The search for a successor to Nick Saban took an unusual twist Friday when ESPN.com learned that LSU officials, in Jacksonville for what they believed was an interview with Jack Del Rio, returned home without meeting the Jaguars coach.
It is unclear if Del Rio had originally agreed to the interview and reneged -- possibly after further considering his contractual situation with the Jaguars -- or if LSU officials misunderstood his intentions.
What is clear, however, sources close to both sides say, is that an interview did not occur.
A contingent of university officials, believed to number between seven and nine, spent much of New Year's Eve afternoon in Jacksonville cooling its heels at a time when the search was said to be heating up. There had been reports early in the week, most of them emanating from LSU sources, that LSU might try to meet with Del Rio sometime Friday.
Last week, ESPN.com reported that the Del Rio camp had been contacted by LSU intermediaries to gauge his interest in the event Saban accepted the head coaching position with the Miami Dolphins, which he did Christmas night. How much interest Del Rio has shown in the LSU job, if any, is not known.
The fact Friday's interview did not take place, however, seems to indicate Del Rio did not choose to pursue the job.
Jaguars vice president Dan Edwards said Friday that LSU officials never contacted owner Wayne Weaver to seek permission to interview Del Rio. That is not unusual, since there is no standing protocol between universities and NFL teams that such contact occur. Schools sometimes contact team owners as a professional courtesy.
Del Rio, 41, is concluding the second season of a five-year contract with the Jaguars and his team, which finishes the season at Oakland on Sunday, is still in the chase for a wild-card playoff berth. Del Rio is 13-18 in his first head coaching job and has a young, talented team that appears built for long-term success.
Del Rio spent much of this week rebuffing questions about his interest in the LSU position.
An 11-year NFL linebacker, Del Rio spent part of his playing career with New Orleans and was also an assistant coach with the Saints. His wife is from Lafayette, La., and his stepdaughter recently graduated from LSU.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.