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West Virginia football coach Rich Rodriguez gives a 'thumbs-up' to remaining coach at the university Friday during a news conference in Morgantown, W.Va. Rodriguez turned down an offer to coach at Alabama.
AP photo by Dale Sparks
West Virginia football coach Rich Rodriguez gives a "thumbs-up" to remaining coach at the university Friday during a news conference in Morgantown, W.Va. Rodriguez turned down an offer to coach at Alabama.

Low Tide: Home wins out for Rich
Mal Moore apparently
considering top assistant coach

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

It's on to the next head football coaching candidate for The University of Alabama.

And the school will start with a "clean state," according to a source close to the search, after West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez turned down an offer from Alabama on Friday, which reportedly included a six-year deal worth $12 million.

After Alabama fired Mike Shula, athletics director Mal Moore said Nov. 27 that he would look for "a proven head coach with a proven record of achievement who can reach the level of excellence that all of us desire." Moore reiterated that stance Friday, releasing a statement that said, "(I) remain determined to bring to our program a proven head coach with impressive credentials."

However, it appears he is willing to consider at least one top assistant coach for now.

A source close to the search has said that an Alabama representative has contacted the agent for LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. His agent, Memphis-based Jimmy Sexton, didn't return repeated calls Friday.

Fisher, 41, has coordinated LSU's offense and coached quarterbacks since 2000. He also has served as an assistant at Samford (1988-92), Auburn (1993-98) and Cincinnati (1999).

Several top coaches in college football served as assistant coaches immediately before accepting their current positions. Greg Schiano coordinated Miami's defense before moving to Rutgers in December 2000, and Jeff Tedford coached Oregon's offense before leaving for Cal in December 2001.

When West Virginia found Rodriguez in November 2000, he was Clemson's offensive coordinator.

Alabama offered its job to Rodriguez on Thursday morning, but at about 1:45 p.m. Friday, his agent, Mike Brown, informed Moore that he would stay at the Morgantown, W.Va., school.

"It came down not about Alabama but more about up here," Rodriguez said in a teleconference with reporters. "It was my sense of loyalty to West Virginia."

Rodriguez, 43, grew up about 30 minutes from campus and played for the Mountaineers in 1982-84. Also, he signed a seven-year contract in June that pays him $1 million annually with raises of $50,000 each year. He will receive $600,000 in deferred compensation if he stays through December 2011.

Alabama officials had appeared confident that they were going to land Rodriguez, and one board of trustees member who asked not to be identified called the coach's decision a "complete surprise."

Shortly after telling Moore of his decision, Rodriguez informed his players in a team meeting.

'Great tradition'

"Alabama has great tradition. It's a great university," Rodriguez said. "They did everything first class."

In Moore's statement, he said he has no timetable for completing the coaching search.

"While I am hoping to conclude the search soon, following a timeline is not my main priority," he said. "Hiring an outstanding head coach to lead our players is the most important thing, and that will continue to be my only objective."

Daily sports writer Bradley Handwerger contributed to this story.

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