released by the USC sports information office, which also said Spurrier was on a recruiting trip in Florida. “I have no intention of leaving South Carolina,” said Spurrier, who guided Florida to the 1996 national championship. “It’s always flattering when a South Carolina coach is rumored for these big-time programs. This one will die down in two or three days, too.”

Beyond Saban and Spurrier, possible candidates include Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, Navy coach Paul Johnson, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer.

I can’t imagine Beamer would be interested, either. Virginia Tech has been a more successful program than Alabama of late and he has built a legacy there.

Petrino and Johnson, especially, seem like good possibilities. They’re young guys, proven winners, and Alabama would be a legitimate step up the ladder.


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