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MONDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2006
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No clear front-runner
in UA search

Former Alabama coach Stallings says he has no interest in returning

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com· 340-2460

For anyone hoping for a return to the good ol’ days with Gene Stallings coming back to the Alabama sidelines, the iconic football coach said he is not interested.

Stallings said Sunday night that he was misunderstood if listeners to an interview he did with a statewide radio show Friday thought he wanted to return. Stallings said that he felt he was “qualified” to coach the Tide again, but had no interest in doing so.

Stallings, 71, retired to his ranch in Powderly, Texas, in 1996 after winning 70 games and a national title in seven seasons at Alabama.

“I said I was qualified to coach the team. As far as saying I was interested, that was not the case,” he said.

During Stallings’ first four seasons as the Tide’s head coach, current athletics director Mal Moore served as his offensive coordinator, but Stallings stayed mum on what candidates Moore will bring in after West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez turned down the job Friday.

“I have no idea what they’re doing,” Stallings said.

In terms of the latest crop of candidates, no clear front-runner has emerged.

The Crimson Tide coaching search took a break during the weekend as Moore determines which direction to follow next.

The next phase could stay with the candidates from smaller programs, such as Navy head coach Paul Johnson and Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe. Both emerged as possibilities soon after Alabama fired Mike Shula on Nov. 26.

Johnson recently agreed in principle to a revamped, incentive-laden contract with Navy that could pay him close to $1.8 million a year.

Some industry insiders believe he is the best candidate, though his triple-option running attack does not breed excitement.

Grobe has repeatedly stated that he is a “Wake Forest guy” though he makes a meager salary for a major college football program. He makes an estimated $1 million a year, and that could mean he would look elsewhere if another program comes calling.

A new name that has surfaced in published reports is Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, 40, who recently turned down the University of Miami job, which the school eventually gave to Randy Shannon.

Schiano is 29-41 in six years but went 7-5 last season and led Rutgers to a 10-2 record this year and a Texas Bowl bid.

Reportedly, Schiano had asked Miami president Donna Shalala to lower academic standards for incoming players at the private school, which she apparently balked at.

And the omnipresent shadow of Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban continues to stick around the coaching search.

Sources believe that if Alabama still does not have a coach in the next two weeks, Saban might have an interest in speaking with the Crimson Tide.

Publicly, Saban has been adamant about staying with the Dolphins. He did say recently that Alabama approached his agent, but he told his agent he was not interested.

The Miami Herald reported Friday that Saban turned down a 10-year deal worth $57 million from Alabama, a report that was shot down by several Alabama Board of Trustees members.

Alabama also might have an interest in LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, 41, who has coached for the Tigers since 2000.

Other potential assistant coaching possibilities are Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow, a former assistant coach at BYU, Southern California and North Carolina State. Chow said recently that he is not interested in the Tide job.

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