To the updated SMQ Coaching Board!
Three jobs are in play, two of them fat ones, all of them guaranteed at this point to settle for a quasi-disgraced retread or wet-behind-the-ears noob with no experience as a boss after the first names at the top of the list balked. UCLA is down to Slick Rick Neuheisel in the former category and (to the etrnal chagrin of the eternally chagrined Bruins Nation, which to its credit at least isn't rolling with any sketchy, insiderz-y rumor on the job) defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker as the enthusiastic up-and-comer with tacit player support, according to the L.A. beat guys, but with no press-the-flesh skills compared to Neuheisel's; the perpetually sanctioned alum has already allegedly undercut Norm Chow's hiring by promising the world financially if he gets the job, and will no doubt deliver on his word by whatever means necessary. He repeats: By watever means necessary. Temple's Al Golden is a distant afterthought of a backup plan, but only has a chance if Walker, to save the program from the spectre of a corrupt, self-serving Neuheisel administration, brings both candidacies down in flames, like Henry Fonda at the national convention in The Best Man, and Golden ascends by default. If Gore Vidal wrote coaching searches, Golden would stand a chance, but he doesn't and, probably, he doesn't - Walker is interviewing again sometime this week, maybe as early as today.
I know what they say about his past, but he seems like such a nice, trustworthy guy once you actually talk to him...
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West Virginia is in dire straights after Jimbo Fisher's rebuff to his native state Sunday, not only because the Mountaineers are left staring at severely out-of-form Terry Bowden, but he would be stepping into an athletic department under a barrage of criticism from its big-wheelin' sugar daddies, two of which have gone out of their way to get broadsides against AD Ed Pastilong into the press since Rich Rodriguez accepted the Michigan job. Pastilong is taking fire from all sides for stonewalling Rodriguez over relatively minor cost-of-living increases like raises for assistants, facility makeovers and letting high school coaches into WVU for free - most or all of which may have been promised to keep Rod from signing with Alabama last December but not delivered - and now from the fan base for letting Fisher slip through his fingers:
Here is what happened:
1. Governor Manchin and Fisher negotiate for several days. Florida State, obviously, raises their end, eventually settling on $1.4 million per year.
2. Machin informs Fisher that WVU can offer $1.5 million per year as well as pay the $2.5 million buyout. Fisher, without signing, agrees to this offer.
3. Enter Pastilong -- grab your sick bag.
4. Pastilong informs Fisher that the deal is not as Machin described. He now has the choice between $1 million per year and the buyout payed in full OR the same $1.5 million per year with none of the buyout paid.
5. Fisher says that's now what the Governor told him and says no.
6. Pastilong raises the offer to $1.1 million and the buyout paid.
7. Fisher says no.
8. Pastilong again raises the offer, this time to $1.2 million and the buyout paid.
9. Fisher, now mad as hell, walks away from the table and announces he's staying at Florida State.
This was bungled from the second Pastilong entered negotiations, though probably not unintentionally. Pastilong and Mike Parsons are attempting to regain power in athletic department. With the hiring of Huggins and rise of Rodriguez (especially after the Alabama fiasco), power had shifted from the AD's office to the coaches. By low-balling Rodriguez, Pastilong/Parsons took their first step in restoring their own power. By doing the same to Fisher, clearly the strongest candidate, Pastilong/Parsons nearly assured themselves of a lesser, more manageable coach.
Pastilong/Parsons are sabotaging this coaching search for their own personal gain.
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And SMU...well, nothing much is happening at SMU. If the Mustangs' search - now entering its second month since Phil Bennett was the first coach canned during the season, by far the longest coaching search in the history of coaching searches in any sport - was replicated at a school anyone seemed to care much about, that school's partisans, boosters, media outlets and probably relevant politicans would be leading the pitchfork brigade to the AD's house to string the bastard up by his money clip. For comparison, the seemingly marathon search for Alabama's coach last year, according to the tortured SMU Football Blog in the afore-linked post, lasted 38 days; Michigan's frenzied, oft-delayed process came in at right about the one-month mark. SMU, as of today, has gone an astonishing 60 days since it officially fired Bennett without naming a successor.
Mustang AD Steve Orsini, though, is safe - safe and intermittently blogging, in fact, though not about much of anything in particular and certainly not about anything he's pointedly not saying publicly about the search, or lack thereof. The last names to pop up were Dennis Franchione and Larry Coker, the latter of whom, as SMUFB notes, the Mustangs could have hired the day Bennett was fired. Clearly, they don't really want Larry Coker. They do seem "interested" in June Jones, who could conceivably stop over in Dallas during his flight to or from the Sugar Bowl to informally laugh as close to Orsini's face as possible. When he does, bet on Fran's name surfacing again in the following days - metaphorically speaking, of course. The NCAA doesn't look to kindly on betting (ask Neuheisel), and the last thing SMU needs is the bureacratic cops snooping around.