TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Spurned again, Alabama is resuming its latest search for a football coach.
This time it was West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez saying no thanks Friday to the program still yearning for a leader to steer it back to the powerhouse days of Bear Bryant.
And worried Alabama fans like student Jennifer Winton were left to wonder: “Who are we going to get now?”
It’s the $12 million question. Rodriguez opted to remain at his alma mater instead of taking the reported six-year, $12 million offer from Alabama that would have nearly doubled his previous deal.
Crimson Tide athletic director Mal Moore tried to reassure the ’Bama faithful.
“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,” Moore said in a written statement. “I remain determined to bring to our program a proven head coach with impressive credentials.”
Rodriguez had such credentials, leading the Mountaineers to a Sugar Bowl victory two seasons ago and going 10-2 this season.
But he also had lifelong ties to West Virginia, growing up about 30 minutes from campus. Rodriguez said he plans “on being here a long time.”
“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.”
Rodriguez will receive a two-year contract extension through the 2014 season from West Virginia. Other details of the deal were not immediately released.
He said he and his wife, Rita, discussed the weighty decision Friday afternoon, kicking off a hectic series of events.
He called reports in Alabama that he had agreed in principle to a deal “totally incorrect.”
Now, Alabama must renew its search for a replacement to Mike Shula, fired on Nov. 26 after going 6-6 in his fourth season.
Again, the once-mighty program was 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 the Bear’s retirement after the 1982 season.
“When you get a call from Alabama, and if you’re a college football fan, you say, ’Holy cow, it’s Alabama. I think I’ve got to take this call,”’ he said.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Alabama has aimed high in this search, making overtures to South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban of the Miami Dolphins. Neither high-profile coach wanted to leave his current post.
Then, Moore’s attention turned squarely to Rodriguez, who had both the offensive pedigree and the track record for winning the Tide program is seeking.
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