Louisiana officials in fray to hold onto coach

Updated: February 16, 2004, 8:23 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Doug Williams insisted Monday that he will be leaving his job as Grambling State head football coach for a job in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' front office -- but Louisiana university officials appear to be making a final attempt to keep him.

"I'm going to Tampa," Williams told the Shreveport (La.) Times on Monday. "I spoke with [Bucs general manager] Bruce [Allen] first thing this morning -- and I told him I would see him on Wednesday.

"I'm ready to get started."

But University of Louisiana System president Sally Clausen and three other system members are planning to fly to Tampa for a 3 p.m. meeting Tuesday with Allen, system chairman Mike Woods said.

System chairman Mike Woods told The (Monroe) News-Star on Monday that he and the other officials would not be taking the trip "if we didn't see an opportunity" to keep Williams at Grambling.

The Buccaneers would not confirm or deny that a meeting was scheduled, but reiterated that reports suggesting Williams has changed his mind about joining their front-office staff are untrue.

"Doug Williams will be a member of our staff," team spokesman Jeff Kamis said.

Also planning to make the trip to Tampa Bay Tuesday were state Rep. Rick Gallot, and university system members Andre Coudrain and Walter Rhodes.

Grambling officials on Monday said they had delayed a planned announcement to name an interim coach to replace Williams.

A source told ESPN on Sunday that Williams had returned to Grambling on Friday -- a day after announcing his resignation -- to formally withdraw as football coach, but after a tearful meeting with the team, he put off the move. As of Sunday, Williams still had not formally left his job at Grambling.

Allen told the Shreveport Times that Williams had assured him he would begin as Tampa Bay's personnel executive starting Wednesday at the NFL's scouting combine in Indianapolis.

According to the newspaper, Williams told his Grambling coaching staff to disregard Sunday's report that he was having second thoughts.

"He told everyone not to believe what they might have heard [on ESPN], that he was going to keep the job in Tampa Bay," Heishma Northern, the Tigers' defensive backs/special teams coach, told the Times.

Williams coached for six years at Grambling and won three Southwestern Athletic Conference championships. His resignation on Thursday had come as a surprise to Grambling players, school officials and community members.

"It's a big shock, a huge shock," university spokesman Peter Forest said at the time. "This is a huge loss to Grambling, no question."

Williams, who was approached about a job with the Bucs last month by coach Jon Gruden, oversaw the signing of more than 20 Grambling prospects this month before Tampa Bay finalized its offer.

A former Super Bowl MVP, Williams played for Tampa Bay from 1978-82, leading the franchise to three playoff berths. But he left the Bucs for the USFL following a contract dispute and, in 1986, signed with the Washington Redskins.

Williams became the only black quarterback to win a Super Bowl MVP award when he led the Redskins to a 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in 1988.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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