West Virginia Eyes Rich Rodriguez


by - Correspondent -
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Rich Rodriguez lettered as a defensive back while attending West Virginia.

CLEMSON - Is Tommy Bowden going to Alabama? Will he sign a new contract that
allows him to stay at Clemson?


Now that dreams of a national title have gone by the wayside, these are the
two most frequently asked questions regarding the CU football program these
days. But lost in all that speculative shuffle is the very real possibility
that offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez will no longer be part of the
Tiger coaching staff by November's end.


Ever since word trickled down to Tallahassee, Fla. last Saturday that West
Virginia University football coach Don Nehlen had announced he would retire
at the end of the current season, Rodriguez' name has been at the top of the
list of possible replacements.


Rodriguez was asked after the Florida State game if he would be interested
in the job.


"Right now, the only job I'm concerned with is the Clemson offensive
coordinator," he said, obviously frustrated with his team's performance
against the Seminoles. "I won't comment on any job regarding myself until
after the South Carolina game."


Despite the noncommittal statement, Rodriguez is the top candidate to
replace Nehlen as of right now, according to published reports in West
Virginia. Joining him on WVU's short list is current Mountaineers' defensive
coordinator Steve Dunlap, N.C. State assistant coach Doc Holliday and East
Carolina head coach Steve Logan. Both Dunlap and Holliday will be
interviewed in the near future, with Rodriguez to do the same after the
season, according to sources close the WVU program.


What makes Rodriguez such a viable candidate is his strong ties to WVU. The
Grant Town, W.Va. native lettered as a defensive back while attending the
school. He then began his coaching career in the state, first at Division II
Salem-Teikyo University - where he was the country's youngest head coach at
the age of 24 - and then at Glenville State College, where he won four
straight West Virginia Conference (then NAIA) titles.


Rodriguez turned down an opportunity to take the head coaching job at Texas
Tech after the 1999 season, and told the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette last
December that "most college coaches look to their alma maters and I'm no
different."


Confronted with the possibility of losing his offensive coordinator, Bowden
isn't pushing the panic button - yet.


"I don't address (the situation), because until (Rodriguez leaves) it's
wasted energy," Bowden said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. "I'm
not calling guys to replace him, because if he doesn't leave I've wasted a
bunch of calls... I really haven't put any input in it. I'm not going to
waste time on something that may not happen."


West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong couldn't be reached for comment
on Tuesday to confirm Rodriguez' status as the school's prime candidate.
Clemson AD Bobby Robinson also was unable to be reached. When asked if WVU
had contacted Robinson to ask for permission to speak with Rodriguez
concerning the job, WVU sports information director Shelly Poe said "Rich
said in our papers (Monday) that he is not going to talk to anyone until
after the South Carolina game."


West Virginia is expected to name Nehlen's successor by the end of the
month.

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