Shula Proposed His Own Changes

The line between fact, fiction, rumor and old-fashioned yarn-spinning has been blurrier than ever this week. And if you haven't learned much about the fate of Mike Shula's future at the University of Alabama, at least you have gotten a picture of the state of journalism, both in Alabama and nationally in the case of ESPN.

On Wednesday, ESPN reporter Joe Schad said Shula would return to Alabama with changes to his offensive staff, and with Shula giving up play-calling duties. A source confirmed Shula proposed to Moore giving up play calling responsibilities along with changing some staff responsibilities (Shula proposed having Dave Ungerer assigned to coach tight ends and offensive tackles, while giving David Turner additional responsibilities in special teams), but did not say Moore gave any assurance of job security to Shula at that time.

The Huntsville Times, in a report that preceded the ESPN report and the Moore statement, reported that Shula would be retained for the 2007 season with changes citing "a knowledgeable source" who wished to remain anonymous. The report said the University had "no intention" of replacing Shula.

Moore issued a statement contradicting the Huntsville Times and ESPN stories Wednesday afternoon, in which he said he is still evaluating every aspect of the football program. Kevin Scarbinsky's "people who've talked to people involved in the process" told him Alabama had contacted Miami Dolphins' Head Coach Nick Saban's agent about the job, a claim which the agent quickly denied in several reports.

Logic now seems the strongest indicator about Mike Shula's future at Alabama, and it would seem to dictate that since there has been no statement of support - either from the president or athletics director - in over a week since Alabama's 22-15 loss to Auburn, and an active statement in response to the ESPN report, that Shula's neck is indeed on the chopping block. Resolution to the ever-changing situation is expected on Monday or Tuesday.

The strongest rumor - and though multiple indirectly connected sources have indicated interest, further speculation about what might result is only a rumor - is that Steve Spurrier is being sought by Alabama. Spurrier will coach South Carolina in its regular season finale against Clemson on Saturday.

A scholarshipped member of the Alabama football team expressed support for Shula on Friday, and said the team stands behind the coaching staff. The team met Monday before being dismissed for Thanksgiving week and has had no contact since. The player expected Shula to return for the 2007 season.

Shula received a run-of-the-mill statement of support from Athletics Director Mal Moore as reported by the Birmingham News before Mississippi State's improbable upset of Alabama, where Moore said he couldn't think of a stronger statement of support for Shula than his recent contract extension and pay raise. Replacing Shula then was as far-fetched as, say, Alabama losing to Mississippi State.

UA President Robert E. Witt was asked about Shula's future after the Mississippi State game, and merely echoed Moore's earlier words, saying neither could he think of a stronger show of support. If that were literally true, he wasn't thinking hard because he nor anyone else said that Shula will be the coach of the Alabama football team in 2007. Witt is a smart man, and not advancing on Moore's earlier statement was no mistake.

Moore and Shula talked at length during a Tuesday afternoon practice before Alabama played LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. That Saturday Shula unveiled several previously unseen plays on offense, an onside kick and a fake punt, but the offense stalled and failed to score in the second half, and Alabama lost 28-14.

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