Rodriguez denies 'Bama, will return to Morgantown

Updated: December 12, 2006, 1:28 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez turned down Alabama on Friday, telling his players that he'll be back for his sixth season with the Mountaineers.

Rodriguez head coaching career
Rich Rodriguez
Rodriguez
Rich Rodriguez has guided West Virginia to three Big East championships and four straight New Year's Day Bowl games, including the 2007 Toyota Gator Bowl vs. Georgia Tech.

COACHING RECORD:
With West Virginia: 49-24 (2001-present)
With Glenville State (Div. II): 43-26-2 (1990-96)
With Salem (Div. II): 2-8 (1988)

A loud applause could be heard from inside the Milan Puskar Center at Mountaineer Field after Rodriguez told his team he would be staying at his alma mater.

"Obviously I'm very excited to stay here and I plan on being here a long time," Rodriguez said later at a news conference. "We've done some pretty good things over the last five years or so. We're not done yet. We're going to continue to grow."

Rodriguez will receive a two-year contract extension through the 2014 season from West Virginia. While other details of the deal were not immediately released, a source with knowledge of the negotiation told ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel that Rodriguez took approximately $1.75 million per year to remain in Morgantown. Part of that agreement was a clause to build a new academic center and locker room by a set period of time, otherwise the contract would be voided.

"There weren't many reasons not to go. It's all about the reasons for staying," Rodriguez said. "I'm biased, this is my school. I think it's a great place to raise a family. We've always had a great athletic tradition."

Alabama officials offered the job to Rodriguez on Thursday morning, but the answer didn't come until more than 24 hours later. Alabama reportedly offered Rodriguez a $12 million, six-year contract.

"I fully respect his decision and wish him the best," Alabama athletic director Mal Moore said in a statement. "I want to remind everyone of what I said at the outset of this process: my only objective is to get the best person available to lead the Alabama football program.

"I remain determined to bring to our program a proven head coach with impressive credentials."

It was reported by ESPN Thursday night that Alabama officials had reached an agreement with Rodriguez for him to become the Crimson Tide's next head football coach. That report proved to be incorrect.

Stephen P. Goodwin, chairman of the WVU Board of Governors, said the university was never trying to compete with Alabama.

"We tried to make Rich the best offer WVU could make to keep him continuing on as a football coach. We didn't get into a bidding match. We couldn't have won that war," he said.

Efforts to keep Rodriguez reached as far as Ken Kendrick, a WVU graduate and managing general partner of baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks. He earlier donated about $200,000 toward construction of a hall dedicated to the history of Mountaineer football.

"I negotiate with athletes and their agents," Kendrick said. "Maybe I lent some help" getting a competitive offer on the table.

Rodriguez has built West Virginia into a Big East power, winning the Sugar Bowl after the 2005 season and a share of three straight league titles. The Mountaineers are 10-2 and will play Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., on Jan. 1.

"I am very happy for the Rodriguez family, our players, our fans and WVU. Together we will remain committed to a competitive football program," athletic director Ed Pastilong said.

In June, Rodriguez signed a seven-year contract that pays him $1 million this year with $50,000 annual raises after that, and $600,000 in deferred compensation in December 2011 if he remained as coach.

"The program deserves a coach with the work ethic and innovative skill of Rich Rodriguez," West Virginia president David Hardesty.

Alabama fired Mike Shula on Nov. 26 after the Tide went 6-6 in his fourth season and lost its fifth consecutive meeting with rival Auburn.

The Tide had also made overtures to South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban of the Miami Dolphins, but both high-profile coaches opted to stay put.

Then, Alabama's attention turned squarely to Rodriguez, who had both the offensive pedigree and the track record for winning the Tide wanted.

It wasn't clear who the Tide will turn to now, though the university's original wish list also included Navy's Paul Johnson, Wake Forest's Jim Grobe and possibly California's Jeff Tedford.

There have been no confirmed interviews with any of them.

The once-mighty program is again left Crimson in the face in another coaching search. The Tide is seeking its fifth coach since Gene Stallings stepped down in 1996. Stallings is the only coach to manage sustained success since Bear Bryant's retirement after the 1982 season.

ESPN.com senior writer Ivan Maisel contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press was also used.

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