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Thursday, December 7, 2006
Updated: December 8, 4:05 PM ET
Rodriguez ponders 'Bama, Morgantown

ESPN.com news services

Rich Rodriguez spent Friday morning considering his options: Whether to coach at Alabama or stay at West Virginia.

Rodriguez was scheduled to meet with his team at 3 p.m. ET to inform them of the decision.

Rodriguez was a top candidate for the vacant job in Alabama, meeting with school officials this week. Alabama athletic director Mal Moore also confirmed that Rodriguez had removed himself from consideration for that job.

Rodriguez spent Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla., where he participated in a press conference to promote the Toyota Gator Bowl between the Mountaineers and Georgia Tech on Jan. 1.

Rodriguez was in his office Friday and planned to meet with West Virginia recruits. This is the final weekend that coaches can have contact with prospects in person for about a month.

Later in the day, the coach planned to preside over the first practice in preparation for the Gator Bowl. He met with the team prior to practice and made his announcement.

Earlier Friday, a West Virginia television station reported that Mountaineers athletic officials were looking to counter Alabama's offer. Citing sources, WBOY-TV said the school and Rodriguez's representatives were actively negotiating.

Alabama's Moore, senior associate athletic director Finus Gaston and university attorneys spent Thursday meeting in Tuscaloosa with Rodriguez's representative, Mike Brown.

Though the university made inquiries into the availability of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban, Rodriguez is the first coach with whom Moore entered serious discussion. Though Rodriguez won the Big East Conference championship and the Sugar Bowl last season, the most important day of his career will be Friday. The 43-year-old Rodriguez will decide whether to leave his alma mater and his home state to take on one of the most pressurized jobs in college football.

West Virginia increased Rodriguez's salary to $1.1 million last summer. The terms of his contract include a $2 million payment to the university if he leaves before Aug. 31, 2007.

Sources told ESPN's Joe Schad that Alabama extended a six-year, $12 million offer to Rodriguez and that Alabama would pay West Virginia a $2 million buyout. The proposed deal would make Rodriguez among the top 10 highest-paid college coaches in the nation, doubling his current salary.

The Birmingham News reported on its Web site late Thursday that Rodriguez was offered more than $2 million a year with incentives and would have one of the highest-paid coaching staffs in the Southeastern Conference.

The newspaper, citing anonymous sources, said Alabama officials expected him to sign the deal on Friday. That turned out not to be the case.

West Virginia tailback Steve Slaton, in Orlando to attend Thursday night's Home Depot College Football Awards Show at Walt Disney World Resort, told ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach that Rodriguez told his team he's not going anywhere.

When told later that a deal could be imminent, however, Slaton told Schad, "It's a business. He's got to do what's best for his family. It hurts, but we'll be OK."

Center Dan Mozes added, "I'm disappointed. He said he was going to be there his whole career. I'd think he'd stick to his word. If you graduated from there and were a coach there, why would you leave? Maybe it's the money."

Moore did not immediately return a call to his home. Alabama spokesman Doug Walker said the university did not have an announcement scheduled.

A call to Rodriguez's cell phone was not answered.

Saban said earlier Thursday that Alabama had contacted his agent regarding the coaching vacancy, but he wasn't interested.

"I'm flattered that they may have been interested in me, but it never really progressed, because we just never let it progress," Saban said after practice in Davie, Fla.

The Press-Register of Mobile, citing unidentified sources, first reported the offer to Rodriguez from Moore on its Web site.

During his appearance in Jacksonville, Rodriguez declined to respond to questions about the Alabama job but said he planned to meet with West Virginia recruits Friday morning and preside over practice later in the day.

Rodriguez said all the attention on him lately has been a mixed bag.

"It's been tough on me, but I've not let it distract from my day-to-day duties," he said. "When other people have come to talk to my staff or myself personally, it's very flattering. I'd rather have it that way than the other way. I coached a long time and nobody ever called.

"Now some people have expressed an interest in my staff and myself and while it's flattering, it's not changed who we are," he said.

Rodriguez and his wife, Rita, met with Moore on Tuesday night in New York City before the College Football Hall of Fame induction banquet.

Rodriguez has built West Virginia into a Big East power, winning the Sugar Bowl after the 2005 season and a share of three straight league titles. The Mountaineers are 10-2 and will play Georgia Tech on Jan. 1.

In June, Rodriguez signed a seven-year contract that pays him $1 million this year with $50,000 annual raises after that. He'll also collect $600,000 in deferred compensation in December 2011 if he remains as coach.

"I hope it doesn't come down to money," Slaton said. "But he's got to do what's best for his family."

Alabama fired Mike Shula on Nov. 26 after the Tide went 6-6 in his fourth season and lost its fifth consecutive meeting with rival Auburn.

Rodriguez grew up 30 minutes from West Virginia's campus and played for the Mountaineers in the 1980s.

Rodriguez would bring an impressive offensive resume to program that struggled offensively this season. West Virginia ranked second nationally in rushing offense and fourth in total offense last season; Alabama was 75th and 60th, respectively.

Speculation tying Saban to the Crimson Tide job surfaced soon after Shula was let go. Saban publicly denied interest several times, but on Thursday he acknowledged that the school had contacted his agent, Jimmy Sexton.

"They called Jimmy and said, 'Is Nick interested?' And Jimmy said no," Saban said. "Jimmy asked me on several occasions, and I said no.

"I'm interested in staying here. We're in the middle of the season. I'm committed to our team. It's not a very good time to even think about that, to be honest with you," Saban said.

Saban is in the second-year of a five-year deal with Miami.

Information from ESPN's Joe Schad, ESPN.com senior writer Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach and The Associated Press was used in this report.