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Waiting for the XFL to call

If Rich Brooks has his way, he'll be coaching in the XFL next year.

Brooks in January abruptly resigned his three-year post as defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, sold his house in Atlanta and moved back to Eugene, Ore. to wait for a call from the upstart league.

"I guess my time has passed in this league," he said, refering to the NFL, as he announced his resignation from the Falcons.

Last fall the 59-year-old turned down a job offer from the XFL because he was still under contract with the Falcons. But after building the defense that helped the Falcons win their first NFC championship in 1999, he expected to receive head coaching offers when his contract was up. When none came, he decided to pack it in.

"If the opportunity presents itself again this fall, I just want to be available," he told reporters.

Brooks, who was head coach at Oregon State for 18 years, never sold his house in Eugene when he moved onto the NFL. He was head coach of the St. Louis Rams from 1995-96, but never interviewed for another head coaching job.

And, he says, his heart isn't set on the XFL. "I'm open to anything at this point," he said.

Butch Davis heads north

He said he wasn't going anywhere. He assured recruits and their parents he was staying put. Then Butch Davis surprised his own bosses, his players and fans by announcing he was leaving the University of Miami to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

"It's a great opportunity, one that I felt for me and my family I couldn't pass up," Davis said of the five-year deal that is estimated at $13 million to $15 million. He had been making $900,000 annually at Miami and the school was considering upping his salary to $1.3 million.

During his six years at Miami, Davis rebuilt the football program that was decimated by recruiting scandals. This year, he took his 11-1 team to the Sugar Bowl where it stomped Florida, 37-20. Some, including Davis, argue that the showing was worthy of national title status and that they, instead of Florida State, should have faced off against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

But as upset as players and recruits were about Davis' departure, they were equally relieved when school officials announced that offensive coordinator Larry Coker, 52, would replace him at the helm. Recruits who threatened to go elsewhere voiced confidence that Coker would be able to maintain the winning tradition Davis established.

While Coker was under fire after Miami lost 34-29 to Washington in the fall, his stock rose when the Hurricanes won their next 10 games and finished the season by setting a school record for scoring, averaging 42.6 points a game. His offense was ranked fifth nationally, averaging 460.8 yards per game.

Although his last - and only - head coaching jobs were at Oklahoma high schools in 1970s, school officials and players said they are confident he can do the job. Further, he has an attribute that his predecessors lacked: He said he has no interest in moving on to the NFL or anywhere else for that matter.

"Where are you going to go from Miami to coach in college football?" he asked rhetorically after he got the job. "It's a great place to live, it's a great place to recruit and the people here are tremendous."

Ohio coaches head south

If you think Ohio University needs coaches, you're right. Former Bobcat head coach Jim Grobe took eight of his assistants with him to his new job at Wake Forest. Those who will trade Ohio addresses for North Carolina ones are: Troy Calhoun, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach; Keith Henry, outside linebackers coach; Dean Hood, defensive coordinator and secondary coach; Steed Lobotzke, centers and offensive guards coach; Ray McCartney, recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach; Billy Mitchell, assistant head coach over running backs and kickers; Jeff Mullen, tight ends and offensive tackles coach, and Kevin Sherman, receivers coach.

Borges can't shake California

Al Borges is leaving UCLA but he isn't leaving the Golden State.

After serving as offensive coordinator at UCLA for five years, Borges is going to Cal as quarterbacks coach. Borges, who led an offense that scored an average of more than 40 points a game in 1997 and 1998, signed a two-year contract with Cal.

Falcons tap Blackmon

Falcons head coach Dan Reeves named Don Blackman as his new defensive coordinator, replacing Rich Brooks who quit to wait for a call from the XFL.

Blackmon, 42, has coached the linebackers since Reeves became head coach of the Falcons in 1997. Before that, he worked with Reeves as linebackers coach with the New York Giants.

He played linebacker for the New England Patriots from 1981-87, before jumping to the other side of the bench and becoming the team's linebackers coach.

Staying in Seattle

After flirting with the Broncos, Pete Rodriguez decided to continue his relationship with the Seattle Seahawks as special teams coach.

"I want to remain in Seattle for as long as they will have me," said Rodriguez who accepted a three-year-contract with the Seahawks after interviewing for the defensive coordinator position with Denver.

Rodriguez has been with Seattle for two years. He has worked for the Raiders, Cardinals and Redskins during his 13 years in the NFL.

Fulmer not the richest, but not far behind

With a new $9.1 million seven-year contract, Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer is one of the highest paid college coaches in the nation. But he's not at the top of the list.

That distinction belongs to Florida's Steve Spurrier who makes $2.1 million a year. Florida State's Bobby Bowden comes in second at $1.5 million, followed by Texas head coach Mack Brown at $1.45 million and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops who got a nice raise to $1.4 million when the Sooners won the national championship in January.

In fact, even compared to coaches who have recently signed contracts with new schools, Fulmer isn't at the top of the pay list. Dennis Franchione, for instance, could make as much as $1.4 million under the seven-year contract he penned with Alabama in December.

Still, Fulmer, who has coached the Vols since 1992, isn't complaining about his new contract that will put about $1.3 million a year into his wallet. "I am extremely grateful to the administraiton at the University of Tennessee for the confidence and support it has in the leadership of the Vol football program," the 50-year-old said in a prepared statement after his new contract was announced.

Although the Vols falterered this season, Fulmer has the best winning percentage (.824) among active Division I-A coaches with a mimium of five years of experience. His bowl record, however, is 5-4, although in 1999 he beat Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl to win the national title.

A short drive for Ohio State; a giant step for Tressel

Ohio State didn't go far to find a replacement for head coach John Cooper - 170 miles to be exact.

After considering prospects from throughout the country, they settled on Youngstown State head coach Jim Tressel to replace Cooper who was fired after losing the New Year's Day Outback Bowl to South Carolina, 24-7.

But while Buckeye administrators traveled less than 200 miles to get their new head coach, Tressel is taking a quantum leap, going from Division I-AA Youngstown State to Ohio State, a Division I-A powerhouse.

Having been born and raised in Ohio, Tressel said he knows what is expected of him. "I understand that there is a responsibility," the 48-year-old said. "I have to uphold the great traditions and to build a new tradition. I understand the responsibility and the accountability that comes with it."

Most importantly for Ohio State fans, who haven't celebrated a national title since 1968, Tressel is used to winning. During his 15 years at Youngstown State, he had 12 winning seasons, took his teams to 10 playoffs and guided the team to four Division I-AA titles.

His replacement in Youngstown will be Jon Heacock.The 40-year-old was defensive coordinator at Youngstown for five years in the early 1990s before returning from Indiana last year. According to his five-year contract, his base salary will be about $90,000.

And while Tressel left Youngstown for Ohio State, he isn't leaving the Heacocks. Jon Heacock's brother, Jim, is defensive line coach for the Buckeyes.

In addition to keeping Heacock's brother, Tressel filled out his Ohio State coaching staff by bringing four assistants with him from Youngstown. They are: Jim Bollman, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach; Mark Dantonio, defensive coordinator and secondary coach; Ken Conatser, special teams coach, and Bob Tucker, director of football operations.

Edwards looks to create second miracle

Herman Edwards has long been known for what he did to a New York team. Now, as the new head coach for the Jets, he will be watched for what he can do for a New York team.

While long considered one of the top assistants in the game, Edwards is best known for picking up Joe Pisarcik's fumble and returning it 26 yards to put the Eagles over the Giants with 31 seconds to play in a landmark game in 1978. The play, that gave the Eagles a boost that lasted for years, has long been known as the Miracle in the Meadowlands.

Having been tapped to replace Al Groh, who quit after one year to coach at Virginia, his alma mater, Edwards is now faced with performing a different kind of miracle: turning around a team that has been fraught with staff changes since Bill Parcells resigned early last year.

Those that have watched Edwards as an assistant at Tampa Bay and with the Chiefs said he is up to the challenge.

"He's the best man to lead the Jets on the path to the world's championship," said Terry Bradway, who worked with Edwards at the Chiefs before becoming general manager of the Jets earlier this year. "He has great respect not only for the game, but for people. His experience as a player, personnel evaluator, a position coach and an assistant head coach has prepared him for the challenges that lie ahead."

Edwards becomes the third active black coach in the NFL and the sixth overall. Still, Edwards said he didn't get and wouldn't want to get the job just because he is black.

"I don't want to use that as a crutch," he said. "I want to say that I got hired because I was qualified to get hired. I worked my way up the ranks like any good soldier. I did it without stepping on people, without talking about people, without bellyaching. It just wasn't my turn."

Soon after being named head coach, he began filling out his coaching staff, naming: fired Southern California head coach Paul Hackett offensive coordinator; fired Dolphins assistant Mike Westhoff as special teams coach; former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell to the same position, and Brian Schottenheimer, son of Washington Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer, as offensive assistant.

Capers to see if Carolina magic works in Texas

When the expansion Houston Texans take the field in 2002, Dom Capers will be at the helm.

Team owner Bob McNair picked the former Carolina coach from a bevy of other candidates, citing his experience with building a team from scratch.

"He's been through the process before with Carolina and putting a staff together and starting an expansion team is different from stepping into an existing club," McNair said. "There's no way you can know how much extra work goes into a start-up unless you've been there."

Capers, who has been defensive coordinator with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the past two season, signed a six-year contract with the Texans. He will earn $300,000 this year and then begins a five-year contract worth $9.5 million.

Capers, 50, was ultimately fired from the Panthers after leading them into the playoffs in two years. In his first year, the Panthers won seven games, the most ever for an expansion team. While he earned coach of the year honors in 1996, he was fired when the team went 4-12.

Maryland coach goes to Penn State

Former Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden is going to Penn State as linebackers coach. Vanderlinden, who was fired last year after back-to-back 5-6 seasons, was defensive coordinator at Northwestern when the team went to the Rose Bowl in 1995.

Groh settles in at Virginia

A month after shocking the sporting world by announcing he was leaving the Jets and returning to his alma mater, Al Groh has finished picking his new coaching staff.

As new head coach at Virginia, Groh hired Al Golden as defensive coordinator. Golden, 31, was linebackers coach at Penn State. He also put Bill Musgrave back to work by making him his offensive coordinator. Before resigning abruptly as offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers in the fall, he was quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

Other members of Groh's new coaching staff include: son Mike Groh, wide receivers coach; Kevin Ross, running backs coach; Ron Prince, offensive line coach, Corwin Brown, special teams coach; Don Rocco, assistant head coach and linebackers coach, and Mike London, defensive line coach. He kept Bob Price as secondary coach.

Putting union label on college uniforms?

While they say they aren't threatening to form a college football players union, a group of current and former UCLA players have enlisted the help of the United Steel Workers of America to push the NCAA to change the rules about how much players can earn while playing college ball.

The players said the $820 monthly stipend they receive for room and board isn't enough. "You have to stretch to make it work; pay attention to those cheeseburger deal days at McDonald's," Ryan Nece, a junior linebacker at UCLA, said at the press conference called to announce the push to change NCAA rules.

They want universities to be allowed to determine what a reasonable stipend should be. At UCLA, for instance, the players said the stipend should be $1,150 a month.

Further, the group said it wants the NCAA to increase the $2,000 limit it places on what a player can earn in the off-season, increase the life insurance maximum above the current $10,000 limit and establish an employment program to help athletes find jobs when they finish school.

The players insisted that the steelworkers, who participated in the press conference, are only offering the group guidance. They said they would never consider going out on strike.

"These guys have strong issues," said Terry Bonds, the union's Southwest director. "They make less than minimum wage."

The last Ford man drives out of Arkansas

The Danny Ford era is officially over at Arkansas.

Joe Ferguson, a former Razorbacks and NFL quarterback, left his job as quarterbacks coach, saying he wanted "to pursue other interests."

The only other leftover from the Ford era was Fitz Hill. He left the Razorbacks late last year to become head coach at San Diego State.

Last summer, Ferguson was openly critical of quarterback Gary Brashears, who later quit the team and transferred to Tulsa. Head coach Houston Nutt supported Ferguson in his criticism of Bra-shears, saying the quarterback needed to show more maturity.

And Nutt was complimentary to Ferguson upon his resignation. "He played an instrumental role in the careers of our quarterbacks, including Arkansas' all-time leading passer, Clint Stoerner. He was part of three straight bowl trips and an SEC Western Division title," Nutt said.

Vermeil is back

The coaching veteran who tearfully retired last year after winning his first Super Bowl is back.

After weeks of speculation and negotiation, the Kansas City Chiefs named Dick Vermeil as their new head coach. Vermeil, who is just one of four coaches in NFL history to lead two different teams to the Super Bowl and has the distinction of earning "Coach of the Year" honors on the high school, junior college, college and NFL levels, signed a three-year, $10 million deal with the Chiefs.

His relationship with Chiefs President Carl Peterson and Lynn Stiles, the Chiefs vice president of football operations, dates back to 1974. Vermeil was head coach at UCLA while Peterson was receivers coach and an administrative assistant and Stiles was an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.

The Chiefs are hoping their magic - the three lead the Bruins to a 9-2-1 record and a Pac 8 championship - still works.

Upon being named head coach, Vermeil moved quickly to fill top coaching spots. He named St. Louis Rams assistant head coach Al Saunders as his offensive coordinator. Saunders replaces Jimmy Raye, who was hired by the Washington Redskins shortly after he was fired by the Chiefs. Greg Robinson, who has been defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos for the last seven years, was hired to perform the same job for the Chiefs. He has coached in the NFL for 11 years. Terry Shea, former Rutgers head coach who has 32 years of coaching experinece in college and the Canadian Football League, was named quarterbacks coach.

Cornell gets a new coach

Tim Pendergast has moved from Hamilton College to Cornell University.

The 42-year-old, who was part of Cornell's coaching staff in the 1980s, replaces Pete Mangurian who resigned in January to become offensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons. Pendergast was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Memphis before becoming head coach at Hamilton last year.

BYU firms up its staff

New BYU head coach Gary Crowton has filled out his coaching staff.

He named former Chicago Beach receivers coach Mike Borich offensive coordinator and tapped Paul Tidwell, who had been at Louisiana Tech, as running backs coach.

He decided to keep quarterbacks coach Robbie Boxco and tight ends coach Mike Empey. Lance Reynolds, who served as offensive coordinator during retired coach LaVell Edwards' final season, was named assistant head coach and will oversee the offensive line.

He kept Edwards' entire defensive staff, including coordinator Ken Schmidt, cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell and line coach Tom Ramage.

Meanwhile the Bears filled Crowton's spot with John Shoop. He has been quarterbacks coach for the last two years for Chicago and will continue that in his new role as offensive coordinator.

Sometimes interim sounds permanent

Gary Harper doesn't have the title officially at Morris Brown College but he's running the team as if he did.

Although he was only named interim head coach to replace Jose Crosby, athletic director Gene Bright said that Harper "very likely could go through spring training and be the head coach by the start of the season."

As for Harper, he's not upset about his interim status. "I think the opportunity will present itself, so we're working like it's my team."

He was an assistant under Crosby, who quit after racking up a 22-32 record over five years.

Detroit Lions clean lair

Marty Mornhinweg has moved east to become head coach of the Detroit Lions.

The former offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers signed a five-year $5 million deal. He replaces Gary Moeller, who was hired as head coach midway through the 2000 season. Shortly after new general manager Matt Millen arrived at the Lions, he began interviewing candidates to replace Moeller.

Mornhinweg, a former record-setting quarterback at Montana, helped the 49ers set several team passing records last year, despite the retirement of veteran quarterback Steve Young.

"He has tremendous pedigree offensively going all the way back to his high school days, when his coach was Mike Holmgren," said Bill Keenist, Lions vice president. "He's been around successful offensive philosophies throughout his career."

Mornhinweg immediately began setting the stage to build a coaching staff. He hired former Arizona Cardinals head coach Vince Tobin as his defensive coordinator. Tobin, 57, was fired during the season after spending five years with the club. His brother, Bill, is the Lions' new vice president of player personnel.

Mornhinweg cleared the way for other new hires by firing running back coach Frank Falks, strength and conditioning coach Bert Hill, quality control-offense and administrative assistant John Misciagna, assistant defensive line coach and advance scout Dennis Murphy, and tight end coach Danny Smith.

Meanwhile, the 49ers replaced Mornhinweg with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp. He is credited with developing both Young and Jeff Garcia, who both set career high records under his tutelage.

Alvarez wants to be a Badger for life

Connections count. That's why Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez was courted by the University of Miami.

Donna Shalala, who is outgoing secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is incoming president of Miami. More importantly, in the case of Alvarez, she used to be chancellor at Wisconsin.

But although she put Alvarez on Miami's short list to replace Butch Davis, ultimately Alvarez decided to stay with the Badgers. "I've put an awful lot of work into this program," he said. "It's my program. I put my stamp on it. I plan on this being my last job."

In his 11 seasons with Wisconsin, Alvarez has racked up a 79-48-4 record. His teams have snared Rose Bowl titles in 1994, 1999 and 2000.

While the terms of the contract extension were not released, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the deal would increase Alvarez's annual compensation from about $1 million to $1.5 million. Miami was prepared to offer Alvarez a five-year deal worth about $1.4 million annually.

Quitting does pay

Former Arizona football coach Dick Tomey received $600,000, plus interest, from the school even though he resigned moments after the Wildcats lost their season finale.

The Tuscon Citizen said school officials agreed to the deal because they acknowledged Tomey would have been fired if he hadn't resigned.

When he quit after 14 years with Arizona, he had three years left on a five-year contract that paid him $510,000 a year. According to his contract, he would receive $200,000 per year if he was fired. He received the first payment in February and will receive $200,000 payments, plus interest, each Feb. 5 for the next two years.

Tomey now lives in Hawaii. He is considering either returning to coaching or entering the world of broadcasting.

Williams a quick-study in Buffalo

While he has never been a head coach, Gregg Williams has already learned an important lesson of coaching in the NFL: Tell the owner what he wants to hear.

On his first day as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Williams agreed that a controversial lateral that helped his former team, the Tennessee Titans, beat the Bills in this year's wild-card playoff, was really a forward pass.

"As of today, my thinking was it was a forward pass," Williams said when Bills owner Ralph Wilson asked him about the play.

But other questions facing Williams - such as whether to keep both quarterbacks Doug Flutie and Rob Johnson - weren't so easy. Still, he said, one of the two would go.

"Because of the [salary] cap, we cannot afford to keep both quarterbacks," he said at his introductory press conference. "We can't do it. Financially, it's probably not the best thing to do for the team. And it may have been divisive last year."

Williams has coached in the NFL for 12 years, working his way up the ranks with the Titans to become their defensive coordinator. The Titans finished the season first against the run and the pass, and set a franchise record with 55 sacks.

While new to picking a staff, he is prepared. Since 1992, he has kept a list, ranking the college and NFL coaches.

It is not known whether Jim Schwartz was on the list or not. Schwartz, 34, was promoted to defensive coordinator of the Titans, replacing Williams. Schwartz had been the Titans linebackers coach.


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