In the end at Kentucky, athletic director Mitch Barnhart and university president Lee Todd said Morriss' lack of experience as a head coach kept him from getting deeper into a bidding war with Baylor.
"I would be willoing to go more for a coach who's been a coach longer than two years, somebody who's won some championships, somebody with more of a proven track record," Todd said. "We offered Guy the opportunity to do a lot better than he did last year if he performed.
"I just couldn't see getting the base salary up to the numbers Baylor wanted."
Morriss made $400,000 at Kentucky last season. Baylor offered more and tossed in a better pay scale for Morriss' assistant coaches. Barnhart and Todd presented Morriss with an incentive-ladened contract, but both decided Morriss wasn't worth keeping for the price Baylor offered.
"I put something on the table and we were pretty firm in where we wanted to be," Barnhart said. "I didn't feel like we could go much beyond that." At a press conference, Barnhart told the Kentucky Athletic Association's board of directors there were plenty of coaches interested in the Wildcats' job, and although he wouldn't divulge names said the vacancy wouldn't be a tough sell.
"The Kentucky job is a great job," he said. "It's in a great conference, and the fans, the traditions and the passion of this institution, it's good stuff. There is interest. There are people calling, and that's encouraging." Barnhart was hopeful he could have a replacement by Christmas. At Baylor, Morriss takes over a program that was 9-36 under former coach Kevin Steele -- 1-31 in the Big 12. Steele was fired on Nov. 3. "I believe we can win here," said Morriss, who is from Colorado City, Texas. "It's going to take some time and I think they understand that. But I don't see any reason we can't be winners here and be a competitive football team immediately."
The only upside to Baylor over Kentucky, where Morriss was 9-14, including a 7-5 mark this season, is the Bears aren't on NCAA probation. Before Steele, Dave Roberts put up back-to-back 2-9 seasons from 1997-98. Chuck Reedy was 23-22 from '93-96, including the Bears' last winning season, a 7-4 mark in 1995.
Drayton McLane Jr., chairman of the Houston Astros and a Baylor regent who served on the search committee, sai dthe school wants to see improvement on the field.
"We want to see each year you're making progress," McLane said. "He (Morriss) made great progress in two years (at Kentucky)." Morriss said he will try to recruit the same players as Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
"I got a hard head and I like butting heads," he said. "I did that in the NFL for 15 years. If you want to land the big guys, you've got to go head-to-head with the big guys. We're going to outhustle and outwork them. "There are a lot of good players in Texas. Surely we can find 20 or 25 who want to come to Baylor."
Baylor lost its first 25 Big 12 games before beating Kansas on Oct. 5. It appeared Alabama's search for a new coach came down to two people -- South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt and New Orleans Saints assistant coach Mike Riley, who played at Alabama. Athletic director Mal Moore interviewed both men on the same day. Riley was offered a contract by UA Athletics Director Mal Moore on a Wednesday and was expected to give an answer by Thursday morning. Instead, Riley asked Moore for more time to make a decision on the UA contract offer while Riley considers the coaching job at UCLA.
"He was offered the Alabama job," New Orleans Saints head coach Jim Haslett said on a team radio show Thursday, according to the Birmingham News. "He has not accepted it. He has not declined it. He is going to hold his options open. He is going to go out and visit UCLA after our game on Sunday and come back on Monday. He's very interested in both jobs. Hopefully this will be taken care of early next week."
It didn't take long for Leavitt to resolve his part of the equation. The South Florida head coach signed a five-year, $2.8 million contract with South Florida. Also, Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Carl Torbush took his name out of consideration for the Alabama post, choosing instead to follow Franchione to Texas A&M and become the Aggies' defensive coordinator. USF officials announced Leavitt's new contract at a Thursday morning press conference with USF president Judy Genshaft opening the gathering by saying, "Alabama, eat your heart out." So the Crimson Tide's hopes, at least for now, still seem pinned on the 49-year-old Riley, who is a former Alabama defensive back.
"We made the move, and we're waiting and hoping to know something real shortly," Moore said on the university's radio program. "It's an awkward situation that we're in that nobody anticipated. Hopefully, we will know something very soon."
UCLA could also be pinning its hopes on Riley, although he is not the only candidate remaining for the position left vacant when Bob Toledo was fired. UCLA athletics director Dan Guerrero is also expected to meet with Denver Bronco assistant coach Karl Dorrell and Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Greg Robinson this weekend. Riley, an Alabama defensive back from 1971-74, coaches the secondary for the Saints. He was head coach at Oregon State and the NFL's San Diego Chargers. Riley has also met with UCLA officials about that post. "I'm very proud to have gone to Alabama," Riley told The Associated Press. "I have a lot of respect and havee had for many years for that program. Even before I went to school there I was a big fan, but I've been out on the West Coast so long that I think being in the Pac 10 is great." Riley, the nephew of former Alabama basketball coach Hayden Riley, turned the Oregon State program around, posting a 5-6 record in 1998, the school's best mark in 27 years. He was 14-34 with the Chargers. Riley said he has also talked to Barnhart, who worked with him at Oregon State.
"I'm really at peace with whatever happens," he said.
Leavitt built South Florida's program from scratch to a 9-2 squad in six years. He currently makes $200,000, a deal that includes bonuses. Franchione turned down a $1.5 million three-year deal at Alabama for the Texas A&M job. In his six years at South Florida, Leavitt was 44-22.