Spurrier A No-Show

Those in need of instant gratification Monday had to be disappointed that Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore did not have a replacement on hand for fired Crimson Tide Football Coach Mike Shula. In fact, Moore said he has barely begun that process.

There was a bit of anticipation when the Alabama media relations office issued an unusual set of guidelines for Monday's press conference with Athletics Director Mal Moore, University President Dr. Robert E. Witt, and others. The preliminary instructions said, "Once the press conference begins, all members of the media are asked to remain in place until the last speaker is finished."

The instruction brought forth visions from an old movie, reporters with "Press" tickets in their hatbands racing from the courtroom to the bank of pay telephones with the flash.

But then came the thought that perhaps there would be a surprise speaker, the new head coach.

It wasn't to be. It was about as mundane an affair as could be contrived. Moore read the statement that had been issued a few hours earlier, then answered a few questions giving precious little new or unexpected information. Witt spoke not at all, leaving with Moore and then having University personnel pass out a two paragraph statement.

Joe Kines, the assistant head coach who has been named interim head coach, was informative in the most limited way, stressing that players and coaches would go on with their jobs, the players taking care of academics and workouts, the coaches continuing to recruit. And if Bama gets a bowl opportunity, Kines will get the team ready for that.

A statement from Shula was distributed. Shula never seemed to relish his moments with the media, and it would have been shocking had he made himself available on such a disappointing day.

Finally, three players–quarterback John Parker Wilson, defensive end Wallace Gilberry, and center Antoine Caldwell–were brought in to say how surprised they were that Shula had been fired.

But there was no Steve Spurrier spirited in on the South Carolina registered aircraft reported at Tuscaloosa's VandeGraaf Airport. Paul Bryant, Jr.'s jet, tracked to Austin, Texas, didn't return with...well, who was expected from Austin?

There was no Nick Saban, no Bobby Petrino, no Rich Rodriguez, no Paul Johnson. Nobody.

But Moore did say the next time he has a press conference, he expects it to be to announce a new head football coach.

Moore also said he did not expect it to be a rapid move.

He said, "As we go down this process to secure a coach, I will do so in a low key manner. The majority of the coaches will be involved in bowl games. I respect their ability to work with their teams. So this will take time."

Some seemed surprised that he has not yet talked with a candidate, but it would have been stunning if he had said he had talked directly to a possible new coach. He said, "I have not talked with any coach regarding this job. That process will begin in the next day or so. We will start forming the list and ranking those we want to go after."

No one would think that Moore doesn't already have a list and a ranking. And it is likely that someone has talked to someone, even though neither Moore nor any potential candidates have had direct conversation.

The Alabama football head coaching job is not one that would need to be advertised. It is unlikely that any football coach on any level is not aware of the vacancy.

In his opening statement, Moore said, "We will immediately begin a national search for a new head football coach. I am seeking a proven head coach with a proven record of achievement who can reach the level of excellence that all of us desire."

Asked if he would seek a college head coach, Moore said, "I don't want to close it off anywhere. It's a national search. I want a coach with a proven record of success we think can take us to a championship level."

Moore said that he met with the president, the chancellor (Malcolm Portera) and several members of the Board of Trustees Sunday afternoon and the decision was made to fire Shula. He said he told Shula of the decision "at the first opportunity."

That opportunity came after Shula had met with the Alabama football team Sunday night.

On Monday before addressing the media, Moore and Kines met with the team. Moore said he told the players of the decision and implored them to "band together," and to maintain their schedules academically and in workouts.

Moore said, "You are never comfortable with a situation like this. It is a difficult time, a difficult decision."

He said Shula has been told his contract will be followed "to the letter," that Shula and his assistants will have the protection of their contracts. For Shula that will mean a buyout of some $4 million.


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