Nebraska coach Collier accepts Butler's AD job

Updated: August 1, 2006, 7:10 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Barry Collier resigned as Nebraska's basketball coach Tuesday to become athletic director at Butler, where he coached basketball for 11 years.

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Nevada's Mark Fox could have a major dilemma if a phone call comes from Nebraska about the Cornhuskers' now-open men's basketball job.

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The 52-year-old Collier, who coached at Butler from 1989-2000, was the Bulldogs' winningest coach and was inducted into the university's Hall of Fame on Saturday.

"I thought long and hard about this," he said. "I want to be able to give back to Butler in a way I've never done before. It's an exciting change. It's not about me, it's about what needs to be done for Butler University."

Collier's job status at Nebraska was the subject of intense media speculation last season before Huskers athletic director Steve Pederson announced after the Big 12 tournament that Collier would be retained.

If he had been fired at the end of the season, it would have cost Nebraska $976,090 to buy out the last two years of his four-year contract. Collier will be taking a likely $400,000-plus salary cut with his move to Butler.

The Cornhuskers finished 19-14 last season but lost six of their last eight regular-season games to finish in sixth place in the Big 12 at 7-9. They knocked off Missouri and Oklahoma to reach the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament. The Huskers lost to Hofstra in the first round of the NIT.

Collier said he felt good about the second half of his six-year career at Nebraska.

"I do know that as a program, we had our best year last year," he said. "I feel good about where the program is. Were this opportunity not available, I'd still be coaching at Nebraska today."

Collier left Butler in 2000, going 196-132 with winning records in all but two years at the Indianapolis school. He guided the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament in 1997, 1998 and 2000. As a player at Butler, Collier was the team's co-MVP in 1975-76.

Collier has been coaching in some capacity since 1976 and said it was time to accept a bigger challenge.

"I don't have any doubt that I made the right decision, and I'm suited for this position."

Even though it is early August, Nebraska is confident it can land a quality head coach, according to a source. The most obvious candidate isn't likely to move in. Dana Altman of rival Creighton is at a basketball-crazed school, and he makes comparable money (reported by the Omaha World-Herald as being between $700,000 and $800,000).

High on Nebraska's list are Nevada's Mark Fox, a former Kansas State assistant, and Kent State's Jim Christian.

Fox, though, returns four of five starters to the Wolf Pack, including potential WAC MVP Nick Fazekas who withdrew from the NBA draft in June. Fox signed a five-year deal with a buyout of $250,000 prior to last season. His wife, Cindy, is an assistant athletic director at the school. Nevada is likely going to be picked as the favorite to win the WAC and get back to the NCAAs. The Wolf Pack will be without forward Demarshay Johnson for the first semester after he was ruled academically ineligible. A source close to Fox said he hasn't been contacted.

Christian, who was an assistant at Pitt in the late '90s when current Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson and assistant AD Marc Boehm were at Pitt, may be more likely to make the jump at this stage. A source close to Christian said he would leave if Nebraska offered the job. Christian signed a seven-year contract following the Golden Flashes' 25-9 season and NCAA Tournament berth after winning the MAC tournament title game. Christian has a buyout of $250,000, as well.

The Huskers might also look at Rice coach Willis Wilson. But the focus, according to sources, appears to be Fox and Christian, with the Huskers likely to move quickly.

Information from ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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