Central Michigan coach Butch Jones, whose team played Purdue in the Motor City Bowl, will fly to Morgantown for a second interview for the West Virginia position on Thursday, a person familiar with the search told ESPN's Joe Schad on Wednesday.
Jones, a former West Virginia assistant, is emerging as a very strong candidate to succeed Rich Rodriguez. Former Auburn coach Terry Bowden and Florida assistant Doc Holliday are also under consideration, while
Illinois offensive coordinator Mike
Locksley has denied a report that he interviewed for the job.
Jones did not address his impending trip to Morgantown following Central Michigan's 51-48 loss in the Motor City Bowl.
"I'm not going to comment on that," Jones said.
Jones is the latest candidate to be connected with West Virginia's coaching vacancy, which came open when Rodriguez abruptly left the Mountaineers on Dec. 16 to coach at Michigan.
The Sporting News, citing sources, reported Locksley interviewed with
West Virginia on Wednesday.
"That's crack media at it's best,'' Locksley said on Thursday.
"I don't know where the story came from.''
On Sunday, Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher ended speculation of his interest in the Mountaineers' job, releasing a statement on the Seminoles' Web site. The statement came two weeks after Fisher agreed to a new contract in which his base pay was increased from around $420,000 to $625,000 and was named FSU's coach-in-waiting.
"I know media reports are circulating regarding the possibility of West Virginia's head coaching position," Fisher said in the statement.
"I am a native of West Virginia and love the state but I want to make clear that I am staying at Florida State. I am committed to this university, this program and these players. I am excited about where I am and where Seminole football is headed."
Fisher, who just completed his first season with the Seminoles, would have owed FSU
$2.5 million if he had left for another coaching position. Fisher, who is a disciple of the Bobby Bowden coaching family who played and coached for Terry Bowden, was considered West Virginia's top candidate to replace Rich Rodriguez.
Terry Bowden, who has been out of coaching for a decade since being fired at Auburn, helped persuade Fisher to take the offensive coordinator's job earlier this year. The job opened when younger brother Jeff Bowden was bought out by dissatisfied boosters late in the 2006 season.
Holliday, a West Virginia native and an ex-Mountaineers' linebacker, interviewed with the Mountaineers on Dec. 19. He was a WVU graduate assistant in 1979-80 and a part-time assistant in 1981-82.
"I went up and talked to them and that's about the extent of it," Holliday said after practice on Dec. 19. "I've known those guys for a long time and had a chance to spend a little time with them.
"I have no idea [what the status of the search is], to be honest with you. I haven't heard from anybody up there."
While Holliday is being seen as a favorite for the job, Terry Bowden has been the beneficiary of a groundswell of public support, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bowden's father Bobby coached at West Virginia early in his career.
The newspaper reported that Bobby Bowden on Dec. 20 placed a telephone call on his son's behalf to West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, while a number of boosters, fans and others called West Virginia administrators to express their support.
One source referred to it as an "all-out offensive," according to the newspaper.
Bowden interviewed at West Virginia on Dec. 19.
Even former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer has expressed fondness of West Virginia's no-huddle offense. While he won't be rooting against Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl vs. West Virginia, he gushes about how the Mountaineers' offense works behind Steve Slaton and Pat White.
"They've got a playbook that works," Switzer told The Associated Press in a recent telephone interview from Norman, Okla. "I've loved their offense. When I saw them run it the first time, I loved it. I said this is similar to something I would do if I was college coaching again."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.