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Stoops Rejects Florida, Remains at Oklahoma

College football: With Sooner coach out of the picture, Gator athletic director turns his attention to Shanahan.

January 08, 2002|From Associated Press

Bob Stoops said "No" to Florida on Monday, sending Athletic Director Jeremy Foley to Denver to talk with Denver Bronco Coach Mike Shanahan.

Waiting anxiously back in Gainesville, Fla., are a handful of players, including quarterback Rex Grossman, who want to see who the Gators hire to replace Steve Spurrier before they commit to coming back next year.

"I would love to come back and play," Grossman said.

"I am not ready to leave, but it may be the best decision for me in the NFL. Who knows?"

Grossman, the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, said if Shanahan were the coach, he would love to come back. But he needs to know by Friday, the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft.

Receiver Taylor Jacobs, the most valuable player in the Orange Bowl, is also wavering, after saying he would definitely come back.

Foley wants to make a hire by Friday, as well--not only for the sake of the players who are already Gators, but because recruiting begins again in earnest on Saturday.

He knows he won't get Stoops, who was widely reported to be his first choice. Foley traveled to Norman, Okla., early Monday to talk to the Sooner coach, who was defensive coordinator for the Gators.

When it was over, Stoops had decided to stay, although he denied reports he had negotiated a new contract for a fat raise.

"Jeremy knew coming in, I felt strongly committed to our program," Stoops said.

When he arrived in Denver, Foley started working on Shanahan, who became friends with the athletic director during his four seasons as offensive coordinator at Florida in the early 1980s.

"Obviously no offer, no nothing," Foley said. "We're friends and we're going to talk. And you know, that's what's going to happen and we'll see where it goes from there."

Shanahan's contract pays about $4 million a year, and he would almost certainly take a pay cut if he went to Florida.

He has a new house in Denver, and his reputation is still strong, even though the Broncos have had three consecutive disappointing seasons on the heels of two straight Super Bowl titles.

Spurrier, who turned a Florida program that had been mediocre for decades into one of the top, and most entertaining, programs in the country over his 12 seasons, spoke to reporters Monday for the first time since his sudden resignation Friday.

He denied having an NFL job already lined up, but sounded as though he knew something would come open soon.

He said he had accomplished as much as he could at Florida, and it was time to move on.

"I'm intrigued to see if our style of offense, my style of coaching, can be successful at the NFL level," he said. "I need to find that out before I completely hang it up, before I call my last play."

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