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SATURDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2006
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Tide coaching search likely to linger into early January

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

Following Nick Saban's denial of interest in the Crimson Tide job, the Alabama football coaching search remains on track to hire someone following the new year.

A source close to the search indicated that things will heat up in the first week of January, but that no clear-cut front-runner has emerged. Several of the Tide's potential candidates are coaching in bowl games, making it unlikely an announcement will be made before their seasons are over.

According to a source, three coaches Alabama might be looking at are Wake Forest's Jim Grobe, Navy's Paul Johnson and Tulsa's Steve Kragthorpe.

Grobe's Demon Deacons play in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2 and Navy will play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 30.Tulsa is set to play in the Armed Forces Bowl today.

Industry insiders believe that Alabama will go after someone along the lines of Grobe or Johnson.

Johnson is reportedly interested in trying to show what his innovative triple-option attack can do in a major conference. The Midshipmen are 9-3 and headed to their fourth straight bowl under Johnson.

Sources say that Saban was merely a pipe dream for the Tide and that the overtures toward him were more of a safety blanket for him if he did not last the season. But with Saban's denials of coaching the Tide being so public and vehement, it appears that the rumors of the former LSU coach going to Tuscaloosa are false.

Several NFL assistant coaches already have jumped to the college ranks. Former Packers offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski was named head coach at Boston College, replacing Tom O'Brien who departed to North Carolina State.

Former Dolphins assistant Derek Dooley took the top coaching job at Louisiana Tech. Friday, former Houston Texans assistant Troy Calhoun took the reins of the Air Force Academy football program.

Also, collegiate assistants are being snapped up as well. Former Auburn and Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik was named the head coach at Iowa State, and New Mexico offensive coordinator Bob Toledo was hired to coach Tulane.

Alabama's vacancy is one of two remaining in Division I-A. The other is at Central Michigan.

Interim head coach Joe Kines is preparing the Tide players for their Independence Bowl showdown with Oklahoma State on Thursday.

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