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January 01, 1987

Ray Perkins, leaving a college football power to take over the National Football League's losingest franchise, called moving from the University of Alabama to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers "the hardest decision" he has ever made.

Perkins, 45, announced his decision to leave Alabama after four years in a late-morning news conference in Tuscaloosa, Ala., then flew to Tampa for a news conference with Buccaneer owner Hugh Culverhouse. He will be the Buccaneers' vice president of football operations and head coach and will have full authority on all football decisions, Culverhouse said.

Perkins, who made an estimated $500,000 annually at Alabama in salary and endorsements as coach and athletic director, declined to compete for the Tampa Bay job two years ago when John McKay resigned. While Perkins wouldn't disclose terms of this contract, published reports put it at $750,000.

The Buccaneers will draft first because they had the NFL's worst record last year, their second straight 2-14 season, but Perkins said it's too early to say whether he will consider trading the choice or keeping it to draft quarterback Vinny Testaverde from Miami. Steve Young, who signed one of professional football's largest contracts, was the quarterback at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Alabama President Joab Thomas said he will chair a search committee and begin looking immediately for a new coach and athletic director. Perkins and Paul (Bear) Bryant held both positions, but Thomas said he wants to divide the posts.

While several candidates have been mentioned, Thomas declined to give any names. In Dallas, Coach Jackie Sherrill of Texas A&M said he has not been offered the Alabama job and dismissed talk that he would replace Perkins as speculation.

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