Many Rumors in Notre Dame Coach Search

Monday, December 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ The search for Notre Dame's next football coach has produced plenty of rumors.

Rick Neuheisel spent Sunday denying the latest one.

``I'm really intrigued by all the people who have been offered the job as I kind of pay attention to the media,'' Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White said on his radio show. ``It's amazing. I'm really spellbound by that part of it.

``It seems like everybody we talk with or if we talk about somebody, one or two people removed, automatically they assume they were offered the position. To this point, one person has been offered the job, and he was with us for five days.''

George O'Leary resigned less than a week after accepting the job, admitting he lied on his resume.

White says no one else has been offered the job, and Neuheisel said he is not negotiating with Notre Dame, despite reports to the contrary.

The Washington coach refused to say whether he had been contacted by Notre Dame.

``It's not important. What's important is that I'm staying at Washington,'' said Neuheisel, whose team is in San Diego preparing to play Texas in the Holiday Bowl on Friday.

White did not specifically comment on Neuheisel or any other possible candidate during the radio program, aired on ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago.

White has said that he won't talk about a candidate until he is hired as coach, and once a coach is hired he won't discuss who else he talked to.

Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan last week denied a report that he had been offered the job.

White admitted Sunday night that the search to replace O'Leary has been different than the search to replace Bob Davie.

``It's reacting to a landscape that's spinning. It's spinning largely because of the position we find ourselves in based on the five-day tenure and everything that came with that, of which I'm responsible for,'' White said.

``We were much more deliberate, much more measured and we had a pretty good sense of the landscape in phase one.''

White said he has talked to a lot of people in an attempt to identify candidates.

``We're trying to take a good hard look at the landscape and try to identify prospects that make sense,'' he said.

There is no timetable for naming a new coach, White said.

``When it's time it will be time. We're just not in a position to know that as we speak here today,'' he said.

On Sunday, reported that Neuheisel has emerged as a leading candidate to become the next coach and that the school was working on a package that could be worth as much as $2.5 million annually.

The report, citing unidentified sources, said a contract offer could be presented to Neuheisel as early as next week.

``I don't know where these ideas get conjured up in the minds of those who know things that obviously I don't know,'' Neuheisel said. ``But there is no truth to any of that.

``I have said it and I'll say it again: While Notre Dame is a great university and certainly would be a very prestigious job for whoever would take it, it's not the job that I'm looking for. I'm happy as I can be at Washington; I think Washington is also a prestigious job. I'm fortunate to have it.''

Neuheisel's father, Dick, said earlier Sunday: ``My belief is he'll stay at Washington.''

Davie was fired by Notre Dame the day after the Irish finished 5-6. A week later White hired O'Leary from Georgia Tech.

But O'Leary resigned five days into the job for lying about his academic and athletic credentials.

For the past week, the Irish have said little about White's new search.

Neuheisel, along with NFL coaches Shanahan, Steve Mariucci and Jon Gruden became possible contenders again. All have said they weren't interested. South Carolina coach Lou Holtz said Wednesday he's not a candidate to return to Notre Dame and recommended his son instead.

Neuheisel runs a pro-style attack capable of scoring lots of points, and has a reputation for developing quarterbacks.

He has been at Washington three years after spending the previous four at Colorado. He angered Colorado fans when he left.

``There's nothing easy about making a move from one place to another,'' he said Sunday. ``But it was the right move, and three years into it, I'm still excited about it and hope to stay at Washington for the foreseeable future.''

Neuheisel is 59-23 as a head coach, 25-9 at Washington. The Huskies were 8-3 this season.

``I think Rick is happy at Washington and it would be a surprise to me if he leaves,'' Dick Neuheisel said from Tempe, Ariz. ``But nothing is out of the realm of possibility. Notre Dame is probably the pinnacle of college football.''