Rodriguez denies rumors linking him with Alabama job
West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez might now be the top choice for Alabama's coaching vacancy, but he insisted Friday night he hasn't been offered the job and hasn't talked to anyone connected with the Crimson Tide.
Rodriguez, who last season guided the Mountaineers to an 11-1 record, including a 38-35 win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, followed by a 9-2 record this year, called a West Virginia sports talk radio show Friday night and insisted he wasn't leaving his alma mater for Alabama.
"I have no idea what anybody is talking about," Rodriguez told the MetroNews Statewide Sport radio show. "I have not talked to anybody. They haven't offered me anything. I didn't even say I was interested. When all of these rumors came up, all I said was I don't address rumors. It's as simple as that."
The No. 15 Mountaineers host No. 13 Rutgers on Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va. The Scarlet Knights (10-1) can win the Big East Conference title and corresponding BCS spot by beating West Virginia. If the Mountaineers win, No. 7 Louisville wins the Big East.
Rodriguez told the radio show announcers he was eating dinner with his team Friday when his wife, Rita, called and said the radio show was reporting he had accepted the Alabama job.
"I don't know what was said," Rodriguez told the radio show. "I was over here with my team at Lakeview for dinner like we always do the night before a game, and my wife, Rita, calls me in tears saying, 'You're not going to believe what is being said.'
"I asked her what was said, and she said, 'They are reporting that you've already accepted the job at Alabama, you've already told your coaches, that you are telling your team tonight.'"
WOWK-TV in Huntington, W.Va., reported on its Web site earlier Friday that a source familiar with Alabama's search said the school was prepared to offer Rodriguez the job. The TV station reported "some close to the situation said Rodriguez will be named the next coach of the Crimson Tide on Saturday night after WVU's home game with Rutgers, while other have speculated he will assume coaching responsibilities [at Alabama] .... early next week."
Rodriguez, a native of Grant Town, W.Va., who was a Mountaineers defensive back from 1982-84, told the radio station he planned "on being at West Virginia the rest of my career."
Earlier this week, Mike Brown, Rodriguez's agent, told ESPN.com that Rodriguez had been contacted Monday by Chuck Neinas, the coaching head hunter hired by Alabama and Miami to help in the schools' searches for a new coach. Brown didn't say whether Neinas called on behalf of the Crimson Tide, Hurricanes or both.
Alabama fired Mike Shula on Monday after the Crimson Tide finished 6-6 this season and lost to rival Auburn for the fifth straight time. Miami fired Larry Coker on Nov. 24 after the Hurricanes finished 6-6.
Sources close to the coaching search at Alabama indicated this week the Crimson Tide initially targeted South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban.
Spurrier has vehemently denied interest in the Alabama and Miami jobs and is close to signing a multi-year extension at South Carolina that will pay him close to $2 million annually, sources said this week.
Saban, who won a co-national championship at LSU in 2003 and is in his second season with the Dolphins, also has denied interest in Alabama's vacancy.
Alabama has now set its sight on a handful of other coaches, including Rodriguez, a source close to the Crimson Tide search said Friday.
Hiring away Rodriguez, who has a 48-24 record in six seasons at West Virginia, would be costly for any potential suitor. He signed a three-year extension with the Mountaineers on June 24 and has six years left on his contract, which pays him about $1.1 million annually with the possibility of more than $400,000 in additional performance bonuses. The contract includes a $2 million penalty if he leaves West Virginia before Aug. 31, 2007.
The amended contract increased Rodriguez's supplemental compensation for work such as radio/TV appearances and other promotional activities to more than $510,000. That sum increases to $900,000 beginning Jan. 16, with $50,000 increases each additional year until the contract expires after the 2012 season.
Rodriguez, 43, also would receive a $600,000 annuity from the school if he's still coaching the Mountaineers after the 2011 regular season. He loses the annuity if he leaves West Virginia before then.
Alabama athletics director Mal Moore, who is attempting to hire a football coach for the fourth time in his eight years at the school, said in a statement Friday night the Crimson Tide had contacted no coaches with games remaining to be played.
"I am very pleased with where we are in this search," Moore said in the statement. "I know there have been many rumors speculating about candidates and timelines and, while I won't get into specifics of who we are interested in, I want everyone to understand that we have not contacted any college coaches who have not yet completed their regular seasons.
"While I do recognize the need to get a head football coach hired soon, I am less concerned with following a timeline than I am about making sure we hire the right person for the job."
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com.
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