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Pressure rises to hire coach

November 26, 2002

MSU Athletics Director Ron Mason says interested coaches and their agents have been tying up his phone line since he fired Bobby Williams three weeks ago.

Mason has repeatedly said there's no timetable for hiring, but the process should speed up now that the football season is over. And with the recruiting process nearing its end and other coaching positions opening, MSU might feel some pressure to hire someone soon.

But finding the right person is more important than finding someone fast, former head coach George Perles said.

"You'd like to (take your time) and get the right guy," Perles said. "You want to make sure you put a lot of preparation in making a decision on a coach."

There are four open Division I jobs now - MSU, Wyoming, Utah and Baylor. As more teams' seasons end, additional firings are expected, giving MSU competition in hiring the best available coaches.

But MSU Trustee Joel Ferguson said there's no reason to worry about competition.

"MSU is the best job out there," he said. "There's probably 10 or 15 guys who would be excellent for MSU, and if some other program gets one of them, there are still 14 guys."

As for recruiting, MSU isn't in exactly in good or bad shape. The Spartans have four verbal commitments now and prospects don't sign National Letters of Intent until Feb. 1.

The biggest recruiting periods, when many prospects take official visits, are at the beginning of December and the second week in January. During winter break, there's a brief dead period when recruiting isn't allowed.

Perles and recruiting analyst Bill Kurelic both say as long as MSU has someone in place for those hectic periods, the Spartans should survive.

But Kurelic said the dismal season has affected almost all MSU prospects' decisions.

"Some of them have dropped MSU. Some are taking a 'let's see' approach. Some have lowered MSU on their lists," he said.

Kurelic said it's not really a matter of how fast a new coaching staff is in place. Players will flock to any good coach, he said.

He said he hasn't heard any specific names on the list, but suspects Marvin Lewis, the defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, might be interested.

Other possible candidates include Bowling Green head coach Urban Meyer, Pittsburgh head coach Walt Harris, Oklahoma defensive coordinator and associate head coach Mike Stoops and Miami defensive coordinator Randy Shannon.

But no one knows for sure yet what Mason is looking for in candidates. He held his final advisory meeting Nov. 19 with a panel of community and university leaders that helped him define what MSU's next coach should embody. Late last week, he said he was putting together a finished list to submit to the MSU Board of Trustees and President M. Peter McPherson.

Ferguson said Sunday he hadn't seen any list and hadn't heard anything about the panel's findings.

"I know what they're going to send us," he said. "I don't see how it can be anything surprising. Everybody already knows the results of the process. This is just to get everyone feeling good."

But Lansing Mayor David Hollister, a panel member, said the process was intense and productive. He wouldn't discuss what the findings were.

"People really participated with all their energy and gave excellent input," he said. "Ron Mason was very open and pleased."

Krista Latham can be reached at


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