Former WVU assistant's second interview strengthens candidacy

Updated: December 27, 2007, 4:36 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Central Michigan coach Butch Jones interviewed with West Virginia president Mike Garrison in Morgantown on Thursday, the second time he has discussed the job opening with the university.

Jones, who worked under Rodriguez at West Virginia as his receivers coach, has become an intriguing candidate to replace Rich Rodriguez. There is division in camps supporting former Auburn coach Terry Bowden and Florida assistant Doc Holliday for the job and Jones could be viewed as a compromise candidate, several people familiar with the search told ESPN's Joe Schad.

The governor of the state of West Virginia, Joe Manchin, has spoken directly with all three candidates as well.

Jones recruited many of the players that helped Brian Kelly, now Cincinnati's coach, lead Central Michigan to the MAC championship last year. Jones coached the Chippewas to a MAC title in his first year as head coach. The team lost to Purdue 51-48 Wednesday in the Motor City Bowl.

After the game, Jones would not discuss his trip to Morgantown.

The West Virginia job opened when Rodriguez abruptly left the Mountaineers on Dec. 16 to become the coach at Michigan.

Bowden has been out of coaching for a decade since being fired by Auburn. Holliday, a West Virginia native and an ex-Mountaineers linebacker, interviewed with WVU on Dec. 19. He was a graduate assistant there 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, 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.

Information from ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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