Bama sorting through candidates

Alabama does not yet have a head football coach, but Athletics Director Mal Moore said Friday afternoon there is no shortage of candidates. <br><br>Moore addressed Alabama's football coaching search in a hastily-called press conference after reports earlier in the day that Mike Riley was no longer a candidate for the job.

Moore did not offer any new insight into the Riley withdrawal. In New Orleans, where Riley is assistant head coach of the NFL's New Orleans Saints, Riley said that he had wanted more time to consider the offer and Mal Moore had told him that time could not be given. However, in his statement Friday afternoon, Moore said, "There is no set timetable."

Riley, an Alabama player in the early 1970s, had been offered the job Wednesday after being interviewed Tuesday. On Thursday he said he needed more time. On Friday his time ran out.

An independent source confirmed that Riley had been offered a contract at $1.5 million per year for five years. That same source said it is believed Riley's family did not want to make the move from the west coast. Riley's wife and children still live in San Diego, where he was fired after three years as head coach of the NFL Chargers before going to New Orleans. Riley is also a candidate for the job at UCLA.

Moore declined to say whether Riley had accepted the job at one point in the process.

It is believed that Moore made a preliminary inquiry into the availability of Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer and that Beamer told Moore he would not consider leaving his alma mater at this point in his career.

The only other candidate known to have been interviewed by Moore is South Florida Head Coach Jim Leavitt. After being informed that the job was being offered to Riley, Leavitt signed a new five-year contract with South Florida at an annual salary of about a half million dollars per year. That contract includes a relatively inexpensive $50,000 buyout clause.

Alabama will be receiving $1 million from Texas A&M for the buyout in former Tide Coach Dennis Franchione's Bama contract. Franchione announced eight days ago that he had decided to leave Alabama for Texas A&M. Franchione coached two years at Alabama and had a 17-8 record, including a 10-3 record this year.

Moore said, "We continue to work in an expeditious manner to find a head football coach. It is imperative that we hire the best possible coach, someone who is a good fit for The University of Alabama, and often that does not follow a set routine. I assure the Tide faithful that we are moving as rapidly as we can through this process, but there is no set timetable. Again, our goal is to find the best possible coach. I will not discuss any other specific candidates in order to protect the integrity of this process."

Moore said, "There has been a lot of interest in this job--­I mean a lot ­from all over the country. It just takes time. I'm trying to be certain on who we pick because it has to be the right person. And I'm going about it that way."

He also said the criteria has not changed. The most significant criterion is that the choice will have had experience as a head coach at the college level. He also said he was aware that Carl Torbush, who left Bama this week to join Franchione at Texas A&M, had expressed an interest in the head coaching job at Alabama and that he appreciated the interest of Torbush, a former head coach at North Carolina.

Moore said he had spoken with "10 or 15" candidates for the job and that he had not yet responded to all who had expressed an interest in the position. He said not all of the discussions had been "serious."

Moore did not agree with an assessment that this is a difficult job to fill, saying that it is more important that each candidate be given adequate time for both sides­--The University and the candidates­--to assess the possibilities.

The Bama athletics director concluded with an acknowledgement that he knows Tide players and fans are "anxious" about the coaching search. He said, "I want them to be assured that we will get the best person for this job."

He added, "I appreciate the way these players have handled this situation," noting that the seniors, particularly, had shown good leadership.

Moore also confirmed that Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard, who came to Alabama from TCU with Franchione, has agreed to stay at Alabama. "It's a big plus to have he and Terry Jones (Sr.) involved with the players," Moore said. "The coaches in the weight room are involved with the players more than anybody."

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