Gene Murphy, who has been interviewed for a number of jobs during his 10-year tenure as Cal State Fullerton's football coach, is one of three finalists for the vacant head coaching position at San Jose State, according to Spartan assistant Rick Rasnick.
Rasnick, the team's offensive coordinator who also is a finalist, confirmed that Murphy interviewed at the school last Friday and is a candidate along with California offensive coordinator Terry Shea.
Murphy, who was a finalist for the Nevada Las Vegas job this past winter, refused to comment on the San Jose State position and would not confirm that he had interviewed there.
"I don't want to say a word about it, and that's all I'm going to say," Murphy said.
Rasnick said Wednesday that he expects the school to make a decision today, Friday or early next week. Among the other candidates interviewed were former Detroit Lions coach Darryl Rogers, who coached the Spartans from 1976-78, Rams assistant Artie Gigantino and Penn State assistant Ron Dickerson.
The four-man screening committee that interviewed candidates includes athletic director Randy Hoffman, junior defensive back Hesh Colar; Dan Buerger, executive assistant to the school president, and Dr. Charles Whitcomb, the school's faculty representative to the NCAA.
"They haven't given me any time frame, but I think it's going to happen quickly," Rasnick said. "They've interviewed everyone, talked to everyone, and I think they're close to making a decision."
The San Jose Mercury News quoted Colar this week as saying the three candidates are "all pretty even with a little more emphasis on Murphy and Shea. . . . The players like Rasnick. The only concern with the committee is his lack of experience."
Colar then told the Mercury News Wednesday that the committee had pared its list to Murphy and Shea, but Rasnick said Wednesday night that he had not been notified of such a decision.
Rasnick and Shea said they have not been offered the job or been told they weren't going to receive offers.
One potential stumbling block for Murphy may be that, according to Rasnick, a new coach wouldn't be able to hire assistants from the outside until next December. The six current Spartan assistants are on contract through the 1990 season, and the school cannot afford to pay two staffs.
"I would think that would be unappealing to someone coming in from the outside, but you never know," Rasnick said. "The whole timing of this has been unique and has created some confusion."
Shea, who was the offensive coordinator at San Jose State from 1984-86, said the staff situation wouldn't deter him.
"I've coached with about half the guys who are there now, and I would feel comfortable with the ones I know," Shea said. "I'm prepared to handle that."
The San Jose State job opened up when six-year coach Claude Gilbert was fired on March 21. The administration listed minor NCAA rules violations, a low graduation rate among football players and differences in recruiting philosophies as reasons for dismissing Gilbert, who last week filed a wrongful termination grievance with the university.
Murphy, who has earned praise for building a competitive program despite the Titans' meager budget and lack of an on-campus stadium, has a 54-60-1 record and has won two conference championships, in 1983 and 1984.
He was a finalist for the UNLV position last December, but the job went to former Notre Dame assistant Jim Strong. Murphy also met with Utah Athletic Director Chris Hill about the position there, but was not formally interviewed.
Murphy was in demand in 1984, after the Titans went 11-1. He was offered the vacant job at Utah that year, and withdrew from consideration at Oregon State at the leading candidate. He chose to pursue the Missouri job, but the job went to Woody Widenhofer.
Mike Murphy, the coach's son who is a sophomore at Fullerton, said he's not sure his father would accept the job if it is offered.
"It might be like all the other job offers, when he says, 'Oh, well, I think I'll just stay here,' " the younger Murphy said. "I know he's talked to them (San Jose State officials), but he hasn't told me anything else. I have a feeling he'll be here next season."