Pace of talks forcing Miami to decide

The pace of negotiations between Alabama and West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez is forcing Miami to decide deciding how badly it wants to pursue him.

Miami athletic director Paul Dee has been told that if he is interested in hiring Rodriguez that he needs to make a contract offer as soon as possible, a source with direct knowledge of the negotiation said Thursday morning.

Dee received permission from West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong to speak with Rodriguez only Wednesday. However, Rodriguez has been adamant with both schools that he does not want this process to drag out. When a representative of Miami contacted Rodriguez to set up an interview, the coach asked to get an offer on the table, the source said.

Alabama, meanwhile, has not made an offer to Rodriguez yet. Athletic director Mal Moore encountered some delays in returning to Tuscaloosa from New York on Wednesday. Upon landing on Wednesday afternoon, according to The Tuscaloosa News, Moore said, "Both sides are working."

Moore returned to campus in order to discuss a potential offer to Rodriguez with university president Dr. Robert Witt. Moore also must receive a go-ahead from the NCAA, which must approve any new head football coach hired by Alabama before the program's probation expires on Feb. 1.

Rodriguez met Wednesday with West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong. Given that Rodriguez remains in contact with his two suitors, it is clear that nothing he discussed with Pastilong persuaded the coach to cut off negotiations with Alabama, Miami or anyone else in order to remain at his alma mater.

Rodriguez is 49-24 in six seasons at West Virginia. 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.

Ivan Maisel is a a senior writer at ESPN.com.